By Eric Griffith
January 10, 2007
DisplayLink’s technology for running a monitor over Wireless USB could mean the eventual end of the VGA display cable.
A lot of computer connections have gone wireless today, from your network to your printer, but there are two things that can’t go wireless: the power supply, and your monitor’s video connection.
Well, wireless extension cords may not be real, but work may be progressing on wireless energy transfer — which involves no cords, although the products still have to touch… But what about your display? DisplayLink of Palo Alto, California (formerly Newnham Research) thinks it has that problem licked.
Realizing the Promise of Software-Defined Networking. The company has been providing the technology for displays to work over Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 connections for a while. It’s not much of a stretch to move that to Wireless USB (wUSB).
“We have a protocol to take a display and lossy losslessly compress it, while keeping interactivity over a network connection,” says Jason Slaughter, senior product manager at DisplayLink. To date, the technology is built into a single product from Kensington, the $180 Notebook Expansion Dock with Video, providing video output on the USB port. Yesterday, DisplayLink announced that IOGEAR will use the tech in a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 External Video Card to come out in the first quarter of this year. Both, of course, use USB cables.
It is the eventual take-off of wUSB, based on the WiMedia Alliance’s ultrawideband technology, that could mean cordless monitors come sooner rather than later.
“What’s interesting about USB is the simplicity,” says Slaughter. “It’s faster and more simple than VGA. In the past, USB-to-video or VGA performance was terrible… but we drive monitors at 1600×1200 pixels and have 32-bit color. The interactivity is still great as well — move the mouse, and it moves like you’d expect.”
Slaughter calls the move to wUSB the “logical extension” for the company, and says a lot of wUSB makers have shown interest in what DisplayLink does.
The company has new chips out this week for connecting PCs to monitors using USB 2.0, one supporting 1280×1024 resolution and another for 1600×1200. DisplayLink also includes a Virtual Graphics Card that runs on a Windows PC, which translates the information sent to a Hardware Rendering Engine in the chip on the display side. Slaughter says this works the same on wUSB as it does on wired. “We’re not a WiMedia company, we don’t make radios; we just make the technology for sending video that is network-agnostic,” says Slaughter. “It’s just USB to us. But we’re working with those guys making radios to make sure our technology is optimized for wireless.”
Slaughter says their closest partner currently is UWB chip designer Alereon; DisplayLink planned to demonstrate display connectivity over wUSB at CES 2007 this week in Alereon’s suite. It was part of a “clutter-free desktop” demo, where the only cables in sight would be power cords.
“Our protocol degrades gracefully when bandwidth is not available,” says Slaughter, talking about the company’s roots working with Ethernet for display signals. He says vendors of wUSB products are having issues getting the bandwidth up to the 400 Mbps speeds they want, but he believes even the speed of today’s products, like the recently released Belkin wUSB hub, would work with well with DisplayLink chips.
Slaughter says he hopes to see DisplayLink technology on Wireless USB before the end of 2007.