CES - A new way to eliminate cable clutter

For the past year or so, we've been hearing about Ultra-Wideband, a new networking system that was supposed to eliminate cables by allowing you transmit data wirelessly over short distances. The pitch was essentially, "It's like Bluetooth, but it'll actually work."

Today, I saw the first Ultra-Wideband products, in the form of wireless USB connections. The devices use chips from Freescale Semiconductor and are appearing first in offerings from Belkin and Gefen. Here's how it works: You plug small dongles, similar in shape and size to Flash drives, into the USB ports of two devices and they'll be connected just as if there were a USB cable running between them. Anything they can do over a USB connection -- stream audio or video signals, sent documents to a printer, download pictures -- they can do over the wireless connection.

The real-world throughput is about 60 mbps, as much as USB 2.0 ports can handle. The range is 10 meters.

The folks at Freescale claim the devices are as simple to use and reliable as wired USB connections. If they're truly able to avoid the latency and clunky connection problems that Bluetooth devices often have, this technology should have lots of cool uses.

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Edward N. Albro

PC World
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