Off-the-shelf chip offers wireless Net connects

Connect One's iChip Internet Controller embeds TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) - the language computers speak to each other on the internet - inside any device, machine or system with which it is equipped, said Alan Singer, Connect One's vice president of sales and marketing.

As long as the device has some connection to the internet, either with a line connection or a wireless modem, the iChip eliminates the need for a server to translate transmissions into and out of TCP/IP, saving designers from having to include software in the devices to connect to servers.

Perhaps more importantly, the iChip also eliminates the need to tie wireless application protocol (WAP) enabled phones into a particular service to connect with the internet. For a WAP-enabled phone to connect to the internet, the service provider must have WAP capability. An iChip-equipped phone could use any ISP.

WAP-enabled phone adoption has stalled in the US because users are limited in their subscription choices, said Franceska Nabarak, a senior technology analyst at IT market research company Yankee Group.

"People are banging their heads up against the wall trying to find a way to make the internet more friendly to cell phones," she said. "How much value is being added with WAP? I don't know. I don't see it," she said.

The iChip, and similar products under development from iReady, such as the iChip S-7600A, will serve to move internet connectivity from traditional communications devices like cell phones and computers to devices like refrigerators, cars and cameras, said Nabarak.

For example, a gas meter connected to the Web wouldn't have to be visited by a meter reader in person, saving money in transportation and salary by allowing the company to read it from an office, Singer said.

And when designers begin to make greater use of Bluetooth - a technology which allows devices to communicate wirelessly using a short-range radio transmitter integrated onto a computer chip - then iChip will come into its own. "I can imagine future products, where chips like this can be Bluetooth-enabled," Nabarak said. "The ability to embed this chip, along with a Bluetooth chip, will make this what they call a killer application."

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