Intel, start-up to demo Wi-Fi short-range technology

Intel, start-up to demo Wi-Fi short-range technology

The Cliffside concept could threaten Bluetooth, analyst says

Intel and a wireless start-up will demonstrate this week wireless short-range technology that enables Centrino-based laptops to connect to peripherals such as headsets, keyboards and stereo speakers, and even the iPhone. Intel and Ozmo Devices, will demonstrate the Wi-Fi Personal Area Network (PAN) technology at the Computex trade show in Taipei.

The PAN technology, once it becomes a reality next year, "will definitely be a threat to Bluetooth technology," said Jonathan Gruber, an analyst at In-Stat. Bluetooth is widely used by thousands of device manufacturers for short-range wireless communications within a range of about 30 feet, but runs on a separate radio from Wi-Fi.

Intel described the concept behind the Wi-Fi PAN at its April developer forum, and has posted a separate blog and video describing how its so-called Cliffside technology could allow a laptop user already connected to a Wi-Fi access point to also run up as many as eight wireless peripheral devices over Wi-Fi a short distance away.

The joint demonstration at Computex is the first time Ozmo has shown its integrated circuit, which acts as a transceiver for Wi-Fi and will be placed inside wireless peripherals that could begin shipping next year, said Ozmo CEO Dave Timm in an interview. Intel intends to provide software inside Centrino laptops, which account for the majority of laptops now shipping, to interoperate with the Ozmo integrated circuit.

Timm also said that Belkin International, has committed to building peripherals based on the new integrated circuit and provided a statement from a Belkin official confirming that company's interest.

An Intel spokeswoman also confirmed that the company is collaborating with Ozmo. A statement from Randy Nickel, director of wireless marketing for Intel mobile platforms, noted how Ozmo's technology will provide the ability to connect laptops via Wi-Fi to low-power peripherals without the need for a second radio as required with Bluetooth.

Timm noted that with Intel's collaboration, the Wi-Fi PAN concept should grow, especially because more than half of the 100 million laptops shipping next year will run Intel's Centrino chips.

Gruber said Intel's involvement in the technology and its laptop dominance gives the technology credibility. "It will give Bluetooth a run for its money," he said.

According to Ozmo, its new technology will cut down battery usage drastically, similar to rates of a Bluetooth device. Historically, Wi-Fi connections have been a big drain on device batteries, but Ozmo has patent-pending technology to reduce the drain, Timm said.

One area where a Wi-Fi PAN could make its biggest impact is with short-range connections to stereo equipment, since it would have the ability to send music uncompressed, as compared to compressed files sent via Bluetooth, Timm said.

A spokeswoman for the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, comprised of 10,000 members and founded in 1998, would not comment on the Ozmo announcement. The organization recently promoted its 10th anniversary and noted that the widespread use of Bluetooth for a wide variety of peripherals, including hands-free technology for drivers who want to use cell phones while behind the wheel.

Sales of hands-free technology are on the upswing, especially in states where new laws forbid using a cell phone while driving unless it is hands-free. In July, hands-free driving laws will take effect in California and Washington, adding those states to a growing group of states and cities that have already enacted similar laws.

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