Panasonic chief: Connectivity is key

Panasonic chief: Connectivity is key

Among the bag of technology tricks Panasonic’s top executive showed off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was a new networking technology that could soon be used to shuttle data around the home or office at a nifty 170M bits per second (bps).

The technology uses an adapter that plugs into a wall outlet and converts data into a format that can be carried over standard powerlines.

It should be fast enough to send multiple streams of high-definition video to every room in the home, something not possible today, Panasonic officials said.

Called high definition-ready high-speed power line communication (HD-PLC), the technology has been proposed to the HomePlug Power Alliance, an industry consortium, for adoption as part of its technology standard. If it does adopt it, Panasonic plans to begin selling products to customers in the second half of this year.

It was one of several technologies highlighted by president of Panasonic AVC Networks, Fumio Ohtsubo, in a speech at the start of CES.

The ability to network consumer devices together — and to do so in a way that doesn’t require wading through instruction manuals — would be key to the electronics industry in the future, he said.

“From now on, our industry’s products must communicate with each other,” Ohtsubo said. “They can provide more value by connecting to each other than they provide alone. That’s how we now approach everything that we do at Panasonic,” he said.

The goal is to let people shoot video, take pictures and download music before playing back that content on any device at work, at home or even in the car.

The vision, which Panasonic calls Lifestream, draws heavily on Secure Digital storage cards, which a Panasonic official said would reach 4GB by 2006, enough for more than two hours of DVD-quality video.

In contrast to the speech given by Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, Ohtsubo’s presentation made no use of PCs.

Consumers can take SD cards from their cameras, MP3 players or camcorders and plug them directly into a DVD player or television to play back their files. The company is showing off flat-screen televisions that include SD Card slots.

“There’s no need for booting up a PC or any other source device,” vice-president of Panasonic’s Entertainment Group, Reid Sullivan, said.

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