By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Home networking newcomer ParkerVision hopes its newly developed long-range wireless technology sets it apart from the competition, as it delves into the consumer retail space for the first time.
ParkerVision's past business experience has been in developing home air conditioner and broadcast television technology, but two years ago it turned its attention toward the home networking field, said John Stuckey, the company's business development VP. The fruit of that labor is a home networking system that combines conventional 802.11b with a proprietary RF signal technology called Direct To Data, to develop a long-range wireless network for the home and small business.
Jeff Yarnell, ParkerVision's field development engineer, said the technology takes the digital signal from the computer, converts it to analog for RF transmission and then reconverts it back to digital quality on the receiving end. By using an analog signal, the networks range is extended to one mile from the usual 200 feet to 300 feet. With this signal strength, ParkerVision promises to eliminate any dead spots in a home's network, a promise the company backs with a money-back guarantee.
The increased coverage capability is the differentiator that ParkerVision will use in its retail campaign, Stuckey said. The company's first three products are marketed under the SignalMAX line. These are the WLAN 1500, a PCMCIA card, the USB 1500 USB access point and the WR1500 router, all of which are now selling at CompUSA and through Tiger Direct. The card and access point have $99 suggested retail prices, and the router sells for $199.
With the data stream traveling so far from a person's home, security is a huge issue, Stuckey said. The equipment uses several types of encryption, including128-bit WEP. Another matter is signal interference. The analog signal potentially could be prone to more exterior electronic noise, such as vacuums or even leaf blowers, than a digital Wi-Fi signal, Yarnell said. However, he tempered this by adding that even digital signals can suffer interference problems, and the company's studies have found their products are not easily interfered with.
ParkerVision's next future products will include an 802.11g version of the SignalMAX and a cordless phone using the Direct To Data technology. The phone should have a two-mile range.
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