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Home Networking: Inside And Out

1/05/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

A/V products here will network far more easily than International CES attendees, many of whom could likely be stuck in traffic jams, given the size of the show.

Established semiconductor companies and startups will demonstrate new no-new-wires technologies that enable content sharing among multiple home products. For their part, consumer brands will announce new wired and no-new-wires solutions.

Some products and chipsets are intended to eliminate short-range cable connections between components in a home theater system; other chips and consumer products will allow devices in different rooms to access content from multiple sources within a home.

Companies showing technology solutions and chips on an OEM basis include Airgo Networks, Amimon, Freescale, Intellon and Metalink. Companies showing consumer goods include Avega, Buffalo, Escient, Denon and Philips:

Here's what these companies plan to show:

Chips & processors

Airgo Networks: The Wi-Fi chip supplier will demonstrate its True MIMO Gen3 chipset, which uses wireless MIMO (multiple input/multiple output) technology. MIMO uses multiple antennas in a transmitter and receiver, each antenna sending and receiving different information. Airgo is at the Renaissance Hotel.

Amimon: The Israeli company plans to demonstrate short-range wireless streaming of uncompressed high-definition video using a technology said to deliver performance equivalent to a wired HDMI connection.

The technology, called Wireless High-Definition Interface (WHDI), is a cable-replacement technology said to offer multiple advantages — lower cost, higher picture quality and compatibility with legacy sources — over such wireless standards as ultrawideband (UWB) and IEEE 802.11n.

At an official CES suite at the Las Vegas Hilton, the company will demonstrate a proof-of-concept solution. (See p. 134)

Intellon: The semiconductor maker will demonstrate what it said is the world's first IC based on the 200Mbps HomePlug A/V specification, which uses a home's existing electrical wires or coaxial cables to distribute multiple HDTV streams. Sample INT6000 ICs will be available in the first quarter, and the company expects consumer products incorporating its chip to be available in the second quarter.

The chip will be submitted for HomePlug certification once the HomePlug Powerline Alliance finalizes its certification regimen. Intellon contributed to the standard, which was developed from the ground up to handle higher bandwidth content such as video with low latency and robust quality of service (QoS), the alliance said.

Freescale Semiconductor: The Motorola spin-off plans to showcase its UWB chip solution at the Sands and Las Vegas convention centers. Ten UWB demonstrations around the city will demonstrate computing, communications and mobile entertainment applications. At its own South Hall booth, Freescale will demonstrate a UWB-equipped cellphone that streams audio and video to laptops and TVs. A media server will also stream video to an HDTV set. At the South Hall's Concierge Bar, content will be streamed to HDTVs throughout the var.

At the Sands Tech Zones, Freescale will demonstrate laptop-to-laptop streaming.

Freescale boasts its solution's "wire-like quality," and Martin Rofheart, Freescale's UWB operation director, said the technology "allows CE companies to deliver true wireless solutions for wire-like video streaming and distribution."

Metalink: The company's WLANPlus wireless chipset, incorporating MIMO technology in the 5MHz band, delivers 240Mbps with overhead throughout a house, or 144Mbps actual throughput. That's enough for three HDTV streams compressed with MPEG-2 and six HDTV streams compressed with MPEG-4. At a minimum, it will deliver at least 60Mbps of effective throughput to any room within 60 feet of the transmitter with video-quality QoS, thanks to advanced forward error correction and other techniques. The company said the chipset would comply with the still-emerging IEEE 802.11n standard and that consumer goods incorporating the chipset could be available as early as July, the company said.

Demonstrations will be held at the Venetian Hotel Suites. Metalink lays claim to the "first true wireless video-entertainment chip for the digital home."

Finished products

Avega: Wirelessly networked hi-fi speakers from Avenga use 802.11a/b/g and universal plug-and-play to connect and stream stereo and surround music from a PC or networked media server (see p. 106).

Buffalo Technology: The LinkTheater Mini client and LinkStation Home server are the first models in Buffalo's new line of gear certified by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) as interoperable with other certified network devices.

The LinkTheater Mini, shipping this month at $99, allows multimedia content stored on a PC or network attached storage drive to be distributed via a home network. The TheaterLink Mini features Ethernet, composite video and analog audio ports.

The LinkStation Home Server is the company's first such product for the home. It comes in two versions: 300GB and 400GB and features a 10/100/1000 Base-T Gigabit Ethernet port, USB print server, a file server and FTP server function.

Suggested retail prices are $399 and $499, respectively, for the 300GB and 400GB models. All are shipping this month.

Denon: Field upgrades to the $6,000 5805 and $3,500 4806 A/V receivers will give them DLNA interoperability with other certified devices. Other upgrades include an Ethernet port upgrade allowing remote control of a networked PC's Windows Media Player 10 application. The receiver will stream the PC's music and enable users to view metadata on a connected TV.

Escient: DLNA interoperability is one of the features of two new products. One is the $5,999-suggested FireBall DVDM-552 HDD music server and DVD/CD management system. The other is the $999-suggested Fireball DMP-1 disc-less A/V client.

From DMP-1 devices in two separate rooms, the 552 enables simultaneous viewing of two DVDs, one in each of two connected Sony DVD megachangers. When two 552s are linked, users can watch four DVDs simultaneously in four separate rooms from four connected Sony DVD megachangers.

The FireBalls stream video to the clients via component cables.

"The interoperability with low-cost streaming clients has been very strong and appealing," said Bernie Sapaniak, D&M Holdings's digital networks North America president. "If you go into the computer section of a retail store and buy a Roku or Philips Streamium or Linksys music adapter, it will see an Escient FireBall on the network and play all of its music. We're excited about that."

Philips: More than 20 products at CES with built-in 802.11g wireless networking will be showcased.