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Make Room For New Network Standards, Panelists Say

Proprietary digital network standards from companies such as Panja and Crestron are getting a lot of company — but from open standards being driven by various industry initiatives, panelists said during the HTSA’s spring conference.

Some of the new open standards include:

  • Home PNA, already available to deliver data over CAT3 phones between PCs and peripherals.
  • Home RF, a wireless RF standard for voice and data transfer among PCs, peripherals and home communications products. Home RF products could be available this year.
  • Bluetooth, a wireless RF standard with a 30-foot range to connect home PCs to peripherals, portable computing devices to wireless phones, and wireless phones to hands-free headsets. It could eventually be used for wireless home control. The first Bluetooth computing and communications products are due this year.

    The above three standards are limited in bandwidth to about 1 Mbps, limiting them to control-signal and data transfer. Standard-definition TV, in contrast, requires more than 6 Mbps, and HDTV requires even more.

  • HAVi (Home Audio Video interoperability), a control standard that would ride on an IEEE-1394 “pipe,” or databus. Devices from multiple manufacturers could be connected via a single cable carrying audio, video and control signals. The products could be daisychained in no particular order.

    A single IEEE-1394 cable would simultaneously handle control signals, audio and high-definition video from multiple devices.

    Once connected, HAVi devices would learn the full range of functions of other HAVi devices on the network. The devices would coordinate their functions so that a HAVi DVD player could be controlled from a HAVi TV’s menu system, which would automatically display a DVD icon when a DVD player is connected. In addition, hitting the play button on a DVD player could automatically change all home theater system settings, including inputs and outputs, to play back a DVD.

    A basic control standard for the IEEE-1394 databus is called AVC (Audio Video Control), which would limit interoperability to basic functions, such as play, record, stop and pause. Users would still be able to daisychain components in no particular order.

    The first HAVi products will be based on the already-complete IEEE-1394A standard, which is intended to connect clusters of products up to a maximum of 15 feet away. The data rate slows considerably at longer distances.

    A 1394B standard under development extends that distance to 150 feet and would connect clusters of products. The HAVi organization is evaluating 1394B before approving its use in conjunction with the HAVi standard. 1394A cables will be available in 100, 200, 300 and 400 Mbps versions. An HDTV signal, in comparison, operates at 19.4 Mbps.

    By next spring, multiple receivers and TVs will appear with 1394 connections, one marketer said during a panel discussion.

  • Universal Plug and Play (UpnP). Microsoft is leading the initiative to finalize this IP-based open standard, intended to transfer control signals and data among intelligent appliances, home automation equipment, PCs and wireless devices. It might also be used in a home to link multiple networks that are based on multiple standards.
  • Jini, a Sun-proposed Java applet that would run on select HAVi devices to enable them to communicate with PCs and IP-based devices.