SANDY BERGER: Maybe Someday the World Will Be Completely Wireless
Cell phones and Wi-Fi networks work wonderfully without wires.
I love both of them and have become quite dependent on them. This leads to an expectation that perhaps someday all devices will be wireless. However, looking behind my computer desk, I see a gaggle of wires that thwarts any such expectations.
Going wireless is a monumental task, but we are now making some great strides in the wireless arena.
Technology experts and trade show exhibitors have talked about wireless technologies for years. Bluetooth, a wireless technology that can be used for data transfer, has found a home with cell phones. Many phones use the Bluetooth technology to hook up wirelessly with headsets, car speakers and other cell phone accessories.
Bluetooth can be used to connect PCs and peripherals, but because of its slow transfer rates (maximum transfer rate of 1 to 3 Mbps) it is not often used for this purpose. Bluetooth is currently in its second generation. The next generation is proposed to have much higher transfer rates, but that is still in the future.
However, a new technology is currently offering hope for a more untethered computer experience. It is called Wireless USB (WUSB). Like the current version of USB, USB 2.0, the maximum transfer rate is 480 Mbps if the devices are within about 9 feet of each other. If the devices are farther away, the data rate lessens.
There are two big differences between USB and WSBU. The first is that you don't need to run wires between the two devices. The second is that you need the devices to have native WUSB support or you need to purchase and install a WUSB adapter for each of the devices you want to connect.
The WUSB adapter is a small device with an antenna that plugs into the USB port on the computer and/or on the device itself.
WUSB works on the ultra wide band (UWB) frequency, rather than the 2.4 GHz frequency used by WiFi and Bluetooth devices. According to the USB consortium, this "turns the radio spectrum available to wireless applications from a country road into a high-speed 10-lane super freeway."
Using the wide band frequency eliminates the interference that often infiltrates the 2.4 GHz frequency from wireless telephones, microwave ovens and baby monitors. With less interference, multiple ultrawide band devices can easily share a single channel.
This provides us the ability to wirelessly connect devices that previously needed to rely on wires. Monitors can be connected to the computer wirelessly with WUSB, as can audio speakers, audio cards and many other devices.
WUSB offers the speed and integrity of wired connections within a wireless environment. WUSB has been talked about for several years, but now it is appearing in the market place.
ASUS has released a WUSB wireless monitor. Several computers, including the Lenovo ThinkPad X300 and the NEC LaVie J notebook PC, have integrated WUSB. Fijitsu and several other manufacturers are planning integrated WUSB models later this year. Also manufacturers, including Belkin, D-Link and IOGEAR, have WUSB adapters and hubs that can be used to turn regular USB devices into WUSB wireless devices.
And there is even more wireless news to come. Last week at its annual developer's forum, Intel demonstrated a new wireless technology for electricity. Electricity was sent without any cords or cables to a lamp on stage lighting its 60-watt light bulb wirelessly. This was done by magnetic fields rather than electric fields, so people would not be zapped by the electricity traveling through the air.
I suspect that they have a lot more work to do before this can be done safely and efficiently, but with WUSB devices and other technological breakthroughs like this, that gaggle of wires behind my desk may start slowly vanishing.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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