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Big CE Vendors Rally Around WHDI for Wireless HD

Hitachi, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are rallying around WHDI technology from Amimon for whole-house 1080p video.


Yet another industry group is declaring that it has the definitive standard for wireless high-def.

Amimon, developer of Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) technology, has announced that Hitachi, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are rallying around the technology to “develop a comprehensive new industry standard for multi-room audio, video and control connectivity.”

Funny, that’s what competitor WirelessHD declared in 2006 about its “standard,” based on technology from SiBeam. LG, Panasonic, NEC, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba lined up behind that standard.

The WirelessHD press release explained that those companies “are working as a special interest group called WirelessHD to develop a specification for a wireless high-definition digital interface (WirelessHD or WiHD).”

Both camps claim to be sending uncompressed video over the air, with virtually no lag. “The latency is like a wire,” says Noam Geri, co-founder and VP of marketing for Amimon.

In comparing WHDI to WiHD (crazy, huh?), Geri says that Amimon’s technology, which uses the 5 GHz band, enables whole-house coverage, similar to 802.11a/n but that it won’t interfere with 802.11 products on the network.

WirelessHD, on the other hand, operates in the 60 GHz band. “It’s a brand new spectrum, and it’s unregulated,” said WirelessHD chairman John Marshall during CES 2008 in January.

The brand-new spectrum might be uncluttered, but it severely limits the range of the wireless technology. Plus, the 60 GHz range “is very directional and doesn’t propagate through materials very well,” says Geri. “You’re pretty much limited to inside the room.”

That may be why Sony and Samsung reportedly have signed on to both initiatives. “They’re supporting both activities in a non-exclusive way,” Geri says.

Panasonic, by the way, was the first company to demonstrate WirelessHD products at CES 2008 – a receiver that connects to the television, and a transmitter that connects to source devices.

Control and Copy Protection

Amimon has developed its own control protocol that includes “copy protection that will be industry-approved,” Geri says.

He explains that WHDI is “not trying to implement the HDMI protocol, but there is a lot of the same functionality so you can easily bridge CEC (HDMI’s Consumer Electronics Control) and HDCP (copy protection) without losing the capabilities.

Geri is no great fan of CEC, in any case, noting the protocol’s limited feature set and the proprietary implementation of it by different manufacturers. WHDI its own control protocol that “went way beyond what HDMI has,” according to Geri.

“With multiroom connections, we want to make sure that when you watch a movie from some obscure settop box, when that user presses “Play” on the remote, that “Play” will work.”

WHDI-enabled products must incorporate the control protocol.

About Amimon

Amimon will work with its partners to finalize the WHDI spec, but the company’s core technology has already been implemented in products from Sanyo (wireless projector), Sharp (only in Japan), Sony (Bravia Wireless Link), and Belkin (FlyWire transceiver).

The secret sauce in the technology is Amimon’s “video modem,” that is “designed for and optimized for uncompressed video,” Geri says.

As he explains it, some information in a video stream is more important than other information. The video stream is broken into many layers of “digital importance,” and the different layers get different levels of treatment.

“The more important information will have less errors,” Geri says.

Amimon touts a theoretical throughput of 3 Gbps. WirelessHD claims 4 Gbps.

So Many Wireless HD ‘Standards’

Besides Amimon and WirelessHD, plenty of other “standards” abound in the wireless high-def space.

  • Tzero looked to be an early favorite in the wireless HD race. The company’s technology, based on the Ultra Wideband (UWB), will supposedly be incorporated into products from Gefen, Monster Cable, Terk and Hitachi (although Hitachi is now involved with WHDI). The company recently raised $18 million in its third round of financing.
  • Radiospire operates in the 1.7 GHz band, and claims a data rate of 1.6 Gbps for its AirHook technology. The company says it is able to pass uncompressed video about 20 feet. Radiospire VP of marketing Don Bryce explains that AirHook technology avoids the need for multiple radios, and since there is no compression, “we can offer a highly integrated solution that really makes it way cheaper” than competitive alternatives. “Certainly we have a roadmap to get to WiFi-like price points.” The technology supports HDCP and HDMI-CEC. No word on whether or not any vendors have adopted AirHook. The company has created its own line of products in the meantime to “seed the market,” Bryce says.
  • 802.11 in its various iterations – most notably “n”—has found its way into many a CE product. Most notably, Samsung came out with an 802.11n-enabled 50-inch plasma last year. Can’t the company make up its mind?! LG also is using 802.11n for wireless HD video.
  • Pulse-Link has done some interesting streaming over a variety of media, including wireless, coax, Cat 5 and the powerline. At CES this year, Westinghouse showed a TV with Pulse-Link’s CWave technology based on UWB.
  • Then there are powerline technologies including HomePlug and DS2. Both claim data rates of up to 400 Mbps. Panasonic had its own proprietary powerline solution for a while there, but it looks like they’re trying to make nice with HomePlug now

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson