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Philips talks up low-cost wireless chip standard

A standard for low-voltage, low-power chips for wireless devices will push the concept of ubiquitous computing from theory to reality, according to Philips.

One of the emerging standards in the move towards a wireless world is an approach called ZigBee. ZigBee, formerly known by several other names, including HomeRF Lite, is a wireless technology designed for low-cost, low-power applications that is expected to cost only about $2 (£1.40) per module by next year, said Fred Boekhorst, vice-president of Philips Research, in a keynote address at the 2002 International Solid-State Circuits Conference.

ZigBee will run at speeds ranging from 10Kbps up to 115.2Kbps. While speeds at the top end are about twice the speed of a dial-up modem they are still only a fraction of the speed of Bluetooth. However ZigBee will have range of 10 to 75 metres, longer than that of Bluetooth. As for power consumption, ZigBee's wireless modules are expected to last between six months and two years if powered by a pair of AA batteries, Boekhorst said.

ZigBee modules operate over radio frequencies and will feature an integrated antenna, frequency control and a small integrated battery, Boekhorst said.

"This has to be a radio so cheap, so small, that it can be used in anything," he said.

The first products using the ZigBee standard are expected to become available this year, according to the ZigBee Alliance Web site. Members of the alliance include Philips, Motorola and Ericsson.

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