Fifty ways to leave your legacy network [Day Five: Wireless USB]

Tired of delving through a rat's nest of USB cables to connect your camera? Wireless USB might be the answer, if anyone can agree on a standard.

Another contender to be Bluetooth's successor is Wireless USB or WUSB. This protocol promises USB-speeds over short (3m) distances and is primarily intended to satiate the desire for moving digital images, still or video, from camera to computer or printer or home theatre system. Originally there was a standard proposal behind the technology but the warring factions couldn't agree and work on IEEE 802.15.3a ground to a halt. The committee decided to wait and see if either of the major factions could get product to market, and then revisit the situation to determine whether an IEEE standard was required.

Whereas ZigBee is designed to be low-speed and low-power, WUSB is chasing the high-speed short duration networks typically used by personal computers, consumer electronics, mobile devices and automotive applications. With its emphasis on speeding up the transfer of information between lifestyle toys there's a high likelihood of success, and the standard's backers read like a who's who of the ICT industry, including heavyweights such as Microsoft, Intel, HP, Kodak, Philips, Sony, Nokia and Samsung.

In fact, WUSB is only one solution based on the WiMedia Alliance's proposed industry standard platform for ultra-wideband wireless networking "“ the Bluetooth SIG has decided to base version three of their protocol on the same back-end specifications. The WiMedia Alliance is happy for multiple applications such as Next Generation Bluetooth, Certified Wireless USB, Wireless 1394 and wireless IP to operate within the same wireless personal area network.

Whether all of these protocols can find happy homes in future electronic devices remains to be seen, and the best marketing rather than the best technology may ultimately prevail, as has so often been the case in prior format wars. Interoperability between the competing factions may also prove to be a life-determining factor.

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