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Startup demos interface for HDTV video

Posted: 16 Feb 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Amimon? RadioSpire Networks? SiBeam? HDTV? Wi-Fi?

Startup Amimon Ltd has demonstrated a prototype of its wireless high-definition (HD) interface for HDTV video at last month's Consumer Electronics Show using technology based on a variation of 802.11n that can deliver up to 1.5Gbps.

The company believes its approach will give designers a lower-cost, more-reliable alternative for delivering HD video wirelessly within a room, typically between a video source and a flat-panel display.

Amimon competes with a handful of companies pursuing similar applications using UWB, 60GHz radios and other twists on 802.11. Who will win remains unclear, given that Amimon and its competitors have hurdles to vault before they hand OEMs working chips ready for high-volume production and tested across a range of conditions. But the startup has a well-thought-out technology.

"This is a great piece of work, and the concept is sound," said Craig Mathias, a principal consultant with Farpoint Group. "What they are doing is not so much in the radio as in the information theory domain."

The technique, he said, involves "using uncompressed video, but coding the errors into the lowest significant bits so that you don't see them. I see it as a form of steganography," the science of hidden messages.

Amimon describes its approach as joint source-channel coding. The technique arranges video bits according to their importance. Using so-called unequal error protection, Amimon's chipset encodes the most significant bits of the important video components better than the least significant bits of the less important components.

Amimon claims its approach requires less computation and memory than traditional video coding with improved results. In traditional coding, the company claims, the most significant bits of the important video components are not protected enough, while the least significant bits of the less important video components are protected too much. But whether Amimon can get working chips out before its many rivals at competitive cost, size and power consumption levels remains to be seen.

Amimon expects to have separate transmitter and receiver baseband chips available "in a couple of months" and companion RF chips "a little while after that," said Noam Geri, VP of marketing and business development. The full four-piece chipset should be ready for production before the end of 2007.

As much as 80 percent of the Amimon approach is based on core 802.11n technologiesa 5GHz radio with OFDM modulation and a 4-by-5 MIMO antenna arrangement. Thus, although the chips will carry a 50 percent to 100 percent premium over 802.11n chipsets initially, within two or three years, costs could drop to the level of mainstream Wi-Fi chipsets, Geri said.

A pair of baseband and RF chips will consume less than 5W initially and probably cost less than $50, he estimated.

Using a 20MHz channel, the technology can deliver 1.5Gbps, enough for HDTV resolution of up to 1,080 interlaced. In markets such as the United States that permit channel bonding to create a 40MHz channel, it can deliver 3Gbps for HDTV resolution of 1,080 progressive scan.

Initial products will likely be standalone boxes or dongles that will plug into the HDMI wired outlets on a display and a video source, then convert and send uncompressed wireless video at 5GHz. The company employs 256bit AES encryption to protect the uncompressed video, which Geri pointed out fulfills the content-protection requirements of the wired HDMI standard.

"Once we get our technology in the market, we will put together an interested group of companies to make a standard. We will also seek approval from Hollywood for our content protection," said Geri.

Startup SiBeam aims to pursue similar apps using 60GHz radios and is expected to have silicon available late this year. SiBeam has created an alliance that will seek to make its technology a de facto standard under the name Wireless HD.

UWB companies such as TZero are sampling silicon now, though they typically support data rates of 1Gbps or less, assuming some compression of HD video. TZero is part of an alliance pursuing Wireless HDMI. Another competitor is RadioSpire Networks, whose chips operate in the 3.1-4.8GHz range to avoid interference with 802.11.

"It will be a while" before a winner emerges, said Mathias. In the meantime, he has cobbled together an effective system. "In my home, I send HDTV around on 802.11 with MIMO, and it looks fine," he said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times




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