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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 16:12 GMT
A wireless world on the horizon
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
BBC Click Online North America technology correspondent

Philips Wireless Music Centre
Various new wireless set-ups are competing in the music market
With more and more technology nudging its way into our homes, more and more data is being transmitted.

This means we have the attendant mass of wires to work our way through: printers, PDAs, iPods, speakers, scanners, compact flash card readers, digital cameras, firewire hard drives, video recorders... the list seems to go on and on.

But not for too long, especially in home entertainment.

Manufacturers are hoping to make 2005 the year of the "simple set-up".

The Philips Wireless Music Centre rips CDs to a built-in hard drive, automatically names the MP3 files, and then distributes the audio to up to five satellite players via 802.11g, with no PC necessary.

This is the solution we've been waiting for
Anthony Fonzo, Philips
Philips' Anthony Fonzo says a large majority of the population has, on average, between 250 and 500 CDs.

But few are really PC-focused: "We're not my 13-year-old nephew, right?"

"So this is the solution we've been waiting for, to really allow us to enjoy that investment that we've made in music and make that music become a part of our lives."

Mesh network

Sonos also offers a set-up for playing individual or identical songs in different rooms.

Their Zoneplayers can all be controlled with a wireless remote, but it uses a mesh network instead of wi-fi home set up, so the signal can go further, to a total of 32 wireless players if desired.

Thomas Cullen, of Sonos says: "The reason a mesh network is interesting is that means that each player throws off a big beacon and as you spread the players around the house all those beacons together fall under the coverage area of the controller.

"So you could stand out in the garden, where you might have a couple of rock speakers, and listen to music through them and turn off music in the front porch."

'Whenever, wherever'

Slingmedia's Slingbox claims to be able to distribute video from your home to your laptop, PDA or mobile phone anywhere in the world or the room next door.

Wireless game controls for mobile phone
Full size game controls for mobiles: the ultimate Bluetooth accessory?
The subscription-free box encodes video and uses a proprietary delivery system that makers say is superior to the usual streaming video experience.

Jeremy Toeman, of Slingmedia, says: "You hook up whatever type of television source - cable, satellite, antenna - straight into the back of the Slingbox through standard RCA connections.

"You also hook it up to your high-speed internet connection, which can be DSL or cable modem, really any kind.

"Once those two connections are made you install a little piece of software on your computer and you're watching TV whenever you want, wherever you want."

For most of us, it is our computer peripherals that are causing the most cable chaos.

There are a billion and a half USB devices in use today, with the number expected to quadruple by the end of 2006.

But there will not be four times as many wires, thanks to Wireless USB.

Jeff Ravencraft, of Wireless USB, says: "The spec will initially come out at 480 megabits per second at two to three metres, and 110 megabits per second at 10 metres.

"So at close range there's a very, very high data rate. You'll be able to move large audio files, large HDTV streams."


Bluetooth, most often used in a single-ear telephone device, has now gone stereo.

Wireless alarm
Wireless alarms could help stop your belongings being stolen
I tried headphones that were surprisingly clear even several metres from the audio source.

But there are still limitations, as Clement Wen, of Bluetake, explains.

"Right now one headset can only pair with one tranceiver but once the bandwidth of Bluetooth gets bigger we can do one to two, or one to three, at the same time."

Bluetooth is creeping into more and more products. PDA keyboards are an obvious use.

Another use is a set of alarms. Put one alarm inside your wallet, the other in a pocket, and if anyone tries to steal your credit cards and cash they would only get three feet away before the alarm goes off.

And for a third use: how about a full size game controller to play mobile phone games?

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.

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