Updated: Once promising 500Mbps, UWB finally emerges in a data-sharing product that communicates at 80Mbps
A Personal Sharing Device (PSD) called Leyio has launched in the UK, using ultra-wideband (UWB), a revolutionary form of wireless communications which most observers though was doomed
The Leyio is a fat, phone-sized object with 16Gbyte of memory, a screen, two USB sockets, and a fingerprint reader. Its job is to hold personal data, and exchange it with other objects – in particular with other Leyios, with which it can talk using the esoteric UWB technology. It includes an accelerometer, so users can transfer files with a flick of the wrist.
“It’s all about sharing,” said Leyuio chief executive Bruno Maurel. “This is the first product for fast wireless sharing offline with no computer involved.We took a device away from the launch and our First Look reveals it does what Maurel says it can.
Ultrawideband was pitched as the technology which would kill Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, in about 2003, when several vendors promised chips that could communicate at 500Mbps or even 1Gbps over short distances, using incredibly low power. The technology uses low power signals spread across a very wide spectrum, all operating at lower than the allowable noise threshold, so no radio licence would be necessary.
The technology underwent standards wars, with an IEEE group disbanding after chip-makers failed to agree. It also faced regulatory hurdles as radio spectrum manager in different countries debated whether to allow it.
It was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG group as the next generation of Bluetooth, and by the USB standards group as the next , wireless generation of USB. However few wireless USB products based on UWB were made, and their performance was poor, and the Blutooth community opted to use Wi-Fi for the faster Bluetooth just delivered.
Leyio may succeed by being very usable, but it will face the difficulty that most of what it claims to do can be carried out by an iPod and some ingenuity. As far as UWB is concerned, though it looks like another chapter of disappointment in the technology.
Although UWB fans will be pleased to see the technology delivered, it only promises 18Mbps (around 10Mbyte/s) throughput, far below the original promise of UWB, and below even that of Wi-Fi. this speed difference is more to do with the read-write speed of Flash memory, said Maurel, claiming that most USB drives can only read and write at 4Mbps.
The pocket-sized device will be available in classic black, grey and candy pink, costing £159, from sites such as Amazon.