PC, Communications, and Consumer Electronics Companies Unite to Establish Wireless Spec for the Home

Several companies spanning the personal computer, communications, and consumer electronics industries announced March 4th the formation of a working group that will develop a specification for wireless communications in the home. This specification will allow PCs, peripherals, cordless telephones, and consumer electronic devices to communicate and interoperate with one another.

The Home Radio Frequency Working Group (HRFWG) expects to publish the open specification for home wireless communications, called the Shared Wireless Access Protocol (SWAP), later this year. The HRFWG is led by core members Compaq Computer Corporation, Ericsson Enterprise Networks, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Philips Consumer Communications, Proxim, and Symbionics, and supported by Butterfly Communications, Harris Semiconductor, Intellon, National Semiconductor, Rockwell Semiconductor Systems, and Samsung Electronics America, Inc.

The HRFWG's goal is to provide the foundation for a broad range of interoperable consumer devices by establishing an open industry specification for wireless digital communication between PCs and consumer electronic devices anywhere in and around the home. The HRFWG believes that this specification will accelerate the development and adoption of wireless communications in the home. To date, the adoption of networking technologies in the home has been inhibited by the high cost and impracticality of wiring, and multiple, incompatible wireless communication standards.

"We believe that by establishing a wireless communications specification for the home, a new industry will be created that results in unprecedented interoperability between intelligent devices in the home," said Ben Manny, chairman of the HRFWG and engineering manager for residential networking at Intel's Architecture Labs. "For example, with HomeRF technology, users will be able to spontaneously access their PCs from anywhere in the house or yard."

"The fact that these leading companies are driving a common specification for wireless communications in the home is extremely significant," said Brian Cotton, industry manager for Wireless Communication, Frost & Sullivan. "Ensuring interoperability will make it possible for companies across these industries to offer a broad range of high-volume, cost-effective consumer products and solutions."

SWAP, the Shared Wireless Access Protocol, defines a new common interface specification that supports wireless voice and data services in the home. Because of the numerous and diverse natures of companies and products within the PC, telecom, and consumer electronics industries, the SWAP specification is critical to ensure that the myriad of products are interoperable.

In addition to applications that include voice and data communications, the SWAP protocol intends to support internet access from anywhere in and around the home from portable display devices, and the ability to activate other consumer electronics products by simply speaking a command into a cordless handset.

Samsung has declared that several of their products can directly benefit from the SWAP protocol, including cordless phones, PDAs, SmartPhones, cell phones, cable modems, PCs, set-top boxes, the Webphone, Digital TVs, and others. Additionally, Samsung is currently working on several potential applications for SWAP, including home wireless PBX's to enable routing of calls to different rooms, intercom/roompagers, home automation control, speech-enabled control of household appliances and systems, baby-monitoring systems, and universal remote-control devices for all compatible systems.

The HRFWG plans to publish the SWAP specification by fall 1998; companies may begin product development shortly thereafter. The group expects the first SWAP-compatible commercial products to be introduced in the second half of 1999.