Have a HAVi New Year

Last week, eight consumer-electronics manufacturers announced the formal establishment of the Home Audio Video Interoperability Organization (HAVi) to promote the development of products based on the the HAVi 1.0 final specification, scheduled for completion in December 1999. (An evaluation version of the HAVi 1.0 final spec can be downloaded from the HAVi website.) The HAVi Organization was founded by Grundig, Hitachi, Matsushita, Philips, Sharp, Sony, Thomson, and Toshiba, which have been working together for over two years to develop a specification to permit interoperability among networking digital home entertainment products.

The HAVi Organization says its mission will be to promote the adoption of the HAVi architecture and to develop interconnecting "bridges" with other home-networking standards such as Jini and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) (see previous story). The new group states that the specification was developed for home-entertainment A/V networks, "providing high bandwidth for transmitting multiple A/V streams and featuring easy 'plug-and-enjoy' functionality, using an underlying IEEE 1394 digital interface (aka FireWire and iLink)." According to HAVi, the specification defines a set of APIs and middleware capable of automatically discovering devices on the network, coordinating the functions of various devices, installing applications and user-interface software on each appliance, and ensuring interoperability among multiple brands of devices.

According to Matsushita's Yoshiaki Kushiki, "the key characteristic of a HAVi network is that connected devices from a variety of manufacturers are able to share each other's resources and functionality across a peer-to-peer network. All HAVi-compliant devices will automatically register their presence and make functions and devices available to other devices over the network." The group states that a home PC is not required for a HAVi network to operate, nor is a home PC restricted from playing a part like other equipment.

Industry analysts The Yankee Group are predicting that "HAVi is in a good position to become a standard technology on consumer-electronics devices simply because it will allow the type of connectivity and application set people have come to expect from these products."

"The reality is that home digital entertainment networks will be incrementally built by consumers over time, and HAVi ensures devices can be easily added to or removed from the network at any time," states Sony's Dr. Akikazu Takeuch. "New products will automatically recognize changes in the network configuration, and identify the available functionality and where it is located, all without interrupting the functioning of the network."

The Organization claims that the emphasis of the HAVi architecture is on entertainment products in the audio and video areas, but the standard can be extended to many other types of devices. HAVi says that the technology operates independently of any specific hardware or software platform implemented on IEEE 1394, and can be implemented on any platform, including embedded environments and PC systems.

The eight companies say they have completed full verification and approval of the core elements of the version 1.0 beta specification released in November 1998, and that the finished spec is planned for completion in early December 1999, with compliance test specifications to follow at the end of the month. In addition, the companies say they have formed a joint patent arrangement, and plan to announce details of a licensing program in January 2000.