Tactical Advice

Eliminate the Need for Cables by Switching to Wireless USBs

Double the reach to USB devices by unplugging the cables.
This story appears in the June 2007 issue of BizTech Magazine.

Since no one seeems to like cables, enter the Universal Serial Bus (USB), invented in 1995 to eliminate the variety of parallel, serial and other cables required to connect computers to peripheral devices. By adding a very fast radio connection to USB, the result is Wireless USB, which offers twice the range as the traditional device but without the rat’s nest of cables.

How Wireless USB Works

What made Wireless USB possible was the development of ultrawideband (UWB) technology. UWB uses a very broad frequency range — 3.1 to 10.6 gigahertz — and a frequency modulation technique that is very efficient and requires half the power of 802.11g. UWB has been used by the military since 1960, but it wasn’t until a 2002 Federal Communications Commission rule change that it became possible to use UWB without a license in the computer industry. You can also customize the frequencies for local regulatory markets.

Like USB, Wireless USB supports up to 127 devices connected to a single host. You can get speeds of up to 480 megabits per second if devices are within 10 feet. At the maximum range of 30 feet, data transfer drops to a still very respectable 110Mbps.

Two groups are working on mutually exclusive versions of Wireless USB. Freescale is developing its proprietary Cable-Free USB. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) ­— the group that gave us USB — is working on a Certified Wireless USB standard. Freescale Semiconductor’s implementation of the USB 2.0 standard in a wireless format is compatible with existing USB devices without additional drivers. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, NEC, Intel and more than 200 other companies back the nonproprietary Certified Wireless USB standard.

Wireless USB is different from Bluetooth and 802.11. Bluetooth is limited to eight devices in a net and 802.11 tops out at 54Mbps. Still, all three have applications for which they’re most useful, so don’t expect any of them to go away.

45 Feet of Freedom

The initial value of Wireless USB is that it extends your reach. Although USB cables are 15 feet long, you can set up a Wireless USB hub 30 feet away from a computer and add hardware to extend the range to 45 feet. This allows you to keep noisy or infrequently used peripherals in a more convenient space, perhaps in another room.

In addition to reducing cable clutter, Wireless USB makes it easier to connect. You can plug a Wireless USB dongle into any device with a standard USB port, including printers, cameras, external hard disks and MP3 players. In the next few years, notebooks, computer peripherals, digital cameras and cell phones are expected to have built-in Wireless USB. Other expected future developments are speeds surpassing 1 gigabit per second and devices that can be shared by multiple hosts, which is like having a network server with a bunch of peripherals but without the network server.

IT Takeaway

Wireless USB is still a very young technology that requires you to examine the pros and cons, particularly related
to security.

• If you have a wireless connection, there is a potential security hole. The USB-IF uses 128-bit AES encryption as part of the Certified Wireless USB standard.
• Don’t skip the security setup: All new devices require you to go through a handshaking process the first time you use them or link them to another Wireless USB device.
Sign up for our e-newsletter

Security

Why Cloud Security Is More E... |
Cloud protection services enable companies to keep up with security threats while...
Securing the Internet of Thi... |
As excitement around the connected-device future grows, technology vendors seek ways to...
Tools to Maintain Mobile Sec... |
Far-flung devices pose serious challenges, but a variety of technologies can help protect...

Storage

The New Backup Utility Proce... |
Just getting used to the Windows 8 workflow? Prepare for a change.
How to Perform Traditional W... |
With previous versions going unused, Microsoft radically reimagined the backup utility in...
5 Easy Ways to Build a Bette... |
While large enterprises have the resources of an entire IT department behind them, these...

Infrastructure Optimization

Why Cloud Security Is More E... |
Cloud protection services enable companies to keep up with security threats while...
Ensure Uptime Is in Your Dat... |
Power and cooling solutions support disaster recovery and create cost savings and...
The Value of Converged Infra... |
Improvements in security, management and efficiency are just a few of the benefits CI can...

Networking

Securing the Internet of Thi... |
As excitement around the connected-device future grows, technology vendors seek ways to...
How to Maximize WAN Bandwidt... |
Understand six common problems that plague wide area networks — and how to address them.
Linksys Makes a Comeback in... |
The networking vendor introduced several new Smart Switch products at Interop this week.

Mobile & Wireless

Now that Office for iPad Is... |
After waiting awhile for Microsoft’s productivity suite to arrive, professionals who use...
Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.
Linksys Makes a Comeback in... |
The networking vendor introduced several new Smart Switch products at Interop this week.

Hardware & Software

Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.
The Tools That Power Busines... |
Ever-evolving analytic software can greatly improve financial institutions’ decision-...
XP-iration Date: Today Is th... |
It’s officially lights out for Windows XP as an operating system. Here’s how the world is...