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issue: December 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Technology Report
A Wireless Combination


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Said to be an industry first, a mini card allows notebook PCs to use both Bluetooth and Certified Wireless USB (CWUSB) technologies simultaneously.

Antenna placement can be a challenge in notebook PCs because of the increasing number of radios that are included. The SC3224R design reportedly enables the use of a single antenna shared simultaneously by Bluetooth and CWUSB radios through a diplexer without any significant degradation in performance to either radio.

The SC3224R combo Bluetooth® Mini Card reference design kit from Staccato Communications is designed to provide a fully integrated wireless personal area network (PAN) solution for notebook PC and wireless desktop applications. According to the San Diego, California, U.S.-based company, the kit is the first solution that combines Bluetooth technology and CWUSB onto a single PCI express mini card form factor design.
“The one main benefit of the mini card is that CWUSB can be added to existing laptops without need for an external ‘dongle’ and without having to give up Bluetooth,” says Billy Brackenridge, product system architect. “The mini card fits underneath the keyboard and connects to the built-in Bluetooth antenna.”
The company says that previously, CWUSB was only available on a dedicated mini card, requiring notebook PC manufacturers to devote a mini card slot for this feature or add an extra antenna. By combining both wireless PAN technologies on a single mini card, OEMs are only required to use a single mini card slot on a notebook PC, leaving the other slots available for other radios for wireless local area network (WLAN) and wireless wide area network (WWAN).
The secret behind the innovation is Staccato’s Ripcord™ single-chip, all-CMOS design. “Competing designs separate the ‘radio’ from the ‘digital,’” Brackenridge explains. “All digital radios (WiFi, Bluetooth, WiMax) have a digital portion called the MAC and a radio portion called the PHY. Many designers choose to use two chips to implement radios.”
Staccato, however, built its radio with a single chip and packaged it so that it doesn’t require numerous external support chips. “The chip is mounted on a ceramic substrate that contains all the passive parts necessary to provide an efficient RF path to the antenna,” Brackenridge tells APPLIANCE. “The result is our design takes up less space than competing designs, and it allows us to fit it on a mini card along with a Bluetooth chip and a hub chip.”
The initial version of the reference design kit will support current-generation Bluetooth and Certified Wireless USB for dual-mode Wireless PAN applications. Future generations of the reference design, when allowed by the Bluetooth 3.0 specification, will support tri-mode functionality by adding Bluetooth 3.0 capabilities.
While the mini card was developed for notebook PC and wireless desktop applications, Brackenridge says the technology can be applied elsewhere. “I see digital still cameras as a more interesting design,” he tells APPLIANCE. “While the mini card is not appropriate for this, Staccato’s Ripcord can be used in its ‘SDIO mode’ or ‘USB device mode’ in a digital still camera.”
According to Brackenridge, if Ripcord were used in USB device mode, a camera manufacturer wouldn’t be required to make significant changes in firmware. “Today, cameras act as USB devices and can talk to PCs. Adding Ripcord running CWUSB would be a pure ‘cable replacement,’” he says. “Using Ripcord as a SDIO device would allow cameras to act as a USB device. At the same time, the camera could act as a WiNet device and exchange pictures in peer-to-peer networks with other cameras. While this involves new software, there is a huge body of software available on the Internet for peer-to-peer file sharing. This could be leveraged to make new and innovative ways of sharing pictures.”

 

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