Philips and Samsung Announce Universal CE API

Consumer electronics (CE) companies, Philips and Samsung have today announced the Universal Home Application Programming Interface (UH-API). Aimed at simplifying the development of software, be that applications or middleware that uses their semiconductor-based systems, thus reducing the time to market for home consumer devices. This is a reaction to, and acceptance of, the need for increasingly complex software to operate and combine digital consumer electronics. Drafts of UH-API are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2004.

The UH-API consists of a set of software interfaces for configuring and controlling the audio and video-related components of a semiconductor platform targeting the consumer market, and it is complementary with the leading operating systems across the industry. It is designed for target devices including analog and digital televisions, Set Top Boxes, DVD players and recorders, personal video recorders, home servers and other consumer audio-video devices.

Leon Husson, executive vice president of Consumer Businesses, Philips Semiconductors said, “This is a fundamental change from developing standalone consumer electronics products that fit proprietary schemes to a universal choice of hardware systems that can support the multiple features of the diverse consumer electronic brands.”

Both companies have said they will “realign their internal resources” to develop UH-API-compliant semiconductor chipsets and solutions. They will also invite other CE companies to participate in enhancing and deploying the UH-API specification.

Philips plans to make their Nexperia Home semiconductors range UH-API compliant. Samsung will start by making its HD TV chipset compliant and plan to expand its coverage from there.

Philips Nexperia IC’s

IEEE Approves 802.15.4 (ZigBee)

The IEEE has approved the 802.15.4 wireless standard for simple devices. More widely known as ZigBee, designed for low power, low complexity units, applications for 802.15.4 include interactive toys, inventory tracking and smart badges. WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network) devices are intended to operate in the user’s Personal Operating Space (POS), an area of effect of about ten metres.

Based on the broader Bluetooth specification, the standard covers three data rates: 20kbps, 40kbps and 250kbps, but is differentiated from HomeRF and Bluetooth by its greater emphasis on device simplicity and low power consumption.

Of course, there will be more privacy worries raised as inventory tags employing RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags become more sophisticated, smaller and indeed washable. Clothing stores will not only be able to track their products in the warehouse and on the shelves but will know when you come back wearing something you bought there. Gillette recently abandoned (for the time being) plans to use RFID technology in their Mach 3 line of razor blades in Europe.

Digital Sun already have an interesting 802.15.14 product in the market: the S.Sense. There are two main components: a receiver that fits the control box of your garden sprinkler and an number spikes that you insert into your lawn. When the spikes detect that the ground is dry, they notify the sprinkler to do its stuff. Because of the low power consumption of the standard, each spike will fun for about a year on a AA battery.

IEEE on 802.15.4 Link

ZigBee Alliance Press Release (PDF)
Gillette on RFID Link