Silicon Image Surprises Us with SiBeam Move

By Vanessa Browning
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This reporter went along to Silicon Image not expecting to see much as somebody else was covering the new Super MHL interface. However, we found a lot of interest!

First, we looked at the SiBeam technology for 60Ghz radio. Silicon Image has recently launched SiBeam as a subsidiary (it acquired the company in 2011). This was apparently a response to criticism from the investment community over visibility and transparency of the firm’s activities.

SiBeam has re-positioned its 60GHz radio solutions. Originally, the technology was proposed as a general purpose 60 GHz display interface, but when WiGig got absorbed into the Wi-fi Alliance, this prospect receded (unless something goes terribly wrong with WiGig). So, last year, the technology was being promoted for specialist applications. However, this year, the re-positioning is much more mainstream.

Rather than aiming at distances of metres, the SiBeam technology is being repositioned for very close distances in the centimetre or millimetre range. 

Mobile device makers need to connect to systems such as USB. However, they also want to make the sets waterproof and eliminate connectors. For example, Sony has developed a magnetic power connector so that one of its Experia phones can be recharged without opening the USB cover, as regularly opening the cover will degrade the waterproof seal, over time. The idea is that the SiBeam technology could be used to support USB or display output using wireless. (A secondary advantage of using radio is that the location does not have to be in a particular place in the phone, unlike a physical connector). The first two chips, the SB6212 Snap transmitter and SB6213 Snap receiver, are designed to replace any USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 connector and deliver up to 12Gbps of bi-directional throughput wirelessly.

SiBeam said that magnetic technology (like the Lenovo stack [Too Much from Lenovo….] or the Sony power connector) can be used to align the transmitter/receiver aerials, minimising the power needed. SiBeam is calling the technology “Snap” and says that it can support up to 12 Gb/sec allowing up to UltraHD streaming. 

Sibeam was showing how the Sony Xperia phone has a magnetic power connector. Replacing the USB with SiBeam wireless would mean the panel on the left could be eliminated.

 

The second application, seen last year, is for the wireless transmission of data over line of sight at up to 800M or 1K in good conditions. The company claims that the key advantage is that it has steerable aerials, so precise alignment is not as critical as with other technologies and with automatic steering, eliminating the need for re-alignment if weather has caused misalignment.

We couldn’t resist asking about Super MHL (more details in the video and at SuperMHL Spec Allows One-Cable Connection for 8K content) and HDMI. Silicon Image said that it is working on an alternative mode connection to catch up with the announcements of DisplayPort. It also confirmed to us that Super MHL supports 4:4:4 video at 2160P60 (UltraHD) using DSC (DisplayPort and DisplayStream Compression are Bullish) and that there will be a Super MHL over Type-C alternate mode eventually. (for more on Super MHL, see below)