08 dicembre 2006

Internet radio WiFi, prossimamente low cost

Mentre un piccolo gruppo di coraggiosi cerca di far quadrare i complicatissimi conti della radio digitale terrestre (vedi il caso delle radio DRM annunciate da tre anni a questa parte e ancora sostanzialmente irreperibili), zitta zitta l'industria di Internet sta arrivando a 200 all'ora dietro la curva. Cambridge Consultants presenterà al CES di Las Vegas, tra poche settimane, una piattaforma per la costruzione di Internet radio portatili da 15 dollari di costi di produzione. Un chip si occupa della "sintonia" IP e della decodifica dell'audio (una decina di formati supportati, tanto è tutto software ben sperimentato) e un altro chip pensa all'interfaccia Wi-Fi. E vorrei ben vedere, sono chip che ormai ti pagano per acquistare, tanto che tra un po' ce li ritroviamo anche nel manico dell'ombrello.
Voi direte: eh, ma Wi-Fi mica ce l'hanno tutti. Aspettate di vedere quando esploderà il fenomeno Wi-Max (sono pronto a scommettere che sarà prima della disponibilità commerciale di grossi quantitativi di ricevitori DRM). Cari amici degli standard radiodigitali - non satellitari, perché quelli funzionano - pensateci, prima di farvi male.

Low-power internet radio's sub-$15 bill of materials opens up global market opportunity

* in developed countries, as many as 1 in 4 are now tuning weekly to internet radio * internet radio is accessible via 250 million broadband connections worldwide
At CES 2007, Cambridge Consultants will launch a platform design which rewrites the economics of the emerging internet radio market. Based on just two ICs, the Iona Wi-Fi portable radio can be built with an electronic bill-of-materials (eBOM) costing less than $15.
This incredibly small figure could lead to consumer products retailing for around $50 to $60 — which is under half of most of today's internet-ready 'kitchen radio' type products. Designed to operate without a PC, the Iona radio technology is as accessible and easy to use as today's portable FM radios.
"Our design ethos has focused on stripping the BOM to the absolute minimum, and optimizing power consumption," says Cambridge Consultants' head of consumer products, Duncan Smith. "As a result, we believe this platform could stimulate a new category of consumer electronics product, or act as a cost-effective add-on for established product lines such as DAB and satellite radios or MP3 players, or even a product associated with a brand such as a broadband service provider."
To illustrate the feasibility of the radio — and to provide a rapid means of manufacturing finished products in time for the 2007 Christmas season markets — Cambridge Consultants will also show a number of potential packages, including a wearable format and table-top designs.
The design requires just two major ICs: an 802.11 b/g device targeted at the portable embedded systems market, and a multimedia applications chip combining DSP with a 16-bit RISC processor core from Cambridge Consultants' own XAP family.
The hardware is completely programmable and the design will implement a large set of protocols and CODEC formats. The platform is capable of supporting RTP, HTTP, RDT and MMS for instance, plus MP3, WMA, AAC, AIFF and WAV data formats, and SNTP clock functionality. The platform also supports WEP, WPA and WPA2 security. Further protocols can be added rapidly.
In addition to minimizing the eBOM, Cambridge Consultants' design focuses on reducing power consumption, allowing personal radio products to operate for up to 30 hours from two standard AA cells if the access point supports power saving mode, or in excess of 15 hours otherwise. The total cost of components listed in the eBOM at high volumes is under $15, including a 112 x 64 black-and-white graphic LCD.
"Traditional radios offer listeners the choice of relatively few stations that have to appeal to a very broad audience. Internet radio gives listeners access to many thousands, catering for very specific tastes from the mainstream to the exotic. Internet radio also allows you to tune in to your home town station wherever you happen to be in the world,” adds Smith. "Combined with the existing infrastructure of Wi-Fi and broadband, we believe that the internet radio market is poised to explode as soon as the right product price/performance point is achieved. The Iona platform more than meets that target."
The experience of developed countries illustrates what happens when the rich and diverse content of internet radio is easily accessible.
A report from the media audience researcher Bridge Ratings notes that weekly listening figures in the US alone for internet radio were estimated at over 60 million in April 2006, and are expected to grow to almost 1 in 4 of the US population by the end of 2006. The firm predicts growth from 70 to over 180 million listeners during the 2006 to 2010 period.
These figures are driven by the massive penetration of broadband internet connections in developed countries. There are almost a quarter of a billion connections already installed worldwide, and this base is growing at around 36% annually.


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