Aura Communications, a small company based in Wilmington, Massachusetts, USA, has announced that it is about to launch a new mobile communications chipset that will enable wireless stereo headsets to be used with portable devices such as MP3 players and mobile phones. Devices that use the technology could appear at the CES show in Las Vegas as early as next year.
If the technolgy catches on, it means that we could finally enjoy music on the move, free from the tyranny of wires. The technology is set to rival Bluetooth, which has already, established itself as the standard for wireless communications on phones. However, Bluetooth’s limited bandwidth makes it ill suited for delivering high quality stereo audio.
To achieve success, Aura has had to overcome two difficulties faced by Bluetooth. Firstly, there’s the thorny issue of interference. Bluetooth uses the 2.4GHz band, which is already crowded by household items such as wireless networking, DECT telephones and even microwave ovens. The second one is that the further away the two devices are, the more power is drawn and even in perfect conditions Bluetooth is relatively power hungry.
Aura's new technology is known as LibertyLink. It has a very different approach to that of Bluetooth, and builds on a technology derived from hearing aids called Magnetic Induction. LibertyLink doesn’t use RF (Radio Frequency), but rather it creates a magnetic ‘bubble’ that is made to vibrate at between 10-15MHz. The data is then sent within this ‘bubble’, which means that it will not interfere with other devices.
There are already products available that use an earlier version of the Aura’s LibertyLink chipset, although these can only handle mono audio. The downside here is that you need to connect a fairly large transmitter to your mobile phone to be able to use the hands free headsets that are currently on offer.
According to Aura however, things are set to change, with companies such as Motorola and Creative Labs having invested in the technology.
The LibertyLink chipset offers a raw data rate of 2MB/sec and has a limited range of about two meters. In fact, if the two devices are further away from each other then the connection is cut. However, this in fact works to its advantage, as it means that there are no security concerns, as for anyone to tap into your phone conversation they would have to stand right next to you.
Aura also claims that there is no need to pair devices, as they connect automatically when switched on and are within range of each other. The major plus point in addition to high quality stereo audio, is the excellent battery life, with up to 20 hours of continuous usage promised from a single charge.
The stereo solution is a little while away yet, but it should hopefully prove to be popular with the major electronics manufacturers.
Some companies have also hinted at plans to bring out speakers based on the same technology, as the range can be increased on larger products by boosting the transmission power and by using a larger antenna. However, these are still very much in the development phase.
I was informed by Dan Cui, VP of Sales, that several familiar brands names are interested in this new technology, although I’m not allowed to divulge the names as yet. But one thing is certain - Bluetooth is going to have a hard time competing with LibertyLink technology.
For more information about Aura Communications and its products please visit www.auracomm.com