Qualcomm shells out more details on Peanut wireless technology

Low-power technology may be ready for commercial use in a year

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Qualcomm is developing a short-range radio technology called Peanut that would require less battery power than Zigbee, Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband technologies.

Matt Grob, senior vice president of research and development at Qualcomm, said Peanut could be used for radio communications over what is called the "body-area network," which ranges from a few inches to a few feet. It also could cover the length of a room.

"It would require fractions of a milliwatt of power but move data at high speed," Grob told an audience at the EmTech@MIT 2010 conference today. He described Peanut as being able to power applications for data, voice and audio -- and possibly video -- at a few megabits per second.

Peanut technology has been under development at Qualcomm for four years, Grob said in an interview, and it should be ready for commercial deployment in about a year.

The chief benefit of Peanut would be that it requires less power than other short-range radio specifications such as Zigbee and Bluetooth, which are used in many applications, ranging from manufacturing and monitoring devices that talk wirelessly to one another, to phone headsets and car stereos connected to phones.

Qualcomm is working on a wide range of projects involving Peanut technology, Grob said, but the largest single area of its research budget is devoted to 4G wireless communications, including LTE Advanced.

One unusual area of research involves the Mirasol display technology that Qualcomm developed for e-readers and other devices. Grob showed a prototype of a 5-inch Mirasol color display running video, and he said that technology could be used in products soon. He said some products with black-and-white Mirasol technology are appearing on the market, but he didn't elaborate. Mirasol basically uses tiny mirrors to reflect ambient light for use on the display; it can't be used in the dark unless some kind of exterior light is provided, Grob explained.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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