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Sony, Sharp create optical 1394 for portable devices

Takes cable length to 10m with connector small enough for MP3 players

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Sony and Sharp are to co-develop a slimline, optical version of IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire) for portable devices such as digital cameras and music players. The technology will combine Sony's iLink (it's name for 1394) with Sharp's Optical Mini Jack plug specification, which is essentially the optical equivalent of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The new system will allow data to be sent using the 1394 protocol across a single optical fibre. The Sony/Sharp project is an extension of the P1394b specification, which allows 1394 to operate over an optical connection in order to extend its maximum cable length from the current 4.5m limit. P1394b, which has yet to be finalised and ratified as a standard, is based on twisted-pair optical cabling -- the Sony/Sharp approach will use a single cable. The two companies reckon that will enable them to achieve data throughput rates of up to 100Mbps through a 10m cable. That's less than the 1394 maximum of 400Mbps, but sufficient for downloading still images or MP3 files. Sharp's Optical Mini Jack was developed to provide hi-fi units with direct digital connections, so it's likely the new, 1394-based technology will be deployed there too -- ten metres will accommodate even the most widely-spaced speakers -- and as such will mark a major step toward the 1394 supporters' goal of establishing the protocol as the basis for all home entertainment and consumer electronics interconnections. In addition to this new technology, Sony, along with Hitachi, Toshiba, Matsushita and three others, have already proposed a second alternative connector (a smaller version of the standard 1394 plug) for standard P1394b links. The draft version of the spec. has already been submitted to the relevant standards bodies for inclusion in P1394b. Sony and Sharp said they expect to submit the new connector spec. by the end of the year. ® Related Stories Canon gets 1394 'FireWireless' up to 100Mbps Sony adds data protection to 1394

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