We've seen prototype wireless HDTV at both CES 2008 and CES 2009, but this year's upped the ante: It uses wireless power as well.
Haier America Digital Products Group (ed: Haier is the fourth largest white appliance manufacturer in the world and incidentally a Chinese company that loves to adopt German-sounding names like Bauer) demonstrated what it said was the first completely wireless television: a 32-inch LCD powered wirelessly from up to six or seven feet (according to the NBC Today Show's Al Roker, who got a demo of the device on this morning's program), and which received content via a wireless link from a Haier prototype Blu-ray player.
The device uses power using WiTricity technology, based on research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The transmission of electricity occurs through the use of two resonant objects of the same frequency. This allows the transmitted power to react strongest with those objects. Last year, it was used to demonstrate wireless charging of a laptop, as well as a number of demonstrations during CES.
The advantage of a television that doesn't require power cables is that with thinner and thinner sets, people are hanging them on the wall -- which then either requires dangling cables or drilling holes in the wall, said Mark Lee, director of product planning for the company. "It's a clean look and feel," he said.
The technology could also be used commercially such as for providing ads, but Haier's focus is on the home, Lee told Betanews.
The device at the show is one of the final engineering prototypes, meaning consumers would be able to see it in a couple of years, Lee projected. In addition, AMIMON, which provided the wireless HD TV technology, predicted "a plethora" of wireless HDTVs based on its technologies this year.
AMIMON's technology uses its own Wireless High Definition Interface. It uses the 5 GHz unlicensed band and transmits data at rates of up to 3 Gbps. In addition, to AMIMON itself, supporters include Hitachi, LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony. LG also announced wireless HDTV at this year's CES.
But in a situation reminiscent of the Blu-ray/HD battles of the Oughts, there is another high-definition wireless standard, WirelessHD. It supports up to 4 Gbps of transmission in the 60 GHz frequency band, and is supported by 40 vendors, including Broadcom, Intel, LG, Panasonic, NEC, Samsung, SiBEAM, Sony, Philips and Toshiba.
(Note that LG and Sony are hedging their bets and support both specifications.)
ABI Research said last year it expected 1 million wireless HDTV installations by 2012, and that while WHDI was better understood, WirelessHD allowed higher data rates.
So what makes this year different from every other year? Will we still remain slaves to our cables? Michael Inouye, an analyst with ABI Research, said that what makes this year different is that consumers are more likely to be going to the Internet for video content.
Comscore, for example, announced this week that more than 170 million US Internet users watched online video during the month of November, with nearly 31 billion videos viewed during the month.
The number of wireless HDTV announcements at this year's CES is also a factor.
"What it says to me is that we'll finally see some significant volume in wireless HDTVs this year," said Kurt Scherf, principal analyst for Parks Associates, which sponsored a panel at last year's CES on competing wireless HDTV technologies. "I think what we're seeing is still a lot of experimentation from manufacturers in looking at all of the different technologies." But until more products are out and there's some consumer response, it's hard to tell which one will be successful, he said. "Until we see actual product shipments from the TV manufacturers, we can't say which one is winning. I'd say it's a tie at this point."
In fact, Scherf thinks the ultimate technology solution will different -- something based on Wi-Fi.
"I still believe that a Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi derivative (one that employs some advanced antenna techniques) will probably be the one that most manufacturers use in a few years," he said. "Nothing has matched Wi-Fi as a networking technology in terms of price versus performance, and we will continue to see improvements to Wi-Fi that will allow it to meet the needs of a growing number of consumer electronics companies. Wi-Fi is really the 800-pound gorilla."