Sony's TransferJet tech moves closer to reality

Licensing of the high-speed, short-range wireless technology is about to begin

TransferJet, a data transmission technology developed by Sony that allows information to be exchanged between gadgets by simply bringing them close to each other, took a further step towards commercialization this week when Sony said it would begin accepting applications from companies interested in licensing the system.

TransferJet is a wireless system that can send data at speeds of up to 375M bps (bits per second) over distances of a few centimeters.

It's designed to replace the cables that are typically needed to connect gadgets and its speed rivals that of USB2.0 and Firewire, the two dominant cable-based systems in use today. It uses radio spectrum around 4.5GHz, which is currently available in Japan, the U.S., the E.U., South Korea and other areas meaning a common system should be possible worldwide.

Many of the biggest names in consumer electronics have already signalled support for the technology by signing on as members of the TransferJet Consortium and now Sony is welcoming applications for "adopter" membership from other companies interested in building it into their products.

Backers include Samsung, Toshiba, Kodak, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus, Pioneer and Sony Ericsson. Most recently five additional companies joined: Casio, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Sharp and Softbank Mobile.

Many of the major digital still camera, video camera and cellular telephone companies are among the early supporters so that might be a clue as to the first places TransferJet will be found.

Sony offered three potential uses in a white paper published on the consortium Web site: transferring data between digital devices without the need of a host PC, downloading content to a mobile device from an outdoor promotional sign and sampling or downloading music by bringing a mobile device close to a music kiosk.

TransferJet was first demonstrated on the Sony booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2008.

A prototype system transferred pictures from a digital camera to a television and displayed them on-screen when the camera was placed on a reader attached to the TV. The technology was again demonstrated a this year's CES when Toshiba showed a prototype PDA with the technology.

A key feature of the technology is the ease with which data can be transferred between devices. When two TransferJet devices are brought within a few centimeters of each other a session is started automatically without any of the fuss of other wireless technologies. The link between the gadgets is also unencrypted.

The lack of security is key to making it easy to use and Sony says shouldn't be a risk because of the short range over which it works.

The security question is addressed in the white paper: "It would be very difficult for an attacker to gain access to a TransferJet(TM) connection from some distant location. The attacker would have to be physically a few centimeters away in order to access the connection. If the attacker has to be that close, couldn't they just as easily plug in a USB cable?"

The assertion is likely correct in most cases although there could be times when you get that close to someone without really knowing them, for example riding a crowded train.

Whether this turns out to be a weak point in the technology will likely only become clear when the first products go on sale.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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