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  • Standards and Revisions of HDMI

    Just as soon as HDMI technology was developed, in 2003, products utilizing HDMI began hitting the shelves. But, as would be expected, the demand for the new technology rapidly expanded to many different applications, requiring new standards and revisions to the original HDMI standard.

    The first revision was done to support DVD audio, and was titled HDMI 1.1. 1.2 came next to support a variety of other devices. But the latest and greatest is 1.3.

    HDMI 1.3 boasts a huge increase in bandwidth, support for XVYCC color as well as anywhere from 16-bit color to 48-bit color. A lip-synch feature was added to help prevent the audio and video data from separating during transfer. Companies rushed to boast that their HDMI 1.3-enabled devices made older devices obsolete.

    However, much like other technological advances of our day, the rest of technology hadn’t caught up yet. The increased bandwidth currently supports twice the refresh rate that HDTVs can even process. So, it really doesn’t add benefit yet.

    Again, with the color advancements, HDMI 1.3 can support up to 48-bit color, but the best media players and recordings max out at 16-bit color. And the lip-synch and one-touch control features are not yet supported by all home-theater applications.

    The bottom line? HDMI standards and revisions have already taken it beyond other technologies. While the HDMI Forum meets to continue to improve upon it, the rest of the audio/video world will need to catch up to enjoy it.
  • History of HDMI

    HDMI technology was developed by many large companies including Thomson (RCA), Toshiba, Silicon Image, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic, etc.), Hitachi, Philips and Sony. The project began on April 16, 2002, for the purpose of inventing an AV connector that was backwards compatible with DVI, but that improved upon DVI with audio support, enhanced functions, and a smaller connector.

    DVI was the standard hookup for HDTV (High Definition Television) at the time, but HDMI 1.0 was able to successfully replace this technology. Silicon Image opened a testing center in California on June 23, 2003, to examine HDMI products. It was called an ATC (Authorized Testing Center).

    ATCs soon began popping up in Japan, Europe and elsewhere as the rest of the world caught on to HDMI technology. Panasonic opened the first in Japan in 2004, while France started its first in 2005. China also opened an ATC in 2005, but India did not open one until 2008.

    These ATCs remain in use for continued study and approval of HDMI technology products. In addition, motion picture companies support the technology of HDMI for their movies. These companies include Disney, EchoStar, Universal, Fox, DirecTV, Cable Labs, Warner Bros. and Disney.

    In the year 2004, 5 million HDMI devices were sold. The next year, 17.4 million sold. The numbers kept multiplying as the interest in HDMI technology grew. 63 million sold in 2006 and 143 million in 2007.

    By the year of 2007, HDMI had become the standard for digital televisions with 90% being made with HDMI technology. Not yet slowing down, 229 million HDMI products were sold in 2008, and thus it has continued.

    In 2008, the CEC portion of the HDMI specification was awarded PC Magazine’s Technical Excellence Award, for an “innovation that has changed the world.” Technological and Engineering Emmy Awards were given by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to ten companies involved in HDMI development, in 2009.

    More recently, on October 25, 2011, the founders of HDMI formed a HDMI forum to allow companies to participate in building upon the HDMI 1.4b specification. The goal is to continue the success of the past in unifying companies with their various groups of great minds to drive HDMI technology into the future.
  • HDMI Overview

    HDMI is a technology that transports digital data for audio/video devices, like HDTVs, Blu-Ray players, mobile phones, PCs, camcorders, game consoles, and tablets. High-Definition Multimedia Interface is a technology developed in 2003, by a large team of 10 companies who were seeking to find a replacement for the older DVI (Digital Video Interface).

    HDMI is able to do more than just transfer one form of audio and video data. 3D video signals, high definition video data, or simple standard video are all supported by HDMI. Up to 8 channels of compressed or uncompressed audio can be carried in digital format through the cable.

    LPCM audio and auxiliary data are both able to utilize HDMI technology and CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) and Ethernet connections can support it as well. The CEC allows devices connected by an HDMI to control each other, as when a tablet pulls up a video on the PC it is connected to, or a camcorder on an HDTV.

    Conversely, multiple devices can be controlled through HDMI connection by a remote control handset. As HDMI is backwards compatible with DVI, the signal does not require adaptation. And the HDMI technology can improve upon the quality that comes from a DVI output, as it can make better use of the data that comes through the DVI device than DVI can itself.

    Many of the companies involved in the 2003 cooperative effort to develop HDMI are now pulling together again in the new HDMI Forum, established October 2011. This forum will continue in the search for greater enhancements and developments in HDMI technology.
  • HDMI Applications

    High Definition Television sets are not the only devices that utilize HDMI technology. There are a handful of applications, from mobile phones to tablets and from PCs to Blu-ray players, which take advantage of this latest development in video/audio technology.

    Tablets now offer a wide range of media and technical functions. The Motorola Xoom, the Acer Iconia Tab A500, and the BlackBerry PlayBook all come with HDMI ports. Some, like the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer offer a Mini-HDMI port. The iPad and iPad 2 do not come with either. Instead, they use an A/V adapter to convert to an HDMI port, if needed.

    Mobile phones use HDMI technology for playback/screen mirroring. They either have an MHL or HDMI output. As with the tablets, there are some mobile phones that use the Mini-HDMI connector. Some examples are the Droid RAZR, the Xperia Arc, and Nokia N8.

    Camcorders and digital cameras that have video-recording capabilities utilize HDMI technology. Again, the Mini-HDMI connectors are standard with this mobile technology. Back at home, Blu-ray players and High Definition DVD players use HDMI 1.3 for Dolby and DTS sound. These audio formats can be transferred, through HDMI capability, in compressed form. Multichannel LPCM can also be sent using HDMI hookups.

    Movie buffs are not alone in driving HDMI development forward. Computers use HDMI to handle high demand video and audio data, such as that in the gaming world. In 2009, AMD announced the ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series, offering HDMI 1.3 output, just like the best Blu-ray players. Now, the same Dolby and DTS sound beloved in movies can be enjoyed while on a PC, whether watching a video or playing a video game.

    HDMI technology continues to develop and maintain its place in the world of audio and visual technology. Like all technology, it may someday be replaced, but for now it is the industry standard for all video-enabled devices for the consumer. Only time will tell what other applications will eventually be developed that use HDMI technology.
  • The Future of Remote Technology

    Wireless remote technology began with the use of lights, emitted from the remote and received by the television receiver. In its day, it was an unthinkable advancement. However, when sunlight began triggering TV’s to go off and on, by themselves, and rapidly switch channels, without anyone in the room, customers were obviously alarmed and unhappy.

    The next technology used in remotes became the only technology used for the quarter century following. Using high frequency sound, these remotes were able to eliminate the interference experienced with light and, as the sound was high frequency, prevented interference from other sounds in the room.

    Once infrared technology was mastered, it became the next big hit and, to this day, is the industry standard. Infrared technology uses directed infrared waves (heat) flicking on and off faster than the eye can see, to transmit sequences to the TV receiver. Infrared sequence codes help prevent interference from the sun and even body heat, as they use modulated frequencies.

    The latest advancement in remote technology is opening up new doors for the future. Did you ever imagine your cell phone, which you probably carry with you everywhere, could become much more than just a phone? If you’re like many people today, your phone is now also a camera, GPS, email and internet portal, and an entertainment device.

    Now, technology is taking the cell phone to the next level. Logitech developed an idea, more than ten years ago, that has now come to fruition. There are new apps for cell phones and IPods that make them into universal remotes for your home entertainment system; for example, the AVShadow by Unify4Life, for the Blackberry phone.

    With a tiny Bluetooth device placed on or by your entertainment center, and the app downloaded to your phone, you will have the ultimate control using only your cell phone for the TV, stereo, TiVo, Blu-Ray player, and even for starting up your IPod.

    Priced at about $100, this new application is sure to be a hit with consumers who have been waiting for home automation. That old plastic remote you can never seem to find, and that always seems to need new batteries, may soon become a thing of the past. Now the cell phone, ever on your person, is all that you need to sit down and enjoy your evening entertainment.

    As exciting as this new advancement is, it is only the beginning. The same company plans to release apps later this year to run your garage door opener and startup your PC or mac from across the room. $70 for both together will have you in business, making your life a little simpler.

    The goal is to even make these universal remotes work even for lighting and baby monitors. The more that can be automated, the better. iPhones and the Android are the next targets for this new technology by Unify4Life.

    Not to be outdone, Sony Eriksson’s project is a similar phone-operated universal remote. They describe their technology as creating interfaces for different remote control functions inside the phone and programming the phone to transmit different types of signals for different interfaces, whether that is turning on the TV or opening the garage door. Different apps can be downloaded for various remote purposes.

    IPhone has developed perhaps the easiest way to convert the iPhone into a universal remote. There is literally a little plug-in device that gets inserted into the phone, turning it into a remote, instantly. No confusing apps. And, to further simplify the process, the remote is projected onto the iPhone screen as a color touch-screen remote image.

    So, it looks like a remote and functions like one, when you touch the screen “buttons” like you would the buttons on a regular remote. Called the “i-Got-Control Universal Remote,” this hardware for the iPhone may top the charts in popularity.

    Peel is another version of this new app for cell phones. Peel already works with iPhones and the iPod Touch. The next goal is to tackle the Android phone. The Peel works with a little device called a “fruit” which is placed near the entertainment devices to be controlled with the remote.

    A second device is connected to the wireless router in the home. The two need to have solid communication between them in order to function properly. One of the benefits of the Peel is that it comes with a unique interface for organizing what’s on TV. Using photos and logos, the Peel interface makes it easier to figure out what’s on TV and what you would like to watch.

    All of these companies, and others, and working frantically to be the first to deliver the next level of universal remote technology for cell phones. The capabilities of the universal remote are expected to continue to broaden, eventually to include all electronic functions in the home. The goal: total home automation using only your cell phone.
  • Robert Adler

    Born in Vienna, Austria, December 4, 1913, Robert Adler was the inventor of the first successful wireless remote for television. As a Jew during wartime, the American immigrant was awarded 180 U.S. patents, for his inventions and contributions to technology and physics. During his career, he received nine national awards and recognitions for his work.

    Before he came to the United States, Adler was interested in the field of physics and decided to pursue a PhD in the same, at the University of Vienna. He graduated in 1937 and soon took his degree and his talents with him to the U.S., with plans for chasing the American Dream.

    In 1941, he was hired for the research department at Zenith Electronics, a move that would end up being very fruitful both for him and for Zenith Electronics. Before Adler’s contribution to the science of remote controls, Zenith was producing a remote invented by Eugene Polley, another of their engineers, called the “Flashmatic.”

    The Flashmatic basically used a pointed flashlight to transmit signals to photo cells located in the television. Unfortunately, sunlight could be misinterpreted, by the receiver, as remote signals, and the TV seemed to be controlling itself. The TV set would suddenly scroll through channels without stopping, or turn on and off without being touched. Needless to say, it was a problem.

    Zenith wanted to ensure that they were the ones to solve the problem and rise above it. So they encouraged their research department to get right back to work. With Adler now heading the team, they developed the “Space Command” remote that worked in a very unusual way.

    The Space Command remote contained four aluminum rods that, when struck by the little hammers inside, would produce high-frequency tones that would control the television set. The four buttons on the remote each caused one of the hammers to strike the corresponding rod.

    The four remote buttons controlled the power, the sound, channel up, and channel down. Each of the rods, about 2.5” in length, vibrated at a different frequency, so the television receiver could distinguish between the four commands.

    Unfortunately, while the remote was relatively small and easy to handle, the receiver was a detailed and expensive conglomeration of six vacuum tubes and other equipment. This receiver added 30% to the price of the TV. But consumers did not complain.

    Hailed for managing to avoid the use of batteries, Adler went on to develop an even better remote, also without batteries. He developed an ultrasonic remote with a technology that was used throughout the nation for the next 25 years.

    Adler’s new and improved remote was called the “clicker” and it won Adler and his colleague Polley an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in 1980. It worked well enough that approximately nine million TV sets with ultrasonic technology were sold, before the infrared remote came into being in the 1980s.

    In 1996, well past the invention of the infrared remote, Dr. Adler was accused by the media of contributing to the nationwide obesity epidemic. His response was, “I don’t take responsibility for couch potatoes. They really should exercise."

    Adler was the Vice President of Zenith and the Director of Research for some time, before his retirement in 1982. He stayed on part time as a technical advisor to the company for another seventeen years following retirement.

    Adler never stopped producing new inventions utilizing the latest technologies. His last patent was filed in October of 2006 for an advancement in touch-screen technology. Following this last application for a patent, and after a long life of contributions to technology and science, Dr. Adler passed away from heart failure at age ninety-three.
  • Infrared Remotes

    Most home theater equipment uses infrared technology for remote control operation. The electromagnetic spectrum contains only a narrow band of visible waves with radio waves, gamma rays, microwaves, ultraviolet light waves, x-rays, and infrared light waves all making up the invisible part of the spectrum.

    Infrared light, in particular, is a heat-based light wave that efficiently sends signals over short distances. It has been useful in remote technology for 25 years, but it does have its drawbacks.

    Infrared light can only work at distances within a range of 30 feet. Infrared signals cannot be sent around a corner or through an object, as they require line-of-sight control. Additionally, infrared signals face interference problems from sunlight, fluorescent bulbs, and even the human body.

    To counteract this problem for use in home theater remote systems, the infrared receiver, located in the TV, stereo, DVR, or other device, is programmed only to respond to infrared signals of a particular wavelength, approximately 980 nanometers (nm).

    Yet, even sunlight contains infrared light in the 980-nm wavelength. So, the manufacturers of remote equipment have to go even further and program the infrared remote to send a modulated signal at that wavelength. Then, the receiver is also programmed to only respond to an infrared signal that is modulated to that particular frequency. With this pulse-wave modulation, or PWM, interference can still happen, but most of it is prevented.

    The way infrared signaling works is much like Morse code, on a telegraph. The telegraph uses stops and starts in electrical impulses to indicate specific letters and numbers, according to a coding system. With infrared remotes, the process is very similar. However, like the binary code used in computers, it uses just two digits 0 and 1 to form codes for commands.

    The infrared remote works by flashing an infrared light signal on and off, extremely rapidly. This is called modulating. The rate at which remotes do this is thousands of times per second, far too fast for the human eye to perceive.

    Each time you press a button on your infrared remote, the remote sends these rapid-fire signals to the receiver. The receiver then receives the message, followed by the address code, which verifies the command is coming from the right source. Then, it translates the light pulses into electrical signals that follow a binary code. The binary code is identified by the equipment’s microprocessor and the command is performed.

    Each manufacturer, from Sony to Vizio, has the option to program their infrared receivers to follow whatever series of codes they wish. Because interference does occur, some choose, for example, to have the remote send the message twice to ensure that the receiver gets the right message.

    Usually, the binary code for the command is followed by a binary code for the address code, ensuring accuracy of the command. A few examples come from Sony’s Control-S protocol, a protocol used in Sony’s television sets:

    Turning the power on, with the remote, sends a signal translated into the binary code 001 0101. Turning it off is 010 111. Volume up is 001 0010 and volume down is 001 0011. The device address code is often 0000 and follows each individual command.

    When you first press the button down, it initiates the code with a “start” signal first. Then, when you release the button, it sends a “stop” signal. This ensures, for example, that if you hit the volume up button, the volume will not keep going up and up until it is maxed out. Instead, it will turn up the volume one unit per depression of the volume up button.

    Some remotes are able to work only when the remote is pointed directly at the receiver, while others can work by being pointed in that general direction. The reason for this is that some LEDs (light-emitting diodes used by the remote to send the infrared signal) are more powerful than others and can produce a broader and stronger signal.

    Infrared technology is still very useful and effective for home theater equipment. Although most technology becomes passé after only a decade or less, infrared remote systems have been in use for 25 years with no end in sight.
  • Radio or RF Remote Controls

    Radio remote controls, also known as RF remote controls, are radio controls that utilize radio frequency signals to operate a device. Radio frequency (RF) is the range of electromagnetic frequency found between the audio range (sound waves) and infrared light (heat waves).

    Various levels of frequencies within the RF range have a different range of how well and how far the signal can be transmitted. The frequency level is also related to the amount of power the device has. 2 GHz (Gigahertz) and below produce a wave powerful enough to travel through dense objects, including household walls. That is why radio channels can be picked up inside homes and other buildings.

    Between 2GHz and 5 GHz, however, radio waves do not travel as well through objects or around corners. Between 5 GHz and 50 GHz, line of sight is required for the RF remote to work with the device it is controlling. However, these signals can still travel long distances.

    RF signals can be sent as directional (meaning they are sent pointing in a specific direction) or omnidirectional (when the radio frequency signals are sent in all directions). Because they are so versatile, RF signals are used for many different devices including portable phones, cellphones, AM and FM radio, satellites, television, and wireless networks.

    RF receivers, also referred to as base stations, are necessary for working with an RF remote device. Most devices, however, are infrared (IR) based, and thus need to be controlled with IR signals. This is often accomplished by using an RF receiver that has the ability to convert the RF signals, which it receives from the RF remote, to IR signals that control the device.

    This technology is utilized for a range of remote control vehicles and devices from toy cars and model airplanes to military, industrial, and research vehicles and equipment across the nation. It began with radio control models in the 1950s. These were single-channel devices that were made simply and for individual purposes.

    Later on, the invention of the transistor reduced the need for intensive battery power, for RF remotes. This allowed for lower voltage battery use inside of RF remotes. Another advancement was the crystal-controlled super-heterodyne receiver, which improved the production of RF equipment by reducing expense and by using more efficient technology.

    Multi-channel transmission technology assisted aircraft especially, as aircraft require yaw, pitch, and motor speed control dimensions, at a minimum. Boats using RF technology only require one or two control dimensions.

    A much more recent development in RF technology has replaced the old analog-type pulse modulation (PM). Pulse-code modulation (PCM) utilizes a computer-based digital bit-stream to send from the RF remote to the RF receiver. But, in spite of this new advancement in technology, loss of transmission during flight is becoming more frequent due to the ever-increasing use of wireless technology throughout the world. More and more signals are being sent through and past each other throughout the airways.

    Since the year 2000, top-performance aircraft and remote vehicles are using 2.4 GHz transmissions for a powerful and pervasive signal. A radio system using 2.4 GHz technology can cost upwards of $2,000. However, older 72 MHz band radios can be upgraded, to 2.4 GHz, for a relatively low cost, using a conversion kit. With the regular changes in technology each decade, the ability to upgrade is imperative for many individuals, companies, and organizations that do not have the capital to completely replace their RF equipment.

    Those that do have the capital, such as the military, are using top-of-the line RF technology. Many of the aircraft they use operate with a computerized automatic pilot. This and other real-size remote control vehicles are increasingly used for military purposes.

    The government has used this technology with vehicles like the Mars Exploration Rovers and the Sojourner. Increasing safety and efficiency, RF-controlled cranes and other large machinery are beginning to be employed in the field of construction.

    The future of RF technology is continually expanding as physicists and researchers continue to push the envelope of the capabilities of RF technology. Already in use is a radio-controlled robot, operated by a special RF remote, that can disarm bombs without putting any lives at risk. Only time will tell where RF technology will lead us in the next decade or two.
  • What is DVB?

    The Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB) is a consortium of over 250 broadcasting companies, network operators, manufacturers, software developers, and regulating bodies. This industry-led consortium brings together over 35 countries that are committed to the development of open standards for broadcasting around the globe.

    DVB standard services are in every continent. Over 500 million DVB receivers have been placed around the world. On the DVB’s website, they have a worldwide section that shows news stories from various countries and explains where DVB technology is being used.

    One of the most recent news stories, about DVB, was broadcast late July, 2011, when the DVB introduced a new profile for the DVB-T2 terrestrial standard for services like mobile TV. The new profile simplifies receiver implementations for mobile broadcasting, and can also be received by stationary receivers.

    The DVB sends out a magazine, to subscribers, called the DVB Scene. In the March, 2011 issue, it discussed the 2nd generation DVB interactive satellite system and semiconductors for the 2nd generation DVB receivers, among other stories.

    DBD Scene is sent out as E-news. DVB news stories cover everything from Sony products to DVB-T2 expansion to Southern Africa. It is a global interest newsletter, as the DVB is itself a global group, uniting for the common interest of improving broadcasting around the world.
  • What is ATSC?

    The Advanced Television Systems Committee is responsible for the ATSC standards. They list the standards for digital television broadcasting over cable, satellite, and terrestrial networks. This set of standards was first developed in the 1990’s by the Grand Alliance, a consortium of telecommunications and electronics companies working together to develop HDTV.

    While the initial ATSC formats only included HDTV services, it has since been expanded to designate standard-definition formats as well. With the launch of the HDTV standards set apart by the ATSC, the widescreen image capability was expanded to 16:9 images with up to 1920x1080 pixels in size.

    Because of the reduced bandwidth requirements of low-resolution images, a single 6 megahertz TV channel can support up to 6 standard-definition sub-channels. When used to its full capabilities, however, with HDTV, it does require more spectrum space.

    All of the ATSC standards have to be approved and adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to be put into effect. The FCC is responsible for the regulation of all telecommunication technologies and broadcasting.

    Audio broadcasting is also supported by the ATSC standards. The latest standards support Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround sound, through the airways. Auxiliary data-casting services can also be provided. ATSC standards have replaced most of the analog NTSC TV system, though the changeover is still not complete. In the meantime, broadcasters who want to send an analog signal as well as the digital signal must broadcast on two separate channels.

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