A “Snappy” Solution for Video Docking

A “Snappy” Solution for Video Docking

Posted 4/11/2017 by Neil Bullock

Lattice’s SiBEAM Technology Group has developed SiBEAM Snap, a revolutionary wireless connection technology that delivers USB 3.0 (5 Gb/s) data over a short wireless link. It replaces the USB connector and cable. But it can’t deliver video, can it? Oh yes, it can! Let’s explore how video is traditionally delivered today and how audio, video and data can all be delivered over a Snap wireless connection.

Video over USB

The Universal Serial Bus is truly universal in consumer electronics devices. We have replaced unique connectors and protocols associated with each type of peripheral device (as examples, think of PS/2 for keyboards, Centronics for printers, SCSI for hard disk drives, and IEEE 1394 for video cameras) with the USB connector and protocol.

The one standout to the trend of replacement by USB has been the link to an external video display. Traditionally, video has been transported in raw form between devices, which requires a very high bit rate and a dedicated high speed interface such as HDMI or DisplayPort. However, compression can be applied effectively to video without noticeable impact to picture quality. This is shown by its use in broadcast television and video streaming. Using similar techniques suitably adapted for desktop display, compression can be used to achieve bit rates that will easily fit within the bandwidth offered by a USB link. Now USB carries audio, video and data. And the most widely used desktop compression technology comes from DisplayLink.

What is DisplayLink?

DisplayLink is a chip and software company whose technology is used in products from the world’s leading PC and peripheral brands. DisplayLink’s driver is used to compress the video display on the host side and the resultant compressed video stream is transported over USB to DisplayLink’s IC. DisplayLink’s graphics chip technology enables multiple monitors, docking stations, video adapters, and more, with resolutions of 4K and beyond across a single link to a host computer. Products with DisplayLink technology support the latest notebooks, tablets, phones using Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Android, and Ubuntu.

Snap Block Diagram

Snap in notebook PCs

The enterprise notebook PC is a great example of the traditional approach to interface expansion. A variety of dedicated interfaces are replicated over a large, complex, fragile and expensive connector to a dock platform. The size and complexity of the connector limit the form factor choices while the fragility makes the notebook more vulnerable to damage either through water ingress or connector failure. By contrast, the wireless connection using Snap technology doesn’t suffer from mechanical wear and tear. They can be used in parallel to increase the total bandwidth and they can transport dual 4K video using DisplayLink technology. The docking platform can provide the customary ports that the end user is expecting. We’ve been testing the interoperability of DisplayLink technology with Snap for some time now and they work as you might expect – seamlessly. A nice proof-of-concept was showcased in DisplayLink’s booth at CES 2017, which showed how elegant docking and undocking can be without connectors.

Snap in Notebooks

Snap in 2-in1s

The 2-in-1 tablet and detachable PC also benefit from this approach. Typically, there is a transportable component that contains the keyboard and the external interfaces to desktop peripherals and displays and a mobile component which contains the screen and processor. The transportable part physically secures the mobile part when it is docked. Combining Snap and DisplayLink technologies, all of the data for the external interfaces, including video, can be carried over the wireless connector, liberating the design of the mobile device.

Snap in mobile devices

Finally, we can make new capabilities available for “mobile first” and “mobile only” consumers. These consumer computing needs are primarily met by their mobile phones and tablets. While they don’t want or need a personal computer, they do need the ability to undertake productivity tasks that are straightforward on a personal computer and cumbersome on a mobile device without a display, keyboard and mouse. Their needs can be met on a mobile device through a companion dock that provides display extension and connection to an accessory keyboard and mouse. The same docking device can provide ports for the connection of additional desktop devices such as external storage, printers, scanners or any other peripheral device that can be supported over USB.

In these applications, SiBEAM Snap wireless connector technology transforms the implementation of the product, simultaneously making it more elegant and robust. By extending the concept to video display, DisplayLink and Snap technologies together provide a complete wireless video and data solution that can be used in new approaches to some important applications.

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