The new USB 3.0 Promoter Group includes many of the computer industry leaders including Microsoft, HP, NEC, Texas Instruments and others. The new technology will be a backward-compatible standard with the same plug and play capabilities of previous USB technologies and according to Intel, will keep the same ease-of-use that has made the USB so popular until now. Other expectations for the new standard include optimization for low power consumption and improved protocol efficiency. USB 3.0 will be designed to take advantage of future optical capabilities, enabling transfer rates of up to 4.8 Gbps.
TFOT covered the history and development of the USB standard in its MultiSwitch – First USB Sharing Hub article. USB is also starting to evolve into a wireless protocol (called WUSB) and companies such as Artimi are already using the new technology to create wireless digital cameras that will allow users to download their pictures directly to the computer without using cables. The short range wireless market is currently dominated by the Bluetooth standard, while several other complementary standards such as ZigBee and Wibree (which TFOT covered in 2006) have also started to make their mark. Because WUSB allows for much higher transfer rates, it has applications in transferring video and other demanding wireless tasks. It is reasonable to assume that USB 3.0 will also include some sort of wireless version. However, enabling wireless transfer at 4.8Gbps will not be a simple task, especially if low power consumption is a priority (although it may not be completely impossible, as researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently demonstrated when they wirelessly transferred 5 Gbps over a distance of five meters).
According to Intel, the new USB 3.0 specification is expected to arrive to the market by the first half of 2008. Full scale adoption of the new technology will probably take more time. Intel’s original press release on the USB 3.0 can be found here.