USB extension could offer niche business applicability

With desktop computing power continuing to grow, Icron Technologies Corp. says the ability to extend USB devices over existing cabling or IT infrastructure will gain significant enterprise interest.


Recently, the Burnaby, B.C.-based firm entered into a partnership with Belgium-based semiconductor firm EqcoLogic NV to offer USB 2.0 connectivity over standard coaxial cabling. The company, which already offers USB over 802.11 wireless radios, Cat 5 cables, fibre optic cables, Powerline and DisplayPort, also plans to roll out LAN in the near future.


USB over coax is geared mainly toward consumers looking for digital home connectivity, which includes the ability to extent video and controls for their HDTVs or gaming systems. But there is business applicability as well, said Robert Haefling, president and CEO of Icron.


“Look at the hospitality market,” he said. “Hotels have an infrastructure of coax already in the building that they’re able to leverage.”


Enterprises with existing coaxial infrastructure can also find a security application with USB over coax, as USB security cameras are very inexpensive to purchase and install, said Sukhdeep Hundal, vice-president of engineering of Icron.


But where the concept of extending USB could really find a home in the business world is in the ability to extend keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) functionality across great distances.


“Computing power is getting stronger and stronger, with computers now capable of driving more than one display,” Haefling said. “We’re now seeing that transition to multiple displays per one computer.”


Haefling said customers will be able to channel USB and video together through a single cable and provide functionality as if the monitor were in the same room. He said this will allow multiple users to operate the same desktop, which might be stored in a secure place, 500 metres away.


Rob Enderle, a principal analyst with San Jose, Calif.-based Enderle Group Inc., said USB extension among large enterprises would mostly likely be reserved for specialized use cases.


“There are clearly a need to put USB devices remotely from the computers they interface with, but they tend to be unique to scientific, manufacturing floor, health care and security industries,” he said. “There is likely plenty of demand for a small company to do very well with this, though it likely will never be a general IT requirement.”


In addition to this functionality, Icron said use cases for extending USB can also be found in digital signage, PC-to-TV extension, medical imaging and data centre management.


“In server rooms where there’s lots of heat and noise, companies are requiring the use of KVM extender products,” Hundal said. “The goal of those is to extent access to your servers away from the (data centre) and into a remote and quiet location.”


Icron officially announced its USB over coax partnership with EqcoLogic on March 30.

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