October 09, 2006, 16:00 BST
Company believes mobile workers of the future will carry a personal wireless hub to keep all their devices connected
HP has revealed its vision for the future of mobile devices by unveiling, as a concept, a wearable wireless communications hub.
The hub — which resembles a wristwatch and would be worn on the arm — would handle a user's connectivity requirements. All the individual's other mobile devices would then communicate solely with the hub.
Phil McKinney, chief technology officer for HP's personal systems group, said, "People want more powerful devices with more memory and more radios, and you have to cram all this in. So we have this concept of a watch, which is something we are driving to. Devices just need to communicate with this watch."
McKinney said users would set up a personal area network using ultra wideband (UWB), but also Bluetooth if they were still using today's devices. All the radios for external connectivity — whether 3G, Wi-Fi, WiMax or any other bearer — would be contained in the hub.
The hub would also allow a device, such as a smartphone, to seamlessly move between different networks. McKinney added that moving all the radios into the watch would mean radios could be removed from each device, making devices simpler to use and cheaper to manufacture.
HP's concept mobile hub
The wireless hub would use UWB to keep a user's devices connected
But McKinney rejected suggestions that data security could be at risk with such a profileration of individual networks. He said devices would only communicate with a device which had a MAC address white-listed by the user. If a device was stolen, the user would need to remove it from the white-list.
McKinney estimated that it will take until 2016 for a hub resembling a wristwatch to be commercially available. Before that it would go through several iterations, he said, first appearing as a credit card-sized box that could be carried in the user's pocket.
HP also unveiled a range of related products, including a "Smart Shelf" and adjoining Wall Display, which would act as a charger for the hub and could also be used as a monitor.
In the nearer term, HP will soon release two versions of its popular iPAQ PDA containing built-in satellite navigation software. The RX5700 and RX5900 will ship for little more than it costs to buy TomTom software on its own, HP said. The devices, which are Wi-Fi-enabled and run Windows Mobile, will go on sale in November.
HP will also start selling its first laptop with built-in 3G connectivity next month. The 6400 model, which will ship to businesses for £799 (ex VAT), will come with a Vodafone SIM pre-installed.