Intel, Cisco and Philips are among the high profile investors to spend $25 million on a US start-up that claims to have developed compression technology for sending full motion video across digital, wireless home networks.
This fourth round of financing brings the total funding in Sharewave to $42.5 million. Additional backers include Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures, Softbank Technology Ventures and Ameritech.
ShareWave said it plans to use the cash to boost product engineering, marketing and technology development spend.
Analysts predict rapid growth for the home networking market over the next few years, with investment firm, Wedbush Morgan Securities expecting the sector to grow to $4 billion in the US alone by 2002.
Sharewave's aim is to establish a Multimedia Furnace or central hub within the home as a collection point for digital content. This content would then be distributed wirelessly to user-designated locations and devices throughout the house.
"Our Multimedia Furnace strategy is built on extensive customer research, which dictates that a home wireless networking solution must deliver multi-content throughout the house at affordable price points," said Jim Schraith, Sharewave's president and chief executive.
"This technology extends digital multimedia content beyond the den or home office to other locations more appropriate for its use," he added.
For example, a customer could use a mobile display pad to find car repair tips from their manufacturer's Web site while located in the garage.
At the core of Sharewave's Multimedia Furnace is a compression algorithm called NAMI (Network Adaptive Multimedia Image, which provides throughput rates of up to 4Mbps.
By using proprietary codecs capable of 36:1 compression ratios for sustained video, the firm said it can compress a 120-Mbit per second video stream down a 4-Mbit/s pipe.
It claims that this enables a full-motion video to be transmitted across a home network for less than $100 per node. The network operates in the 2.4-GHz ISM band, which handles digital television and data.
A ShareWave spokeswoman said the firm's wavelet-based compression algorithm on which the technology is based can be adapted to different bandwidths and is awaiting patent approval.
She also claimed that the technology improves the quality of compression to such an extent that there is little difference between the original and compressed image.
ShareWave has also designed four other ASICS: a pair of low-cost and low-power NAMI compression and decompression ICs for embedded applications and two types of wireless network controllers.
The full NAMI codec is based on about 500,000 gates, while the separate NAMI compression and decompression chips come in at 200,000 and 250,000 gates respectively with a power consumption of about 1 W.
The first product to include this technology will ship before the end of the year, but the company also plans to license all or some of its its wireless networking technology to third parties and sell its own silicon.
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