Qualcomm is developing a short-range radio technology called Peanut that would require less battery power than Zigbee, Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband technologies. Matt Grob, senior vice president of research and development at Qualcomm, said Peanut could be used for radio communications over what is called the Body Area Network, which ranges from a few inches to a few feet. It also could cover the length of a room.

"It would require fractions of a milliwatt of power but move data at high speed," Grob told an audience at the [email protected] 2010 conference. He described Peanut as being able to power applications for data, voice and audio at a few megabits per second, and possibly video.

Peanut technology has been under development at Qualcomm for four years, Grob said in an interview, and should be ready for commercial deployment in about a year.

Grob said Peanut could be used in a variety of ways, such as in devices for reducing driver distractions. It could be part of the wireless network surrounding a driver, but not the passengers, to prevent the driver from engaging in wireless texting or talking, he said.

The chief benefit of Peanut would be lower power consumption than other short-range radio specifications such as Zigbee and Bluetooth, which are used in many applications, ranging from manufacturing and monitoring devices that talk wirelessly to one another, to phone headsets and car stereos connected to phones.

Qualcomm is working on a wide range of projects, Grob said, but the largest single area of its research budget is committed to 4G wireless communications, including LTE Advanced.

One unusual area of research involves the Mirasol display technology that Qualcomm developed for e-readers and other devices. Grob showed a prototype using Mirasol in colour running video on a 5-inch display that Grob said could be used in products soon. Some products running the technology in black and white are appearing on the market, although he didn't elaborate. Mirasol basically uses tiny mirrors to reflect ambient light for use on the display and cannot be used in the dark unless some kind of exterior light is provided, Grob explained.