HDMI Licensing president Steve Venuti
Upgrade adds Ethernet capability, two-way audio and higher video resolutions, and standardises 3D transmission

HDMI 1.4 is coming, and among the new features are Ethernet data transmission, making IPTV simpler, bidirectional audio and support for future super-high-resolution TV standards.

The new specification will also set standards for common 3D TV formats, and will support 3D up to dual-stream 1080p resolution.

Announcing the new specification, set to be formalised by the end of June, HDMI Licensing president Steve Venuti (pictured) added that HDMI is set to move beyond its current home-based applications. 

"We are going to broaden our solution by providing a smaller connector for portable devices and a connection system specified for automobiles, as we see both more and different devices adopting the HDMI technology," he said.

Adding a data channelThe Ethernet capability of HDMI 1.4 is achieved by adding a data channel to the system, capable of high-speed bidirectional communication. Devices with this feature will be able to communicate via 100Mb/s Ethernet, enabling them to use a common internet connection, and also share data.

More after the break

This advance has clear implications for future IP-based content provision, such as streaming TV and closer integration between home entertainment and computing.

Audio ReturnThe Audio Return Channel will allow TVs connected by HDMI to an AV receiver to send broadcast sound back to that receiver for processing and amplification, thus removing the need for separate audio cables between the two.

Until now, the audio flow has been one-way, and getting sound from TV-integrated Freeview or Freesat tuners into an AV receiver has been a matter of running an extra digital or analogue cable.

Of course, such facilities will only be available using devices able to support this bidirectional flow.

3D connectivity standardised3D will be standardised by HDMI 1.4 – at least in terms of the transmission standard between devices. HDMI Licensing says that "The 1.4 version of the specification will define common 3D formats and resolutions for HDMI-enabled devices. The specification will standardize the input/output portion of the home 3D system and will specify up to dual-stream 1080p resolution."

And HDMI 1.4 will also support the HD resolutions currently only available in cinemas, allowing future TVs to deliver four times the resolution of current 1080p. It will be capable of carrying 3840x2160-pixel resolution at 24Hz/25Hz/30Hz, and 4096x2160 at 24Hz.

Micro HDMIColour spaces used by digital stills cameras will also be supported, this going hand -in-hand with the arrival of a smaller Micro HDMI connector. The 1.4 spec brings on board sYCC601, Adobe RGB and AdobeYCC601, while the new 19-pin connector, about half the size of the standard HDMI plug, will support resolutions of up to 1080p for portable devices.

Finally, there will be a 'ruggedised' version of the HDMI system, known as the Automotive Connection system. This is designed to be better able to handle heat, vibration and noise.

New cablesOf course, a new specification means new cables, as well as new devices. Here's how the Licensing people describe it: "In order to take advantage of the HDMI Ethernet Channel, consumers will need to purchase either a Standard HDMI cable with Ethernet, or a High Speed HDMI cable with Ethernet. 

"Consumers connecting an external device to an in-vehicle HDMI-enabled HD system will need the new Automotive HDMI cable. Consumers can expect to see new HDMI 1.4 cables introduced to the market when new HDMI 1.4 devices are available."

So in future, there will be a choice of HDMI cable formats:

  • Standard HDMI Cable – supports data rates up to 1080i/60
  • High Speed HDMI Cable – supports data rates beyond 1080p, including Deep Color and all 3D formats of the new 1.4 specification
  • Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
  • Automotive HDMI Cable – allows the connection of external HDMI-enabled devices to an in-vehicle HDMI device