The PCI-Express standards-setting organization is creating a thin interconnect that would link mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to external peripherals. The PCI Express cable interconnect will enable data transfers between host mobile devices and external devices at speeds of up to 8Gbps, said Al Yanes, president and chairman of the PCI-Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG). The organization hopes handheld devices equipped with PCI-Express ports will reach the market by 2013.

The PCI-Express protocol is used inside PCs for high-speed data transfers between components and this is the first time the organization is developing interconnect technology for handheld devices, said Yanes, who is also a distinguished engineer at IBM. Consumer handheld and mobile devices ship in larger volumes than PCs and the new technology could expand the horizons of PCI technology. “This will be a new opportunity for us,” Yanes said.

The new interconnect will initially use copper wires for data transfers over short distances, with the possibility of upgrading to optical cables in the future. The new interconnect would likely mean that devices would need a new port to connect peripherals. It will compete against existing technologies such as USB, which is found in many tablets, and smartphones. There’s been a growing demand for high-performance buses such as Thunderbolt and eSATA in PCs and that trend is also trickling into mobile devices.

PCI-SIG organization is also continuing development of the PCI-Express protocol for internal PC communication. The organization has conducted an initial feasibility study for PCI-Express 4.0, which will enable data transfers at 16 gigatransfers per second, which is double the speed of the PCI-Express 3.0 standard. The finalized specification for PCI-Express 4.0 will likely be released in late 2014 or 2015, roughly four years after the final PCI-Express 3.0 protocol specification was finalized in late 2010.