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Apple, Nordic extend support to Bluetooth

Posted: 23 Jun 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:semiconductor  wireless  consumer products 

Apple Inc. and Nordic Semiconductor Inc. join the board of directors of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group and will be looked upon for participation and guidance on platform development and ultra-low power sensor silicon for Bluetooth as it makes its way into TVs and medical gear.

As many as 50 lakh Bluetooth-enabled devices currently ship each day, a figure the group hope swells to 1.4 crore a day in 2015. One of the big growth areas on the near-term horizon is the television.

The group hopes by early next year its 4.0 spec gets adopted by many TV makers for multiple uses including remote controls, 3D glasses, streaming music and sharing photos and videos. "Our entry into the living room will be through the TV," says Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG.

LG, Samsung, and Vizio already ship TVs using Bluetooth remote controls based on proprietary software profiles. The SIG aims to finish standard profiles for remote controls and 3D glasses by this fall to enable a broader set of products.

The Zigbee-based "RF4CE has probably received more public attention (than Bluetooth for remote controls), but there hasn't been a huge number of (RF4CE) products shipped," said Foley. "People are finding some of interference, cost and other limitations (with RF4CE) and suddenly looking at Bluetooth 4.0," says Foley.

He adds that, "It's not just a one-trick pony, it allows all these other use cases and the silicon will scale Moore's Law faster and become cheaper quicker" than Zigbee given the volumes of Bluetooth sales.

Meanwhile the group has put on the back burner a decision about adopting a high-speed physical layer transport. It started a study group looking at competing 60GHz technologies more than a year ago.

"There's been some looking at [the issues], but no spec work and no decision whether (60GHz is) a good thing to do or not," says Foley.

He says that, "Right now we are executing on strategy for trying to penetrate these new markets (by getting) dual-mode Bluetooth 4.0 chips in mobile phones, PCs, tablets and TVs and need the need to be a platform with APIs for them."

Bluetooth is increasingly competing with a host of established and emerging low power, short range wireless technologies. They include near field communications, Zigbee Smart Energy Profile, low power versions of Wi-Fi and proprietary approaches such as a new ultrasound technique described by one start-up on Monday.

"We see the importance of platform development and ultra-low power sensor silicon for Bluetooth and believe guidance and board participation from Apple and Nordic is essential," says Foley.

He also adds that, "We have set the ambitious goal of shipping five billion [500 crore] devices in 2015," Foley said. "These additions to our board will ensure we succeed in new markets we have targeted for growth."

The Bluetooth group described a shift ahead as mobile devices—including cars—serve as hub devices that capture data from small sensors monitoring everything from footsteps, heart rate activity, blood pressure and sugar levels to house temperature and energy use. Insights from Apple on platform development and Nordic for sensor silicon demands will help the group navigate that shift, it said.

The new Bluetooth board members are Svein-Egil Nielsen, a vice president of emerging technologies and strategic partnerships at Nordic, and Brian Tucker, a senior iOS software engineering manager at Apple.

Nordic offers a variety of short range wireless chips from 433MHz to 2.4GHz, including ones using the ANT+ standard and Bluetooth Low Energy. "Bluetooth technology has been the main R&D focus at Nordic for the last six years and we are now in a position to enable new and exciting products for consumers," says Svenn-Tore Larsen, CEO Nordic.

Apple and Nordic's two-year appointments were agreed upon by unanimous vote of the current board of directors and will officially begin on July 1, 2011. They join existing board members from Intel, Motorola, Lenovo, Nokia, Microsoft, Ericsson AB and Toshiba.

- Rick Merritt
  EE Times

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