Bluetooth Low Energy to reach handsets in 2010

Oct 27, 2009
 
Momentum is gathering behind the low energy variant of the Bluetooth standard, which will be standardized soon. Supporters are gathering this week at the first international conference for the technology, in Munich, Germany, and Texas Instruments will run an ultra-low power demonstration using the draft standard.

Forecasts are bullish for the new version of the short range wireless network (as they usually are for a not-yet ratified standard). Just over 2.5bn Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chipsets will ship in 2014, representing CAGR of 78% until then, says ABI Research, while IMS Research previously predicted this could be the fastest shipping wireless technology ever, and that 70% of Bluetooth phones would be using the low energy variant by 2013.

As well as TI, Bluetooth powerhouses CSR and Broadcom are early supporters, and there are also chipsets on show from Nordic Semiconductor and EML. Real world handsets could appear next year, with TI pricing its entry level developer offering at just $99 for a single-mode slave and USB adapter.

Bluetooth Low Energy started life as the Wibree platform, created initially by Nokia as a separate initiative but then adopted by the Bluetooth SIG. As well as handsets, it should go into many kinds of appliances and home or industrial low power gadgets. ABI believes the market will develop in two stages - single-mode and dual-mode - and that these will be addressed by different vendors, though TI, for one, has promised products for both segments. Single-mode products will be far slower to take off, and will account for less than 3% of BLE shipments in 2010, says the research company. The first wave of adoption will be for dual-mode systems, notably for handsets.

BLE will enable sensors and monitors to communicate with handsets and other BLE-enabled devices using very low power communications, driving applications like sports equipment and health monitoring. Single-mode devices will run for many months or even years on standard coin-cell batteries, as showcased this week by TI. Dual-mode chips for phones, PCs and media devices will boast power consumptions of 75%-80% of conventional Bluetooth.

The TI coin-cell demo will run on its upcoming CC2540 single-mode system-on-chip, which will sample early next year. It is based on an MSP430 microcontroller and application peripherals in a 6x6mm package. There are also associated RF ICs, protocol stack, basic profile software and applications support.

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