SAN FRANCISCO—RF chip vendor Nordic Semiconductor ASA Monday (Aug. 8) announced successful wireless communication tests between a prototype design for a small, low-cost Bluetooth low energy proximity tag and Broadcom Corp.'s BCM4330, the first combo chip certified compliant with the Bluetooth 4.0 standard.
The prototype compatibility Bluetooth low energy tags—also known as fobs—demonstrate the interoperability between Bluetooth low energy chips and Bluetooth 4.0 devices, according to Nordic (Oslo, Norway). Adherence to the Bluetooth v4.0 specification ensures that devices from different providers, such as Broadcom and Nordic, communicate seamlessly, Nordic said.
The recently released Bluetooth v4.0 proximity profile enables the communication between the fob and next generation host devices like laptops and mobile phones, Nordic said.
Nordic said the fob is designed to prevent a device such as a laptop from being accessed in the owner’s absence. After pairing with the chip in the mobile device, the user carries the fob on their person, Nordic said. If the distance between the user and the mobile device exceeds a pre-set threshold—as could occur if the device is lost or stolen—the pairing is broken and the mobile device automatically locks, according to Nordic.
The fob is based on Nordic's µBlue nRF8001 single-chip Bluetooth low energy solution expected to be ready for volume production early in the third quarter, Nordic said. The power consumption of the nRF8001 maximizes the battery life of the CR2032 coin-cell powered fob, according to the company.
Broadcom’s BCM4330, the successor to the company’s BCM4329, is the industry’s first combo chip certified with the Bluetooth 4.0 standard, which includes Bluetooth low energy as a hallmark feature.
According to Peter Cooney, practice director for semiconductors at ABI Research, nearly all existing Bluetooth-enabled phones are expected to migrate to Bluetooth 4.0. This will result in more than 1 billion Bluetooth low energy-capable hosts in the handset market alone in the next few years, according to Cooney.
"Demand for Bluetooth low energy continues to grow as the technology is integrated into the increasing number of consumer electronics devices," said Craig Ochikubo, vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s Wireless Personal Area Networking line of business.
Bluetooth 4.0LE shares PHY features between "legacy" Bluetooth - 2.4GHz Frequency Hopping + GFSK modulation, but similarity ends here. Different packet format, different master-slave model, different security model are used for BT4.0LE. You have to have so-called "Dual Mode" capable chip on your host device (PC, SmartPhone, Tablet) in order to communicate with "Single Mode" BT4.0LE device (RF tags, health devices, keychains, etc).
Now, it is familiar "Chicken or Egg first" discussion. Will handset vendors implement BT4.0LE even though there is virtually no BT4.0LE device on market? Will device vendors produce BT4.0LE device even though there are very few BT4.0 capable host on market?
Someday sometime, it will reach to the "breaking point" and we'll see billions of BT4.0LE devices are rushing to the market, but it is difficult when it happens - or will it happen at all.