SAN FRANCISCO — Broadcom has packed a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) and sensor hub into a 40nm SoC, targeting wearable devices.
The BCM4771 aims to more accurately track and manage data from devices like a smartwatch or fitness monitor by using both sensor data and assisted GPS. Relying on a GNSS receiver alone to calculate a route or speed while running can be “wildly inaccurate” because data spikes when a signal is lost and recalibrated, Mohamed Awad, director of Broadcom’s mobile and wireless group, told EE Times.
"Today's wearables like fitness trackers often miscalculate speed and distance," Awad said. “Rather than rely solely on a GNSS receiver, we’re leveraging other inputs such as a magnetometer or accelerometer to more accurately establish your position.
“I think this concept of managing context and making intelligent decisions to manage the overall system is a big trend, and well see more of that.”
Broadcom claims its chip is the only integrated sensor hub and GNSS device on the market, but analyst Gerry Purdy expects to see many developments in this area in 2014. “Broadcom likely has a lead in the integration of activity monitoring combined with GPS, but many will be doing similar versions,” says Purdy, chief analyst at Compass Intelligence.
Purdy believes competing companies will continue to update sensor hubs for more advanced, accurate data management in a number of devices. “I think that you’ll see someone like Qualcomm adding more motion sensors into their phone silicon since they already have a dominant position there,” he says, citing Apple’s M7 processor.
Wearable devices with improved sensor hubs and integrated GNSS will find a huge market among first-responders such as firefighters and EMTs, says Keith Robinson, an analyst at Compass Intelligence. More accurate positioning will enable first-responders to safely navigate dangerous areas and monitor for temperature and carbon monoxide, among other things.
Broadcom’s chip is sampling and will be available in volume later this year.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times