Wibree offers low-cost connectivity

Joseph Waring in Helsinki
13 Nov 2006

Nokia claims its Wibree, an open industry initiative, provides power savings of a factor of ten compared with Bluetooth, which isn't designed for low-power applications such as the communication between mobile handsets or PCs and small devices such as sensors, games and health-care monitors. 'Bluetooth takes too much power, and there was nothing at the low-power level,' explained Harri Tulimaa, Nokia's head of technology out-licensing.

Nokia and a number of partners, including Broadcom, CSR, Epson and Nordic Semiconductor which have licensed the technology to produce standalone or dual-mode Wibree-Bluetooth chips commercially, are defining the interoperability specs, which are estimated to be available in the second quarter of next year. In order to open up the interface to the industry, they are evaluating the relevant forums to push adoption of the technology and aim to make a choice by the time the specs are defined.

Tulimaa said a single-chip solution, being developed by Epson and Nordic, should be available in the second half of 2007 while a dual-mode chipset from Broadcom and CRS will like hit the market by 2008.

Nokia insists Wibree is an extension to Bluetooth and complements it. 'It is optimized for low-power, small devices and can't replace Bluetooth,' Tulimaa said.

He said there are many small-device, low-power solutions based on proprietary technology, but they are limited in the form of connectivity and there is no global standard. He wasn't sure if it will have much of an impact on NFC or Ziggee as they aren't trying to address the same use cases. 'Wibree won't make anybody disappear suddenly. It will be a quiet revolution.'

The technology opens up new market opportunities as it extends the role of mobile handsets, which will be able to connect to a whole new range of electronic devices such as toys, watches and sports sensors. He said the ability to connect to other devices cheaply makes the handset a gateway and adds value to the phone beyond a simple voice connection and can create more demand. 'You'll be able to use a wireless keyboard on your mobile phone, and download apps to a toy or even between toys.'

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