Qualcomm Buys Silicon Radio, Huawei Buys Neul

Qualcomm is buying British Bluetooth chipset specialist CSR for $US 2.49 billion. Qualcomm said the deal will give it access to CSR’s products, channels and customers in the connect car and Internet of Things markets.

CSR, which is short for Cambridge Silicon Radio, is a pioneer in Bluetooth and its silicon is in portable audio speakers and Apple-owned Beats headphones. CSR rejected a takeover bid from Microchip Technology in August. CSR’s deal with Qualcomm is expected to close by the end of the summer of 2015.

Classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy chips are quickly getting commoditized, but CSR is a pioneer of the short-range wireless technology and is now pushing CSRmesh, a ZigBee-like mesh technology built on Bluetooth. CSR sees CSRmesh as a linchpin for its foray into the IoT market, reports EE Times.

In July Qualcomm bought WiGig chipmaker Wilocity, a move designed to enable Qualcomm to easily integrate the 60 GHz Wi-Fi technology into its mobile platforms to enable wireless streaming of 4K video for mobile and settop devices. Qualcomm also developed AllJoyn, an open-source platform that allows devices to share information with other nearby devices.

White space technology in the UK was among the first of its kind in Europe. Their pilot projects utilize unused terrestrial TV broadcasting channels (from 470 MHz to 790 MHz).

The Weightless specification, an open wireless standard, was originally developed for television White Spaces (unused channels in the television band). The Weightless-W spec works in TV White Spaces, but TV channels are not available everywhere and sometimes the full feature set is unnecessary.

For this reason the Weightless SIG is developing a variant called Weightless-N. The two variants of the Standard, Weightless-W (for White Spaces) and Weightless-N (for the unlicensed ISM band) will coexist offering benefits to developers and users according to their specific use cases. Weightless-N will typically be deployed in unlicensed spectrum in the region 800-900MHz such as the 868MHz band in Europe and the 900MHz ISM band in the US. It is also designed to work in licensed spectrum around these frequencies.

The Weightless connectivity platform was developed by Neul (the Gaelic world for ‘cloud’). It was first targeted at the TV white spaces (TVWS) spectrum, but extending the spec to 900MHz and other bands (including licensed) requires some modificiations. The unlicensed bands are narrower than those found in TVWS, and that required some changes to the air interface which are found in Weightless-N. Neul itself has released the first commercial chipset to support the would-be standard, called Iceni.

The Narrowband IoT is designed to work at sub-gigahertz frequencies as part of future 3GPP cellular standards for connecting low data rate devices that have exceptionally long battery life. There is great spectrum efficiency using just 200kHz. It will work at the 450, 850 and 900MHz frequencies used by GSM and at the lower frequencies that some LTE uses.

The CEO of the Weightless special interest group, Professor William Webb, offered up some comment on the launch of Weightless-N, saying “Enabling the vision of 50 billion connected devices requires chipset costs below $2, battery life of 10 years or more and a range of 5km or more to ensure ubiquitous coverage from a low cost network.

Chinese giant Huawei bought Neul for $125m last month. Huawei will reportedly build a “center of excellence” around Neul in the UK.

Weightless will likely compete with IEEE white space standards such as 802.11af and IEEE 802.22 for wireless white space networks.

The 802.11af standard, based on Wi-Fi like protocols, is designed for ranges up to 5 km, while the 802.22 standard is based on WiMax chipsets and incorporates polling, for wireless regional area networks with ranges up to 100 km.

Intel Announces Tiny 3G Modem

Intel just unveiled a tiny 3G data modem about the size of a penny. OEMs often use WiFi or Bluetooth for Internet of Things applications, but the Intel modem should enable direct connections to cellular providers, inexpensively.

The new XMM 6255 delivers connections that don’t have to rely on a phone or hotspot to get online. Intel says it enables connections inside parking garages and other poor signal areas.

The modem has its heritage in the Infineon wireless group Intel acquired in 2010 and supports downlink speeds up to 7.2 Mbits/second. Smart sensors and security systems are expected to be target markets.

Intel will support GPS and WiFi links to the modem, said Will Strauss, president of market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.). Intel may be the only manufacturer to allow for multiple connectivity configurations on a small footprint, Strauss said.

Body Sensors Network

The FCC finalized rules covering Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN) used for wireless networking of multiple body sensors for performing diagnostic or therapeutic functions, primarily in health care facilities.

MBAN devices promise to enhance patient safety, care and comfort by reducing the need to physically connect sensors to essential monitoring equipment by cables and wires.

An MBAN is a low power network of sensors worn on the body controlled by a hub device that is located either on the body or in close proximity to it. MBAN devices operate in the 2360-2400 MHz band on a secondary basis, and must not cause harmful interference to and must accept interference from operating in the band, which is just below the WiFi band (2.4 ghz to 2.485 GHz).

The 2360-2390 MHz band is allocated for the Mobile Service on a primary basis and is used for aeronautical mobile telemetry (AMT). The 2390-2400 MHz band is allocated for both the Amateur Service and the Mobile Service on a primary basis.

Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren’s new Tech shirt is making its debut at the US Open this week. The new $200 Polo Tech shirt uses sensors and a removable electronics pack to track all of an athlete’s vitals

It has a conductive thread of sensors knitted into it that read biological and physiological information on the wearer. The technology, powered by Canadian company OMsignal, uses an accelerometer and gyroscope to collect data on the wearer’s movement, direction, vitals and even stress level when a ball comes flying across the court.

This data is then transmitted via Bluetooth to the cloud, where it is stored and analyzed, producing information on the user’s heartbeat, respiration, stress level, energy output and other activity-related stats, viewable from a mobile app.

“As flexible electronics merge into textile-based constructions, and eventually become intrinsic to the fiber itself, people will come to implicitly expect their clothes to be connected”, says Stéphane Marceau, co-founder of OMsignal. “Bio-tracking technology woven into fabric and sewn into seams will become the same baseline expectation as buttons are on a pair of jeans.”

Android Wear and Android Wear Apps now support the new wearables which include a variety of watches by Samsung Gear Live, the LG “G” Watch and Motorola’s Moto 360, as well as dedicated fitness devices, likely to appear next week at the IFA show in Berlin.

ABI Research forecasts shipments of Bluetooth enabled sports and fitness devices will grow ten-fold from 2011 to 2016, totaling 278 million and representing over 60 percent of the total available market.

In it’s new report, IC Insights says Bluetooth unit shipments will grow 29% per year over the 2010-2015 time period.

Juniper Research predicts by the year 2014, there will be a total of 2.7 million annual mobile health monitoring events globally, generating some $1.9 billion at the end of 2014.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Tour de France 2014, Watches Going Cellular, Real-time Running and Biking Apps, Bluetooth Bike and Fitness Sensors Get Smart, Polar Ships Bluetooth 4 Heart Monitor, HTC One S: Android 4 & Bluetooth Low Energy, FCC Okays Medical Body Networks, Wireless Control Expands Reach, Texting Clogs Cycling GPS Trackers at Olympics, Wireless Health Initiatives, Medical Devices Mobilize, Apps Enter the Twilight Zone, Mobile Health: Fast Growth , Open Source Tricorder and Mobile Health: Alive and Well.

Samsung Bets on SmartThings Home Automation

SmartThings has been acquired by Samsung for a reported $200 million, and will operate as an independent company within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center group.

Their home automation kits allow you to connect devices like lights and doorlocks from your phone. The SmartThings app lets your smartphone control all of the smart devices in your home. It began as a Kickstarter project a couple years ago.

ComputerWorld reviewed home automation contenders including Samsung’s own Smart Home devices, Google’s Nest (with partner Samsung), Apple’s home automation called HomeKit (in iOS 8), LG’s HomeChat, Staples Connect $99 Hub, and the $299 Revolv Hub, with seven wireless radios speaking 10 different wireless languages including Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Insteon, and ZigBee.

The following protocols are supported in the SmartThings Hub:

  • Zigbee – A Personal Area Mesh Networking standard for connecting and controlling devices. Zigbee is an open standard supported by the Zigbee Alliance. For more information on Zigbee see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZigBee.
  • Z-Wave – A proprietary wireless protocol for Home Automation and Lighting Control. For more information on Z-Wave see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-Wave.
  • IP-Connected Devices – Though this is not yet available, we are working to support IP-connected (typically WiFi) devices. This will also include support for various industry standards within the IP umbrella such as UPnP and REST.
  • Cloud-Connected Devices – Some device manufacturers have their own Cloud solutions that support their devices and want us to connect to them.

The home automation market is segmented into wired, power line, computing networks, wireless, and others (X-10, Wavenis, and Insteon).

By building an open IP-based platform, AT&T for example, has a simple and intuitive user interface, monitoring/care centers and an integrated security/automation gateway controller. Besides AT&T, companies including Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV, Verizon, Best Buy and Staples, have all rolled out automation offerings.

According to a recent report published by Transparency Market Research, the global home automation market was valued at USD 3.6 billion in the year 2012. It is expected to grow at a rate of 24.5% CAGR during the period of 2013 – 2019.

Qi Wireless Charging Extends Range and Power

Qi a wireless charging standard created by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) says later this year its standard, adopted by over 200 manufacturers and carriers, will allow you to charge your device from nearly two inches away.

Mobile device manufacturers using the Qi standard include Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry, and Sony.

Inductive charging does not require you to plug your device in to charge. A charging pad under your device provides charging current wirelessly.

Now Qi is adding new functionality that will allow you to charge your device from nearly two inches away through “resonance charging“.

With version 1.2, the receiver and the transmitter now won’t need to physically touch each other. They can be up to 45mm (1.77 inches) apart. The new standard is backwards-compatible, so if you already have a smartphone or tablet with Qi built-in, you’ll be able to charge them up from as much as 35mm away.

The standard also allows multiple devices to charge up at the same time, provided they’re both within range, and it will be capable of pushing as much as 2,000 watts to larger products like kitchen appliances.

Two competing wireless charging standards, Rezence (WiPower) and the Power Matters Alliance, already have adopted resonance charging, but the WPC claims that Qi is more power efficient and has a larger group of partners and products.

Mobile device manufacturers using the Qi standard include Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry, and Sony.

Internet of Things: Divided or United?

Intel, Broadcom, Samsung, Dell, Atmel and others have joined forces to launch the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), an organization that will set standards for connecting billions of household gadgets and appliances. OIC intends to initially target the smart home and office.

The Internet of Things (IoT), aka Machine to Machine (M2M) or the Internet of Everything (IoE) adds internet connectivity to the billions of devices that are now ubiquitous in our environment. Some M2M applications will deliver and process information in real time, or near-real-time, while other nodes will have to be extremely low-power or self-powered.

The intention of the OIC is to create specifications for interoperability. It will encapsulate various wireless standards to enable secure device discovery and connectivity across different devices.

“Our goal in founding this new consortium is to solve the challenge of interoperable connectivity for the Internet of Things without tying the ecosystem to one company’s solution,” said Intel corporate vice president and general manager of Software and Services Group Doug Fisher.

But the OIC is not the only consortium to focus on the Internet of Things, notes Forbes.

Microsoft, Haier, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Sharp, and others announced the AllSeen Alliance in December, which now has a total of 51 members. The organizations involved in AllSeen will work off of Qualcomm’s AllJoyn open source project initially.

OIC said it will share specifications and code with other groups to establish a common Internet of Things interface. The OIC added that its platform will emphasize security and authentication.

Apple and Google, two of the biggest players in the Internet of Things market, may go their own way.

This year, Google acquired smart thermostat company Nest for $3.2 billion and WiFi-enabled camera company Dropcam for $555 million. Last week, Google announced it partnered with Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool and light bulb maker LIFX to integrate their products with Google’s Nest. The Nest thermostat will turn your heat up and LIFX will turn your lights on when your Jawbone wristband detects that you’re awake.

Last month at WWDC, Apple announced a new smart home framework called HomeKit, which can be used for controlling connected devices inside of a user’s home. Apple’s connected car infotainment system is called CarPlay.

Today, Ubiquiti Networks is launching electrical outlets with remote switching (over Wi-Fi) and energy monitoring. The in-wall design allows users to replace existing wall outlets and light switches/dimmers. Unlike traditional switches, the light switches come with touch panels which can be controlled via Wi-Fi for energy monitoring.

IDC expects the installed base of the Internet of Things will be approximately 212 billion “things” globally by 2020. This is expected to include 30.1 billion installed “connected (autonomous) things” in 2020.