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SoC links Bluetooth to IoT ecosystem

22 May 2014  | Jessica Lipsky

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Bluetooth Smart is set to become a mainstay in the Internet of Things, alongside security and resonant wireless charging, with Broadcom's new SoC.

"We see Bluetooth Smart as being part of the IoT ecosystem for its very low cost, low power capability... and ubiquity across smartphones and tablets to provide a direct connection, and ease of use for smart pairing and protocol," Brian Bedrosian, Broadcom senior director of Embedded Wireless, tells EE Times. "Its combo connectivity chips have been so successful in the mobile space; I think it will be able to bridge devices into the Wi-Fi network where they can exploit cloud connections."

Broadcom's IoT platform allows developers to create embedded wireless networking applications on an existing product microcontroller or on an additional module. Its ARM Cortex M3-based BCM20737 SoC now has support for audio over Bluetooth and up to eight simultaneous master-slave or client connections.

The addition of Bluetooth has also paved the way for the introduction of iBeacon, an Apple-developed technology for micro-location awareness. Bedrosian says iBeacon could solve many technical problems around indoor location tracking, such as the ability to track through corridors and hallways.

Meanwhile, "advanced security in Bluetooth chips is becoming increasingly important to protect products from being hacked and to encrypt data being sent between products," Philip Solis, research director at ABI Research, said in a release. "2.7 billion Bluetooth-enabled products will ship this year—20 per cent more than 2013—as more people connect accessories to mobile devices and PCs."

To that end, the new SoC integrates RSA 4,000bit encryption and decryption support. Integrated security ensures end-user ease of use. End-users are often "the biggest security hole," a Broadcom spokesman told us.

Future SoCs may feature an enhanced tag recognition system based on a variety of sensors. Increasing processing power to reference the chip's six or seven sensors could improve location and health awareness capabilities.

The new Bluetooth-enabled SoCs also support resonant wireless charging, which Bedrosian says enables simpler designs.

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