How Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart technology is developing along in the wearable and other Internet of Things (IoT) designs that operate on smaller batteries? The Bluetooth World 2016 show being held on 15-17 March in Santa Clara, California may be a good place to find out.
The origin of BLE technology can be traced back to the need for an ultra-lower-power wireless standard for wearable and other IoT devices that operate on smaller batteries. Over the years, BLE has become a basic building block in connecting smartwatches, heart-rate monitors and fitness trackers with a companion device like the smartphone.
It's now an intrinsic part of a wide array of IoT designs, ranging from healthcare wearables to beacons in the sports arena to accessories in smart home and smart factory premises. The following three issues are crucial in these designs, and Bluetooth World 2016 show will provide the latest beat on these design challenges.
1. Power Efficiency
Power efficiency is the reason Bluetooth Smart standard was created in the first place. And this is still an issue that drives most of the engineering decisions in BLE designs. Are internal DC-DC converters needed? How to implement intelligent power control? What about the ambient temperature effects?
Atmel’s BTLC1000 chipset for BLE consumes less than 4mA in RX and less than 3mA in TX at 0dbm
Chipmakers like Atmel, Cypress, Dialog, Nordic Semiconductor and NXP are unveiling ultra-low-power BLE chipsets that continue to deliver new levels of battery performance. However, power constraints are still a vital factor because the Bluetooth SIG standards body is now aiming a 4-fold increase in the range of BLE devices.
2. RF Performance
ARM has claimed a stake in the BLE market and is coming to the Bluetooth World 2016 with a product portfolio it calls ARM Cordio BT4. It includes the RF front-end, controller, protocol stack, and specification profiles. Moreover, the Cambridge, England–based embedded powerhouse is aiming to enhance the radio connectivity part with a robust IP solution for the BLE system-on-chip (SoC) designs.
RF matching is done internally in the nRF52832 chipset for Bluetooth Smart
The radio connectivity part is critical in BLE chipsets because most of the power consumption is caused by data transmission. So the factors like RF performance and power efficiency are intertwined in the BLE world. The evaluations platforms showcased at the event will allow design engineers to validate claims about RF performance and power efficiency features.
3. Integration Levels
Watch out for the new SoC solutions catering to the Bluetooth Smart needs because the sleek SoC designs are a key to another primary challenge in the wearable and IoT designs: system integration. The BLE chipsets usually combine radio transceiver, baseband processor running on Cortex cores, protocol stacks, and additional analog circuitry for power management.
Module developers like TDK are adopting SESUB for miniaturization
Next, BLE module developers like TDK are adopting the Semiconductor Embedded in Substrate or SESUB technology, which they claim saves nearly 60 percent of area compared to conventional modules. Miniaturization at both chip and module fronts will counter the increasing components count amid the rising functionality in BLE chips. More integration ideas could be floated at the show.