TI embraces ultra low-power Bluetooth

Texas Instruments will develop chips for low-power devices based on a new short-range wireless Bluetooth specification

Texas Instruments (TI) will develop chips for low-power devices based on a new short-range wireless Bluetooth specification.

The move comes on the heals of a decision by Nokia earlier this month to roll its low-power Wibree technology into the new ultra low-power (ULP) Bluetooth specification.

While Bluetooth has been used mostly to connect larger devices such as headsets, keyboards and mouses to stereos and PCs, the new ultra low-power specification aims to connect much smaller button-cell battery-powered devices, such as watches or sensors attached to a user's body. ULP Bluetooth uses the same 2.4GHz frequency as Bluetooth.

ULP Bluetooth will have a range up to 10 metres, similar to the Bluetooth Class 2 specification, which requires more energy. A button-cell battery powered device, equipped with the technology, will have an average operating life of one year and transmit data at a speed up to 1Mbps.

High-power Bluetooth Class 3 has a range up to 100m.

TI already produces chips for Bluetooth devices as well as devices based on the ZigBee ultra low-power specification.

The chipmaker views ULP Bluetooth and ZigBee as complementary technologies. ZigBee, for instance, is a mesh networking technology designed to support thousands of nodes with some restrictions on quality of service and latency, according to the ZigBee website. By comparison, ULP Bluetooth is an ad hoc networking technology that links a smaller number of nodes to devices with high quality of service and low latency.

TI will develop chips for both types of ULP Bluetooth implementations: a single-mode implementation for watches, sensors and other tiny devices to communicate with each other; and a dual-mode implementation to communicate with both single-mode and traditional Bluetooth devices, such as handsets.

Pricing and product availability details were not disclosed.

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