London Calling

Have Consumers Swallowed Too Many Tablets?


The prolific sales figures enjoyed by makers and purveyors of tablets over the past two years are set to tumble to more modest levels, according to analysts IDC. It says the 51% market growth recorded in 2013 will likely drop to around 20% in 2014—that translates to 260 million units shipped worldwide.

So what’s behind this significant downturn? Analysts point to the simple fact that people are hanging onto their current tablets longer, with many not feeling the need to upgrade to higher-performance models.

The cooling of the tablets market was certainly not reflected at this year's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. This column simply doesn’t have the space to cover the profusion of corporate announcements and new technology launches at the show.

Of particular note, however, was the result of a collaboration between research centre Imec and satellite navigation specialists Septentrio. They created an antenna-RF integrated element of a multi-frequency Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) antenna for GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, and GALILEO. Developed within the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme called HANDHELD, the antenna can be integrated into multi-frequency handheld GNSS devices designed for high-precision location applications.

From a worldwide standpoint, the most prominent satellite navigation system is recognized to be the United States Global Positioning System (GPS). First-generation GPS receivers have an accuracy of a few metres when solely relying on the navigation satellites. Advances in technology and new demands on the existing GPS has encouraged projects to develop other systems, such as Russia’s GLONASS, Europe’s GALILEO, and China’s BeiDou. These so-called next-generation GNSS aim to achieve higher accuracy and integrity.

Imec and Septentrio co-developed their compact antenna integrating Imec’s GNSS antenna and Septentrio’s GNSS RF front-end. Imec says its antenna design meets the high-accuracy GNSS market demands while remaining small enough to fit into handheld devices.

The antenna simultaneously receives all GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO bands. It maintains uniform gain and phase coverage over the complete upper hemisphere, and suppresses unwanted reflected signals below or in the vicinity of the GNSS receiver.

Septentrio claims its GNSS RF front-end provides very good out-of-band interference rejection to avoid device self-interference with other radiation sources, such as Bluetooth and WLAN radios, as well as other ambient intentional and non-intentional interference. This compact multi-frequency antenna is a companion to the company’s low-power AsteRx-m receiver, a credit-card-sized dual-frequency GNSS receiver that delivers centimetre accuracy at less than 500 mW.

From Barcelona To Nuremberg

At Embedded World in Nuremberg, another industry event that took place during the same timeframe, wireless connectivity specialists CSR reported its partnership with the ARM mbed platform, an industry venture designed to nurture the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). This arrangement will provide the mbed community access to CSR Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi, and GPS connectivity solutions, and facilitate their integration into existing microcontroller projects.

The ARM mbed IoT device development platform is an initiative that provides hardware and software building blocks to developers, thus lowering the entry barrier to speed development of Internet-connected products and concepts based on ARM microcontrollers. The project also facilitates integration of connectivity and software components.

IoT Technology First

CSR also recently unveiled what it describes as a technically disruptive Bluetooth Smart solution designed to place smartphones at the center of the IoT. Called CSR Mesh, it can network and control an almost infinite number of Bluetooth Smart-enabled devices from a single smartphone, tablet, or PC. According to the company, it’s the first of its kind.

The solution merges a configuration and control protocol with CSR’s Bluetooth Smart devices, including CSR101x and CSR8811. With this combination, consumers can control any Bluetooth Smart-enabled device in the home, including lighting, heating, appliances, and security systems, from any location. A key factor is that solutions based on the protocol don’t require the complex setup, pairing, or use of an access device, such as a router.

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