Wireless Systems Design

Wibree: A New Wireless Technology For Your Bag Of Tricks

One of the things that I really love about the wireless arena is that there is always a new wireless technology coming down the pike to solve some problem. I suppose some designers will throw up their hands and complain about how these new technologies are "just one more standard to keep up with." But, as a wireless engineer myself, I see the introduction of a new technology as just one more potential solution to a wireless application that I may be implementing. Besides, even if you are not going to use it, a new air interface is just interesting.

One such up-and-coming technology, Wibree is a personal area networking (PAN) technology related to Bluetooth. Wibree was developed by Nokia as a way to provide communications between PCs or cell phones and very small devices like wrist watches, keyboards and mice, toys, sports and medical sensors, and other human interface devices (HID) typically powered by button-cell batteries. This new wireless modem will consume only a fraction of the power usually required by more traditional radio technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The basic elements of the new standard are Bluetooth-like performance over a range up to 10 meters. The data rate is 1 Mbit/s; operation is expected to be in the 2.4-GHz unlicensed ISM band. Nokia has teamed up with Broadcom, SCR plc, Epson, Nordic Semiconductor ASA, Suunto Oy, and Taiyo Yuden to fully define the Wibree interoperability specifications. The first four companies have already licensed the basic technology from Nokia so they can make single-chip compatible radios. It is expected that Wibree will be available as a standalone chip or combined with a standard Bluetooth radio to create a dual-mode chip. The dual mode chip would expand the ability of Bluetooth products to link to other low power devices.

A new organization to promote Wibree has already been established. Called the Wibree Partnership, it is expected to test and certify interoperability of Wibree products. No doubt, Nokia will bring this open standard to the attention of the IEEE or other standards organizations for further definition and standardization. Full interoperability specifications are expected to be available during the second quarter of 2007.

I am hard put to say just where this new standard will go. It definitely overlaps other available standards like Bluetooth itself, ZigBee, Cypress' Wireless USB, and a whole slew of ISM band chips. Granted, this new standard will have a defined protocol, so you won't have to design one yourself (as you often must do with other ISM products). So if is cheap and easier to design with than Bluetooth and ZigBee, it may have a chance in the crowded short-range radio sector.

Related Links
Wibree Partnership

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