Low-Energy Proximity Fob Prototype Provides Mobile Device Security
Ultra low power (ULP) RF specialist Nordic Semiconductor announced successful wireless communication tests between a prototype design for a small, low-cost Bluetooth low energy proximity fob and Broadcom’s BCM4330, the industry’s first combo chip solution certified to the Bluetooth 4.0 standard.
The innovative prototype fob design demonstrates the interoperability between Bluetooth low energy chips and Bluetooth v4.0 devices. Adherence to the Bluetooth v4.0 specification ensures that devices from different providers such as Broadcom and Nordic communicate seamlessly.
The recently released Bluetooth v4.0 Proximity Profile enables the communication between the fob and next generation host devices like laptops (using the Broadcom BCM20702) and mobile phones (using the BCM4330).
The fob is designed to prevent a device such as a laptop being accessed in the owner’s absence. After ‘pairing’ with the chip in the mobile device, the user carries the fob on their person. If the distance between the user and the mobile device exceeds a pre-set threshold (as may occur, for example if the mobile device is left behind or stolen), the pairing is broken and the mobile device automatically locks.
The fob is based on a Nordic µBlue nRF8001 single chip Bluetooth low energy solution expected to be ready for volume production from early third quarter of this year (see ‘About nRF8001’ below). The class-leading power consumption of the nRF8001 maximizes the battery life of the CR2032 coin-cell powered fob. The nRF8001 is a fully-tested and -compliant Bluetooth v4.0 peripheral solution.
Broadcom’s BCM4330, the successor to the company’s highly successful BCM4329, is the industry’s first combo chip solution certified with the Bluetooth 4.0 standard (that includes Bluetooth low energy as a hallmark feature). The successful demonstration of interoperability between Broadcom’s host solutions and the µBlue™ nRF8001-based proximity fob makes for a great solution for systems that require proximity based security solutions for mobile devices - such as smartphones and laptop computers – and Bluetooth low energy proximity fobs which use coin-cell batteries. As Bluetooth low energy use cases proliferate, more prototypes and applications are expected to go through this interoperability process on their way to deployment.
According to Peter Cooney, Practice Director, Semiconductors, ABI Research: “Almost all existing Bluetooth-enabled phones are expected to migrate to the 4.0 standard, which will result in over a billion Bluetooth low energy-capable hosts in the next few years in this market alone.”
“This demonstration of seamless communication between Nordic’s µBlue™ Bluetooth low energy technology and Broadcom’s BCM4330/BCM20702 Bluetooth v4.0 solutions provides end customers with the lowest power peripheral/host solution available today,” says Svenn-Tore Larsen, Nordic’s CEO. “The proximity fob application is an inexpensive solution to the problem of mobile device security and perfectly demonstrates how Bluetooth low energy can be incorporated into compact, coin-cell powered devices to extend the Bluetooth ‘ecosystem’."
“Demand for Bluetooth low energy continues to grow as the technology is integrated into the increasing number of consumer electronics devices,” comments Craig Ochikubo, Vice President & General Manager, Broadcom’s Wireless Personal Area Networking line of business. “By incorporating Bluetooth v4.0 into all of our combo chips moving forward, Broadcom is working to enable a world where the millions of Bluetooth devices being shipped daily can communicate with sensors that can be placed throughout the home, workplace, and even on the human body. This will not only simplify connectivity for consumers, but will also help drive new innovative implementations into new areas including health, fitness, and home entertainment, among others.”
Bluetooth low energy (now a hallmark part of the latest Bluetooth v4.0 specification) has been designed from the outset to extend Bluetooth wireless connectivity to compact, coin cell-powered devices. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) adopted the Bluetooth v4.0 specification in June 2010 (see ‘About Bluetooth low energy’ below).
Several Profiles, which allow the Bluetooth low energy software stack to be customized for a particular application, are due for release in the next several months, starting with the Proximity Profile used by the proximity fob prototype. Nordic and Broadcom were at the forefront of the group that defined the Bluetooth low energy specification.
From becoming a foundation member of Nokia’s Wibree Alliance in 2006, which became part of the Bluetooth SIG in June 2007, Nordic contributed decades of expertise to the specification – gained in producing successive generations of class-leading proprietary and interoperable (ANT/ANT+) ULP wireless connectivity solutions within a field it pioneered.