Top Takeaways from Bluetooth World

bluetooth-world-2014-simple-banner-500-300-qtoothBluetooth World was held this week in San Jose, CA. QTOOTH was fortunate enough to be there. The exhibits were great and the level of expertise and passion for the technology was evident in all who attended. Hosted by Errett Kroeter, Director of Global Industry and Brand Marketing for the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interests Group), each day would start with a series of keynote presentations and panel discussions from those who were actively pushing the technology forward. There was so much ground to cover in the two days of the conference that the afternoon agenda was split into three tracks that ran simultaneously. The three tracks were Technology, Markets, and Developer. This made for some tough choices since QTOOTH had only one person on the ground. However, we did our best to choose presentations that would be of the most interest to our readers. We’re sure we missed out on some really exciting talks. That said, except for the first two entries, the following Top Takeaways from Bluetooth World are not in any particular order:

Quick Links

Bluetooth World
CSR Announces Bluetooth Mesh Will Be Open Source
Dialog Semiconductor Introduces SmartBond
Texas Instruments and Their Powerful Developer Kits
Sunrise Micro Devices – The CORDIO Family of Radio IP Solutions
Nordic Semiconductor Shows Off Their Smart Beacon Kit
Under Armour/Map My Fitness
More Fun Stuff from Bluetooth World
 

Bluetooth World

What’s that? How can Bluetooth World be the number one takeaway from Bluetooth World? It is important that the word gets out more about how much this event has to offer. We feel that more developers, hackers, entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in the future of ALL technology could benefit by attending. Some of the biggest areas for market growth in the tech world are the Internet of Things (IoT or the Internet of Everything), Smart Homes, Fitness Tracking, WebRTC (Web Real Time Communication) and M2M (Machine-to-Machine). Wireless technology is at the core of it all and Bluetooth, the most widely adopted form of wireless for these devices, is the preferred means for getting data from people to their devices to the cloud and back again.

bluetooth-world-2014-san-jose-qtooth“Please, won’t someone make something amazing from this beautiful technology we’ve created!” That’s not quite a direct quote, but it catches the spirit of chip manufacturers that are incredibly eager for people to develop applications for their technology. Currently, perhaps more than ever, innovation of technology is happening far faster than its implementation. It would be great if more people know that, even if they are complete novices to field, they can come to an event like Bluetooth World and be given all of the info and the tools needed to make their Big Idea become a reality. So if that sounds like you, or someone you know, you owe it to yourself to get out to events like Bluetooth World!

Bluetooth Mesh to Become Open Source!

This is probably the biggest stunner of Bluetooth World. Robin Heydon, Fellow of Global Standards at CSR, member of the Bluetooth SIG Hall of Fame, and author of one of the definitive books in the industry: Bluetooth Low Energy: The Developer’s Handbook, announced during his passionate and often hilarious keynote speech on Wednesday that CSR was going to make their recently developed Bluetooth Mesh protocol open source. To make sure that everyone has equal access to it, and to ensure that it reaches its maximum potential for adoption, CSR is set to donate it to the Bluetooth SIG at the end of June 2014. We reported on Bluetooth Mesh when it was first revealed to the public back in late February and we immediately recognized it for the massive breakthrough that it is. Bluetooth Mesh radically changes the landscape of what is possible with interconnected, low-power wireless networks. It’s going to be fascinating to see what applications leverage this technology in the next few years. We’re anticipating it will be nearly omnipresent in our lives soon, potentially on the level of WiFi if not more. You can read more about it here.

Dialog Semiconductor Introduces SmartBond

We were fortunate enough to have Mark Murphy, Dialog Semiconductor’s director of Low Energy Connectivity & VoIP, to bring us on a guided tour of their booth. As Mark would later illustrate in his own keynote presentation, soon there will be 50 Billion wireless devices in use. Even if every single one of them used only a single coin cell battery that would still be enough to circle the Earth 4 times. That’s a huge cost in energy and environmental penalties. The industry realizes that it needs to address this now and to minimize the amount of energy required to run these devices. Bluetooth Smart, which is also known as Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), is a perfect example of this trend. Dialog Semiconductor was rightfully proud to show off their solution, the SmartBond DA14580. Incredibly small and light, its uses are incredibly diverse. It’s so small that they had to seal their display model in a clear cube so that it wouldn’t get lost. Here’s an image to help give it scale:

dialog-semiconductor-smartbond-da14580-bluetooth-smart-qtoothYou can also see in the above image, and the image to follow, a solar-powered beacon. Dialog has gotten the power demand so low that the beacon can be powered even by the ambient light of most indoor environments. To retails stores and other businesses that want to take advantage of these new geo-location devices, not having to periodically replace batteries in beacons and tags that could number in the thousands is a big advantage.

dialog-semiconductor-smartbond-da14580-bluetooth-smart-sensor-beacon-qtoothA further example of the advantages of this low-power radio chip is the wireless Bluetooth keyboard that they have on display.  It uses such small amounts of power that you could type 500 characters a minute, 24 hours a day, for fifteen years before the battery wore out. this means that the keyboard will wear out or even become obsolete long before you would need to change the battery. This is phenomenal! Just think of the cost savings and the reduced impact on the environment. We need to have this performance at every level of our lives.

dialog-semiconductor-smartbond-da14580-bluetooth-smart-keyboard-qtoothThey had a few other application examples on hand as well, but the one we found particularly fun was the interactive dice controllers that worked in conjunction with an iPad game. They had both the Dialog chip and accelerometer/gyroscope circuitry built into them so that they could transmit the results of a throw of the dice to the iPad. Board games made anew!

dialog-semiconductor-smartbond-da14580-bluetooth-smart-dice-game-qtoothBelow is a view of just what the insides of one of these dies look and how Dialog gets it all to fit, including the battery, in such a small space:
dialog-semiconductor-smartbond-da14580-bluetooth-smart-dice-electronics-qtooth

Texas Instruments & Their Powerful Developer Kits

Texas Instruments was at Bluetooth World in full force. Sandeep Kamath, Applications Engineering Manager for TI’s Low-Power RF team, gave a great demo that covered Bluetooth fundamentals and getting started with developing applications for the stack. TI has been offering some of the best Bluetooth Developer’s Kits for a while now. They are not alone in this. Pretty much every major chip manufacturer tries to offer strong developer resources. This means that, even if someone is just getting started with the technology, using these resources any developer should be able to quickly make a rough prototype of their big idea. The companies go to great lengths to make it as easy as possible.
texas-instruments-cc2541dk-developer-kit-qtooth

Sunrise Micro Devices – The CORDIO Family of Radio IP Solutions

Companies often use these types of events to reveal their existence to the world. Sunrise Micro Devices took the opportunity at Bluetooth World to do just that. Operating in “stealth mode” until just a few weeks ago, Sunrise Micro was letting everyone know that they could offer one of the most cost effective solutions available to anyone in need of a high quality, sub-volt radio.

What does that mean? Well, we had the opportunity to sit down with Bob Morris, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Prithi Ramakrishnan, Sunrise Micro’s Marketing Manager, to get a better idea of how the industry, developers, and hackers everywhere can benefit from their CORDIO™ family of radio IP solutions.

sunrise-micro-devices-ip-block-qtooth Each CORDIO™ solution includes a pre-qualified, self-contained radio block, related firmware, and guidelines for design, test, integration, qualification, and application development. Sunrise is trying to provide the ideal solution for those looking to get from design concept to end-user production as quickly and easily as possible. With the CORDIO™ family of radio IP, semiconductor companies and developers have access to cutting-edge, sub-volt radio solutions. This can effectively help them to keep up with evolving standards and processes in a cost-effective, risk-free manner without having to maintain an in-house radio design team. This can make it financially and strategically prudent for them to buy vs. make their own radios.

The most important thing to all CORDIO™ radios is native sub-volt operation. Operating below 1 Volt enables the radio to “sip” energy from a battery, greatly extending the device’s life as much as 60%. In addition, it makes it easier to run without batteries by using solar, motion, thermal and other energy harvesting techniques.

sunrise-micro-devices-low-power-high-impact-qtoothA great example of how this can also benefit the independent developer, hacker and entrepreneur is when they may have inadvertently over-promised on their delivery time of getting their product to market. We heard several amusing but painful stories at the conference of how aspiring companies had wildly successful campaigns on Indie Go Go and  Kickstarter but had yet to line up their manufacturing and supply chain. Having someone like Sunrise Micro at the ready to help get your product to the customer as quickly and as inexpensively as possible might just save your fledgling company.

Their first offering is the CORDIO™ BT4 Radio IP. It incorporates Bluetooth® Core Specification Version 4.1 with a Low Energy Core Configuration, otherwise known as Bluetooth® Smart. It is suitable for any application requiring single-mode devices. We wish Sunrise Micro Devices luck with their company’s launch, although with their team’s history and expertise we have a feeling they will do just fine.

Nordic Semiconductor Shows Off Their Smart Beacon Kit

Industry giant Nordic Semiconductor was also there. Although they had plenty of fascinating technologies to demo, their primary focus at this show was on their nRF51822 Bluetooth® Smart Beacon Kit. Smart beacons may be one of the first things to really become common in our daily living when it comes the Internet of Things.

nordic-semiconductor-booth-nrf-beacon-qtoothThey also put together a good video that highlights some of the beacon’s many applications, like getting help while shopping  at the grocery store:

Under Armour/Map My Fitness

Being active fitness and health nuts, we’ve been aware of MapMyFitness.com since their very start. So when Under Armour purchased them late last year we were curious to see what new directions they might try to explore together. Well, with the advent of fitness trackers and wearable technology in general, it’s not that much of a mystery. Under Armour is smart about not making their platforms proprietary. They know that the wearables and Internet of Things market is going to be too huge to try to take it on alone. Better to work with what’s known as “platform agnostic” devices so as many people as possible can buy and use their products and services without having to worry about compatibility.

Under Armour also had one of the most fun videos as part of their keynote, which we of course quickly emailed to all of our yogi friends. Here it is:

More Fun Stuff from Bluetooth World

There were many interesting things to see at the conference. One of which was from Brivo Labs, a division of Brivo Systems. They had a wireless lock/security system that  could be operated through smart devices using Bluetooth. What’s so interesting about that? Well, it can be unlocked automatically when a recognized person comes into range with the right code being transmitted by their smart device, be it a smart phone, tablet, embedded sensor or a piece of wearable technology. It could also be accessed by someone logging in with a preset password or by recognizing them by their email address or social media profile.

brivo-labs-bluetooth-wireless-lock-qtoothSo if you thought it was revealing to do a check-in at your local cafe so your friends know where you are, imagine what it will be like to do a check-in to use the cafe’s locked, for-checked-in-clients-only, restroom! However there are many practical, useful applications for this technology, from using it for after-hours access to a 24-hour fitness club, to not having to be worried about where you left your hotel key, to automatically being able to know who is in a building in the event of an emergency. Currently Brivo Labs is targeting a commercial clientele where strict access and security restrictions may not be as crucial, but eventually this type of technology may work its way into the home.

Something in the cute department came from the startup Grush Gamer. They want to bring game level excitement to brushing teeth to make sure kids stay motivated to develop proper habits. Using a special toothbrush with a replaceable head, it acts as a wireless Bluetooth controller for games that are themed around brushing teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene. There is slated to be three games available at launch for both iOS and Android.

grush-bluetooth-wireless-toothbrush-game-qtoothThey are promoting the Grush brush as a win, win, win situation for both kids, parent and dentists. Kids get to play a fun game while brushing:

grush-toothbrush-game-iphone-monster-chase-qtooth Parents get a dashboard that tracks how well their kids are brushing their teeth:

grush-toothbrush-game-performance-monitor-qtoothAnd dentists get valuable data that helps them followup with their young patients and make sure proper preventative care is being addressed:

grush-toothbrush-game-dentist-data-qtoothAll in all it looks like a lot of fun. We think the folks at Grush are onto something and should find a very receptive audience. They are currently running a crowd-funding campaign on Indie Go Go. For more information or to get your kids their own Grush click here.

Conclusion

The Bluetooth World Conference in San Jose was two of the most interesting, information-packed days we’ve had in a while. There was so much more to it than we are covering here. We pretty certain we are doing a grave injustice to the other presenters we have had to leave out, either because we missed them at the conference or to keep this article from getting any longer than it is. And if you want to attend one of these events, and we think you should, check out our Upcoming Events section for the latest opportunities.

We’ll be sifting through all of the materials we picked up and will be reporting on them further, especially as more of this technology gets implemented into products that we use. Stay tuned.