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Wibree and Bluetooth

If only a cellular earpiece was small enough to not look like an appendage growing from my ear….
If only a bike computer could tell you a call was coming in on your cell phone while your phone was safely stowed away….
If only a small sensor could monitor a diabetic’s glucose levels and wirelessly alert him/her of dangerous levels on his or her watch, or cell phone…
If only video game controllers could wirelessly interact with each other to trigger changes in game play….

wibreeIncreasingly, instrumental technology seems to be finding its way out of Scandinavia and into the open source world.  First there was Linux, the operating system developed from the work of Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki  in the early 90s. Then, there was Bluetooth, the low power, low frequency wireless technology we now find powering everything from cellular earpieces, and stereo headphones to wireless computer mice.  Now it’s Wibree, a Nokia development, that’s poised to bring a new round of changes and evolution.  Wibree, in fact,  may be technology to make all of the above “If Only’s” possible and a lot more beyond them.

(Bluetooth was originally developed by Ericsson in Sweden and then expanded with the help of Intel, Microsoft, Nokia and Toshiba before its management was passed to the non-profit Bluetooth Special Interest Group that oversees the licensing and trademark management.)

So what is Wibree? –   For starters, Wibree is a wireless communications technology like Bluetooth.  In fact, it’s sometimes been referred to as Ultra-Low Power Bluetooth – making it a derivative technology that can both stand alone or integrate with existing Bluetooth standards.  

Wibree’s been in development at Nokia since about 2001.  In tech speak: it is an interoperable ultra low power wireless technology. That means it’s a communication standard that will work with a range of different devices (as does Bluetooth), but unlike its cousin, Wibree can operate with very low power consumption.  Because of this lower power requirement,  smaller batteries can be used and a smaller product footprint will be possible.  In essence, Wibree carries the promise of expanding wireless technologies to a new range of products.

Aiding the likelihood of its widespread adoption, yesterday, it was announced that the group managing Wibree will be merged into the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.  With the announcement, the Wibree technology will be incorporated into already accepted Bluetooth technology specifications and soon available to a large pool of manufacturers and product development companies. (The Bluetooth SIG has more than 8,000 members with membership being a prerequisite to manufacture Bluetooth products)

Like traditional Bluetooth, Wibree will run on the 2.4ghz frequency.  And it is capable of maintaining a link between devices at a maximum range of 5-10m.  Devices like watches and sports-sensors that can capture and transmit data will be able to be manufactured as stand-alone Wibree products.  Other products will be made using  dual-mode (Bluetooth and Wibree) specification that will share one physical radio component (for broadcasting the signal) and antenna.

Broadcom, Casio, CSR, Epson, ItoM, Logitech, Nordic Semiconductor, ST Microelectronics, Suunto, Taiyo Yuden Co., Ltd. and Texas Instruments have all contributed to Wibree to date.

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