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Nokia develops short-range wireless technology

Improves on Bluetooth's shortcomings

Nokia has developed a short-range wireless technology that it says could improve on some of the shortcomings of Bluetooth.

Called Wibree, the technology aims to be a lot more power-efficient than Bluetooth. This means it could be used in smaller and less costly devices. And it can use the same radio and antenna components as Bluetooth, helping keep costs down further, said Bob Iannucci, head of Nokia's research centre, who unveiled the technology in Helsinki today.

The technology could compete with Bluetooth in the workplace as a way to link keyboards and other peripherals to computers. But it could have more interesting applications for consumers, in devices such as wrist watches, toys and sports equipment.

Because of its low power requirements, it could be used in tiny sensors worn by a jogger, for example, to collect information about his heart rate or distance travelled. The sensors could send the information to a mobile phone via Wibree, which in turn would upload the information to a website where the jogger could compare his performance with that of other runners or get advice from a trainer.

Wibree sensors could be placed in a gold club and used to upload data to the internet about a player's swing, again via a mobile phone, where a golf instructor could offer advice about improving his or her game.

The technology is being designed to communicate with a phone or other device within 10 metres, and can transfer data at 1Mbps (megabits per second), Nokia said. It can be implemented in a standalone chip or as a dual-mode chip that includes both Bluetooth and Wibree. More information is here.

Bluetooth has inherent power limitations because it includes a fixed packet-size and frequency-hopping technology, Iannucci said. Wibree uses a different modulation technique that does a better job of avoiding interference, which helps reduce its power requirements, he said.

Several companies are working with Nokia to define the Wibree specification, including Broadcom, Epson and Nordic Semiconductor, Nokia said. They hope to submit the technology to a standardisation process, which could help it to gain wider support.

Nokia hopes eventually to license Wibree to manufacturers that wish to use it.

Wibree isn't the only contender for use in wireless sensors, however. Zigbee is an ongoing standardisation project and has similar characteristics to Wibree.

However, because Wibree uses the same radio as Bluetooth, the economics of deploying it are better, according to Iannucci.

Bluetooth's supporters are working to lower its power consumption and reduce other drawbacks with the technology.


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