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Nordic Semiconductor - An Stunning Ultra Low-Power IC Design

By Recer Chen
Published: Feb 18,2014

Norway, the land far away north, and also the country which is famous from its wild animals, midnight sun light and aurora borealis had suffered from extreme cold weather but still natured one tremendous wireless RF manufacturer- Nordic Semiconductor, richly experienced in ultra-low-power short-range wireless communications chip design, located on the center of Oslo city, founded over 30 years until now.

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As one of the key technology of internet of things (IOT), what influence do you think blue tooth will bring to IOT?

Lasen: it’s undeniable that although blue tooth had been applied widely on consumer electronic areas, on user’s point of view, blue tooth is still a marginalized wireless technology for blue tooth earphone connection and file transmission only. However, along with the release of blue tooth 4.1 version, relative technology had leaped forward significantly. I cannot agree with Zuo wentai, the SIG chief marketing director more while he mentioned: “Blue tooth technology had two revolutions, one on 1.0 version, another on 4.0 version”.

Blue tooth 4.1 equipped Bluetooth Smart technology. At the same time, not only the blue tooth ecosystem grows rapidly, its smart, low power consumption advantages marched into relative applications on IOT. Except for the promising future on IOT applications, blue tooth has a great chance to build the main technology frame for coming smart home wireless connections. To express my point of view for blue tooth developments in one sentence, I will say “It’s Amazing!”

For wireless technologies applied on future smart home, which one do you think will have the best chance, Wi-Fi, blue tooth or Zigbee?

Lasen: After China government listed IOT concept as key development projects on twelfth five year plan, IOT becomes the emerging topic on the market, at the same time, the smart home topic with IOT essence has brought to attention. Main reason comes from the difficulties of wiring and promote on traditional cable smart home, plus the higher cost leads to market elimination. On the other hand, wireless connection technology owns the advantages as no wiring needed, easy set up and it without doubt will become the best choice for new smart home.

As for which technology suits smart home the best, or in another word, which one owns the best chance to lead the smart home wireless connection standard? Basically, I believe three of them have equal chance and possibilities. Currently, WiFi leads on its most widely applications; ZigBee rules on low power consumption and MANET; while blue tooth has the advantage on simpler network built.

However, three of them have their own restrictions. I believe there is no single perfect technology meets all demands for smart home. Market will decide who the final winner is when smart home concept applied on most of families, and then we will know what the best wireless connection technology for smart home is.

An assumption has been brought up for wearing device will eventually replace traditional hand held device, can you share your ideas for how to define applications on wearing device? Also, do you agree with that smart wearing device (as smart glass and smart watch) will replace hand held device or stay as its components?

Lasen: To me, wearing device has to be smart electronic equipments capable of continuously wearing on man’s body and improve the operating experience for consumers. Since Google, Samsung and other players released Google Glass and smart watches, smart wearing device raised in the market.

Especially on CES 2014, all IT vendors demonstrated innovative wearing products and make CES as one parade for new wearing devices. However, currently wearing devices still has its limitation and can only be recognized as mobile device’s best friend (components). Independent operation is still not available. Through blue tooth wireless connection with mobile device is the only way to real-time information.

I believe in the middle range of development, smart phone still will be the preferred communication and internet access device. Nevertheless, in the near future the size of smart phone will be more compact, like Google Glass, user will be able to wear smart phone easily and turn into one personal immediate information process center. We both know it is still a long way to go, but we have to admit that wearing device has great potential to change the whole industry or even user’s behavior.

What do you think Taiwan’s role will be in the smart wearing device trend?

Lasen: For years we have been working with innovated Taiwan industries closely and I am deeply convinced that Taiwan owns not only smart, diligent and highly experienced engineers, but mature open design atmosphere. Moreover, with the hardware/software combination advantage and IC design competitiveness, it is not surprising that while wearing device shines in the market, which is the perfect timing for Taiwan industries to step in.

Will ANT+ be eliminated from market while BLE menacing in?

It is undeniable that ANT+ is one successful short distance wireless technology and also one respectful opponent for Blue tooth while ANT+ supports the whole ecosystem including wireless interaction, super lower power consuming exercise and health monitoring equipments. Especially on the exclusive connection components for bicycle and personal health care, it shows great competitiveness against low power consuming blue tooth.

While the increase of consumer personal health awareness rises, Samsung and Sony started to apply ANT+ chips on smart phone and tablet PC to provide end users more options on low power consuming blue tooth and ANT+. My opinion is, ANT+ or BLE will not replace or terminate each other but grow together to bring up the whole low power consuming wireless connection market.

Nordic has been working on non patented 2.4GHz and lower than 1GHz industrial, super low power consuming short range wireless communication technologies, can you share with us about your future roadmap?

Lasen: We will still focus on 2.4GHz unlicensed, ANT+ and low power consuming blue tooth relative technologies while develop advanced chip products with lower power consuming wireless connection technologies to support phone devices, wearing devices and other electronic products to improve their performance on wireless communication and battery life. Although super low power consuming wireless connection technology is still new for now, I believe in another ten years, we will be using products with that technology everywhere in our lives.

Figure I: Svenn-Tore Larsen
Figure I: Svenn-Tore Larsen

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