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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Transmit-only Bluetooth chip boosts beacon battery life

By Nick Flaherty

Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) has developed a transmit-only Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chip that enables designs of beacons with longer battery life with lower embedded software development requirements.

BLE beacons are used in various applications such as monitoring systems, loss prevention devices, employee attendance management, and information guidance to smartphones in shops or exhibitions. However there were only BLE SoCs which support both transmitter and receivers that require higher levels of software development.

The AK1594 allows a BLE beacon to be developed using the initial settings and transmission data to the internal EEPROM as there is no microcontroller and no receive path. The device achieves best in class low power consumption in the field and a maximum +6dBm (typ.) output transmission with 9.1uA (typ.) power consumption at 0dBm and an advertising interval of 1sec. 

This opens up the possibility of self powerd beacons using energy harvested either from solar cells or from the body in wearable systems.
It also provides security protection for advertising channel packet using the AES128 encoding that  prevents tracking or cloning of the beacon for spoofing attacks. The various switching actions control transmitter power, interval and powering the transmitter.

Samples are available now and the chip is being used in beacons by Houwa Design Systems of Japan. 

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