Broadcom is kicking off Mobile World Congress a bit early with the unveiling of a brand new chip aimed at fitness trackers and smart watches.
The Broadcom BCM4771 GNSS SoC is designed for low-power wearable devices and is manufactured on the 40 nm process. It promises to cut power consumption by 75-percent compared to existing solutions thanks to an integrated Sensor Hub that puts your movement into context. By measuring things like distance and speed, it can choose to shut down certain sensors based on that information. For example, if the chip senses that you’re moving very quickly over a long distance, it assumes you’re in a vehicle and won’t bother to count steps.
Every year, CES gives us some idea of ‘the next big thing’ and what we saw in Las Vegas this past January was that wearable computing is on its way up. Unfortunately, because this genre of personal devices is still relatively new, some of the features and functionalities aren’t what they could be just yet. What’s more, a company might decide it’s more important to include one feature over another due to cost, power savings or other issues, and so the user ends up with a smaller feature set. Broadcom is hoping to reduce the cost and complexity of adding GNSS (globe navigation satellite system) with the introduction of this new chip.
The BCM4771 will be sampling by the end of Q1 2014 but Broadcom promised to show us what its ‘innovations’ at MWC, so hopefully we’ll see some reference designs or prototypes based on this new chip.
Regardless, we should see a lot of wearables at MWC and as the year progresses. This year will apparently bring the second generation of Samsung's Galaxy Gear, as well as smartwatches and companion devices from a host of other electronics manufacturers. What's more, Google Glass will move closer to general availability and hopefully come down in price, too. Even Apple is rumored to be getting in on the