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Thursday, October 30, 2008

ANT vs. Bluetooth Low Energy

Bluetooth Low Energy is a late comer to the personal wireless sensor networks, which is predominantly covered by many proprietary based solutions, such as ANT+, Nike+ and many other old analog systems. Will Bluetooth Low Energy win the market? Some companies will definitely adopt standard solutions and they will wait patiently until Bluetooth Low Energy releases. Other companies believes in time-to-market and has jumped on the proprietary wagon, hybrid wagon (see Go Hybrid Go ) to be accurate. No matter which kind of companies, one curious question to all has been how these solutions compare. As Bluetooth Low Energy is still in draft v0.7 developed by a closed cabinet. Such a work is mission impossible for outsiders for now. Finally, valuable information is disclosed in the Bluetooth Evolution Conference last week by the product manager of Nordic Semiconductor. Nordic is one of the three semiconductor companies (the other two are TI and Epson) that are sitting in both Bluetooth Low Energy Cabinet and ANT+ Alliance; and Nordic is the only one that offers ANT chips today. So I personally believe his comparison is accurate and it is between ANT and Bluetooth Low Energy. Although in his slide, ANT is no where to found, but he did mentioned positively during his Q&A session.

Here is his statement for power consumption: "(Bluetooth Low Energy) is fairly good compared to existing proprietary 2.4GHz solutions." "Some highly optimized solutions will be slightly some tens of percents", because of Bluetooth Low Energy's "complexity" and "compromises to enable dual-mode interoperability"

Here is his statement comparing silicon cost: "(Bluetooth Low Energy) is fairly close to existing solutions." with "tens of percents (additional cost) with current silicon platform"

He further listed the following weakness of Bluetooth Low Energy:

  • limited network topologies
  • power compromises
  • cost compromises
  • late to some markets
Bluetooth Low Energy only supports one master at a time. Basically this means that, like Bluetooth classic, the Low Energy is a cell phone centric protocol. If both a phone and a watch (or PC, PDA etc) present in a network, the watch can only be the accessory of the phone and will not be allowed to receive sensors information. And if the phone is taken away, the network will be broken and needs to be restarted to set the watch as master to link to sensors.

When being asked, he apparently held a negative view for Bluetooth Low Energy to get into the sports and fitness market, where we see strong ANT+ presence, as well as Nike+.

There is also an interesting conclusion points: "(Bluetooth Low Energy) complements other ultra low power technologies." This may be his best wishes, because Nordic has both Bluetooth Low Energy and ANT products, or could be the acceptable reality for Bluetooth Low Energy.

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