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Silicon Wave Leads Bluetooth Race with Single-Chip Radio

Silicon Wave Inc, a San Diego-based microchip company, is among the first demonstrators of the much-touted Bluetooth wireless technology.

It also has a premier design win with its radio microchips: Palm Inc will use them in its handheld devices.

Silicon Wave’s arrival on the scene with its new chip is particularly significant because the lack of chip designs has slowed the arrival of Bluetooth consumer products. The difficulties in getting the official Bluetooth certification delayed silicon vendors, according to industry analysts.

Intense competition between semiconductor vendors is predicted to drive steep declines in the price of Bluetooth silicon.

Allied Business Intelligence forecasts that the typical Bluetooth module, which includes the radio, baseband controller and memory, should be available for less than US$5 after 2003.

Chief executive officer David Lyon said that Silicon Wave is now well positioned to grab a significant share of the Bluetooth consumer products market. The company was founded in 1997 to create RF systems-on-chip designs.

Chip and Modules

The Odyssey SiW1502 Radio Modem integrated circuited(Fig) was the first single-chip radio to receive Bluetooth qualification. It is already in volume production, according to Lyon. Silicon Wave has also received the Bluetooth nod of approval for its Odyssey Wireless Development System and its Radio Modem Evaluation System.

The SiW1502 chip combines all radio transceiver, synthesizer and modem functions into a 7mm x 7mm package. It uses a single 2.4GHz synthesizer for both transmit and receive functions, with the VCO and resonator fully integrated. Silicon Wave has simplified the design by providing a completely digital interface to the baseboard controller through direct conversion radio architecture with DAC/ADCs on board. The chip creates a digital interface to the link controller or any other standard microprocessor.

Silicon Wave has also announced that Alps Electric Co Ltd has developed a series of modules using the Odyssey RF system-on-chip. It is targeted at mobile telephones, notebook PCs, digital cameras, and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The module contains the SiW1502 chip, the SiW1602 Link Controller and the lower layer Bluetooth protocol stack, as well as the antenna, RF and baseband circuits. It thus creates a complete module for embedded devices. Further development is expected for applications with processing power coming through the host system central processing unit or digital signal processor.

San Jose-based Atmel Corp has combined its Pluton baseband IC, the AT6C551 ARM&TDMI; with integrated PCMCIA controller, with the SiW1502 chip to create a reference design for PC Cards intended for use in notebook PCs.

Tripartite Alliance

Rounding out Silicon Wave’s announcements was a three-way technology alliance with Extended Systems and FlashPoint Technology. The alliance will allow digital camera manufacturers to use FlashPoint’s Digita OS to develop applications that plug directly into Extended Systems’ upper layer application protocol software, and implement Bluetooth protocols for data exchange. Thus a Digital OS camera could connect wirelessly with other Bluetooth-enabled cameras, PDAs, printers, mobile phones, photo kiosks and PCs.

It’s a versatile and simple way of sharing large graphic files from digital cameras, according to Lyon.

Silicon Wave also has, within its technology, products aimed at the business traveler and in the near future the company expects any traveler armed with a Bluetooth-enabled handheld device, such as a PDA, to be able to use the device to send and receive data without breaking stride.

by Teri Sprackland

  • Websites:
    Alps Electric Co: http://www.alps.com
    Atmel Corp: http://www.atmel.com
    Extended Systems: http://www.extendsys.com
    Flashpoint Technology: http://www.flashpoint.com
    Silicon Wave: http://www.siliconwave.com

    (January 2001 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)

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