Nordic to refresh RF family, debuts TV remote reference design

November 21, 2011 // By Rick Merritt
Nordic Semiconductor has announced plans to refresh its 2.4 GHz product line in the next nine months and debuted a reference design for a connected TV remote control using its current chips.

In a press briefing here the Oslo-based chip designer said it will remain focused on a mix of ANT, Bluetooth and proprietary protocols for consumer and medical markets. The company is especially bullish on Bluetooth 4.0. The standard, ratified late last year, supports new low-power levels to extend into devices beyond today's keyboards, mice and headsets but has yet to gain market traction.

'I think this is going to be a huge wave, we do not know all the things that will come out of this," said Svein-Egil Nielsen, director of emerging technologies for Nordic and a board member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

Nordic will sample by mid-2012 the first members of the nRF51 series, a new line of 2.4 GHz transceivers with integrated microcontrollers to run protocols and applications. The chips represent a ground-up redesign that will provide more p0erformance at lower power, but the comp any declined to provide details ahead of a launch next year.

The chips will come in serapate versions for ANT, Bluetooth and proprietary protocols. However, they will have limited multi-protocol capabilities and cut power by as much as half for some applications, said Thomas Embla Bonnerud, a Nordic product manager.

The new remote control design, called the nRFready Smart Remote, includes a six-axis motion sensor and an accelerometer. It also includes a multi-touch pad from Synaptics that supports swipes, scrolling and other gestures.

The first version of the design ships this month supporting proprietary protocols. A version for Bluetooth 4.0 will ship before the end of the year.

The remote is aimed at a market connected TVs expected to hit 800 million units by 2016, according to some estimates.

"We think Bluetooth Low Energy (aka Bluetooth 4.0) is really good for remotes because connected TVs will have Wi-Fi typically in combo chips that also support Bluetooth 4.0, so they won't need any additional silicon," Bonnerud said.