SoC designers working on chips for the IoT and wearables now have access to cutting-edge certified Bluetooth Smart technology from CEVA. At Bluetooth ASIA in Shanghai, CEVA announced the RivieraWaves Bluetooth Smart 4.2 IP Platform has achieved full certification by the Bluetooth SIG to the Bluetooth 4.2 specification using the current, most stringent testing suite.
One reason CEVA chose this event for their announcement is one of their leading consumer applications is the Xiaomi Mi Smart Scale, leveraging CEVA Bluetooth IP licensed by wearables chipset maker Quintic, now part of the NXP family. In addition to NXP, CEVA Bluetooth IP is also licensed by Atmel (through Newport Media) and Dialog Semiconductor. Privately, CEVA execs say it is “amazing” how many projects are in development. They indicate CEVA has secured 14 licensees combined for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi IP so far in 2015.
RivieraWaves has been very active in the Bluetooth SIG, part of the Bluetooth 4.2 “innovation team” and contributing to the definition of next generation Bluetooth specifications. Bluetooth 4.2 introduces extensions to Bluetooth Smart, informally known as Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE. There are three important features added over the baseline in the Bluetooth 4.1 specification:
- Data Length Extension increases packet length from 27 bytes to 251 bytes, speeding data throughput up to 2.6 times with peak rates over 800kB/sec,
- Enhanced Privacy resolves addresses in the Bluetooth controller instead of the CPU, which helps thwart snooping and tracking and also saves power since the CPU only wakes on a valid request,
- Secure Connection improves authentication using public keys and advanced FIPS algorithms, the same approach used in Bluetooth Classic so pairing can occur once in either mode.
This is why the new certification for the RivieraWaves Bluetooth Smart 4.2 IP Platform is important – these are non-trivial changes improving capability for consumer devices, and they must work flawlessly under all conditions. The platform, already widely licensed and now certified, includes three pieces: a Bluetooth Smart baseband controller core, a protocol stack, and a radio interface.
The baseband controller is a Verilog RTL package with a simulation test bench and a “sanity check” test suite. Interestingly, the engine is not based on a CEVA DSP core or an ARM core – it is an optimized, handcrafted accelerator engine designed for Bluetooth. It can integrate with other IP easily, including CEVA TeakLite 4 DSPs, popular processor cores, and radio interfaces using AHB.
The protocol stack is homegrown, written in C and supporting Bluetooth Smart 4.2 from the link layer to profiles. It is processor agnostic and highly portable, and can be deployed with an RTOS or standalone since it includes a message scheduler. It operates as low as 8 MHz, saving power with event-based CPU processing, and can sleep on a 32.768KHz clock. Layers supported include HCI, L2CAP, ATT, SMP, GAP, and GATT, with a complete suite of profiles.
The flexible radio interface allows customers to use a RivieraWaves radio, integrate their own IP, or grab RF IP from CSEM, Catena, Maxscend or others. It also features a PTA interface for coexisting with a Wi-Fi controller.
I asked how this compares to other Bluetooth IP offerings. I’m assuming that although CEVA is first through certification, other IP offerings will eventually be certified to Bluetooth 4.2 under these more stringent test suites. (CEVA pointed out other IP vendors qualified solutions under a preliminary compliance screening for Bluetooth 4.2, but not the latest tests currently used for certification.) I’m impressed when a company recognizes that and doesn’t scream “first” all over a press release or a briefing. I checked and validated the claim on the Bluetooth SIG website, enough said.
Instead, CEVA focused their answer on features and benefits of their IP. They reiterated their Bluetooth hardware and software IP is processor agnostic, portable to several architectures and open to radio interfaces of choice. That’s a plus on the IoT.
CEVA also claims their IP is much more flexible in terms of process nodes. ARM is concentrating on a TSMC 55ULP process for their IoT efforts – not to imply their IP can’t be used on another node, but that is their stated emphasis currently. (As we looked at a while back, ARM Cordio has some unique sub-threshold technology for power savings.) CEVA says they have designs in process with Bluetooth Smart IP ranging from 110nm to 28nm nodes at various foundries.
CEVA’s second-generation Bluetooth Smart protocol stack also supports advanced network topology. It supports both central and peripheral roles in parallel, with several simultaneous master and slave links. This becomes vital in several applications, and is much more flexible than some alternatives that tend to support point implementations on particular MCU cores with limited topologies and profiles. It should be noted CEVA also has a Bluetooth Smart Ready dual mode solution, ready for customers but still in the Bluetooth SIG certification process.
For more info, including the press release of this announcement, visit the CEVA site:
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