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Nokia touts low-cost, low-power wireless tech

Wibree an 'extension' to Bluetooth, apparently

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Nokia today invited hardware and software makers to join it and implement a new wireless data transfer technology designed to operate over very short distances. Yet the Finnish phone giant insisted the technology, dubbed Wibree, is complementary to Bluetooth.

Like Bluetooth, Wibree operates in the 2.4GHz band of the spectrum. It's designed to operate within a 10m range and transfer data no more quickly than 1Mbps. According to Nokia, Wibree radio transmission consumes very little power. The devices themselves will be very cheap, it claimed.

The applications it has in mind are links between phones and watches - the kind of thing Sony Ericsson showed off last week with the Bluetooth watch it co-developed with Fossil. Nokia also mentioned sports sensors - again there's a precedent: Apple's iPod+Nike pedometer-on-your-music-player gadget.

Nokia's pitch is that these apps are more suited to the cheaper, lower power Wibree than Bluetooth. Unlike the Zigbee wireless technology - which, given the similarity of the name, appears to have been the inspiration for Wibree - Nokia's suggestion delivers a higher bandwidth. Zigbee is a 2.4GHz technology that delivers up to 250Kbps at 1-100m.

For the kind of applications Nokia has in mind, Zigbee might seem to be sufficient, particularly since Zigbee is based on a IEEE standard, 802.15.4. It was ratified in December 2004, but hasn't made a major impact beyond home automation and industrial applications. Still, it's clear from how Nokia describes Wibree that it's essentially chasing the same space as Zigbee, but this time hooking everything into the phone.

Nokia has been working on Wibree for five years, it said, but it expects to see initial Wibree devices appearing in early 2007. CSR, Broadcom, Epson and Nordic Semiconductor have all been signed up to develop Wibree and/or Wibree-Bluetooth silicon. ®

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