Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 05-05-2011
Tags: Ally, Broadcom, Google, technology
Broadcom, like Google, is betting big on near-field communication (NFC) technology for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets being widely implemented in the coming months.
While Google vice president of commerce and payments Stephanie Tilenius was touting NFC opportunities at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York on Wednesday, a group of Broadcom executives spoke with journalists about the technology and other looming mobile device trends in San Francisco.
Broadcom is a behind-the-scenes player in the eyes of most consumers, but the wireless and broadband chip maker wants to highlight four mobile technologies it expects to be widely adopted in handsets, tablets and the like over the next several months, said Mike Hurlston, senior vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s Wireless LAN Group.
In addition to NFC, which enables things like paying for groceries at a checkout stand with a mobile phone, Hurlston said Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, and location-based services that work indoors would become “ubiquitous” on mobile devices in varying stages.
All are related to connectivity and communication between mobile devices or between those devices and computers, televisions, and various gadgets like fitness monitoring devices.
Some, like Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0 “are happening now,” noted Hurlston. With regards to NFC and location-based services that combine GPS and Wi-Fi, the Broadcom executive doesn’t see broad adoption happening until 2012.
“What you’ll see with these technologies is a trend line that’s similar to the way Wi-Fi itself was initially adopted, where it went from 1 percent [of devices] to 10 percent and then it really ‘hockey-sticked,’” Hurlston said.
“Between 10 and 15 percent of all phones will have NFC in 2012. That’s only at about 1 percent right now.”
Broadcom has an obvious stake in pushing this message. Though Wi-Fi Direct and NFC are standards-based and not proprietary to Broadcom, the company is confident it can gain share fast as those technologies are increasingly included in handsets and tablets.
Hurlston said Broadcom produces secure NFC-enabled chips both as a standard internal element for a mobile device and on a SIM card.
Already popular in countries like Japan, the technology has now cleared stricter security hurdles in the U.S. market put forward by credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard. Three of the major U.S. carriers last year outlined plans for Isis, a national payment network that would allow handset users to pay for things like groceries and subway tickets by waving their phone near an NFC-enabled machine.
Google and Sprint will reportedly announce an NFC-based payment system on Android-based Nexus S phones this Thursday, and Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5 is expected to utilize the technology as well.
Whereas NFC involves connecting computing devices at extremely close range, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0′s Bluetooth low energy (BLE) feature offer longer range communication. Broadcom on Wednesday demonstrated a Wi-Fi Direct connection between a Motorola Xoom tablet and a television that enabled a driving game being played on the Xoom to appear with scarcely any lag time on the TV.
Though the demo required a stand-alone Wi-Fi Direct transmitter to work, as the technology is built into more mobile devices and television sets, such intermediary hardware wouldn’t be required.
In the meantime, Broadcom will produce a Wi-Fi Direct unit that plugs into televisions that would allow the owner of a Wi-Fi Direct-enabled handset to instantly stream a video or game onto a television with little latency and no wires.
Hurlston said Broadcom sees BLE being used for fitness monitoring devices in particular. The low-energy wireless technology could be used to enable smartphones to communicate more easily with disparate monitoring devices while chewing up a fraction of the battery life that older Bluetooth technology sucked up for such operations, he said.
Finally, Broadcom is touting location-based services such as ads and deals that pop up on a mobile device when a user walks by a retail outlet. Again, that’s not a new idea—in fact, a debate over privacy issues surrounding the location-tracking methods used to provide such services has ratcheted up in recent weeks.
Still, Hurlston said providing such services to mobile device users when they’re indoors has been spotty because GPS doesn’t work well inside. Broadcom’s plan is to combine a device’s GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities to ensure that ads and the like get delivered whether a person is in the mall or at the beach.