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Broadcom lines up wearable tech entry with addition of Wi-Fi direct to smart device platform

Broadcom is hoping to make a big play in the nascent wearable tech market with the integration of Wi-Fi Direct technology into its Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) hardware platform for connected mobile devices.

Chipsets based on the new WICED Direct platform Broadcom introduced this week will give device makers the ability to "design accessories, clothing, and other wearable sensors that connect and transfer data to smart mobile devices and the cloud," as well as enable purpose-built functions such as "jewelry with proximity detection, helmets with action cameras, and bracelets that lock/unlock doors," the company said.

WICED Direct Systems-on-a-Chip (SoCs) now includes the full array of Broadcom's radio-frequency (RF) technologies, including near-field communication (NFC), Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi Direct, the last of which allows users to connect a pair of Wi-Fi-enabled devices without using an access point or computer.

"The value of a wearable device lies in its ability to connect to a smartphone or the Internet with minimal impact on battery life. As the market gains momentum, Broadcom is actively widening business opportunities in this growing space by offering the breadth of IP and customized components that enable creative new smart wearable devices to be connected," Rahul Patel, vice president of marketing in Broadcom's Wireless Connectivity Combos unit, said in a statement.

Broadcom elaborated on the opportunity it sees in wearable tech, citing Juniper Research projections for 15 million wearable smart devices to be shipped this year and 70 million units to be shipped by 2017. The research firm also pegged connected wearable components as a $1.5 billion (£970 million) market in 2014.

General purpose smartwatches are the most visible part of this market, with industry heavyweights Apple, Intel, and Samsung rumoured to be cooking up such products to compete with several smartwatches already being sold.

But as Broadcom notes, the total picture is quite a bit bigger. In addition to smartwatches, there are a number of more focused smart device products in the health and wellness segment beginning to pick up steam — including fitness bracelets, blood pressure monitors, and glucometers.

If the market for such smart devices does grow at the pace some are predicting, Broadcom said it expects the next phase of wearable tech development to include embedded solutions for clothing, and is positioning the WICED Direct platform for that as well.

Image credit: Flickr (nmcbean)