Nordic Semiconductor collaborates with Joybien to bring Bluetooth Smart wireless connectivity to toy sector

January 09, 2013 // By Paul Buckley
Nordic Semiconductor ASA has entered a design partnership with Taiwanese original design manufacturer (ODM) Joybien with the aim of accelerating the development of low-cost wirelessly controlled ‘appcessories’ for the toy sector.

The partnership builds on Joybien's expertise in remote controlled toys and Nordic's expertise in Bluetooth low energy wireless connectivity.

The latest generation of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone 4S and 5 include support for Bluetooth v4.0 (which embraces Bluetooth low energy as a hallmark feature). Allied to downloadable apps, such smartphones can be used to wirelessly communicate with a range of accessories such as heart rate monitors, bike speed & cadence combo sensors, and blood glucose meters, dramatically extending the market for compact, coin cell-powered wireless devices using Bluetooth low energy. The combination of app and accessory has opened up a new sector, called ‘appcessories’.

Partnering with Nordic Semiconductor, Joybien has manufactured a model car demonstrator to illustrate how toy makers can bridge the gap between 2.4 GHz proprietary remote control and the lucrative Bluetooth v4.0-based appcessory market - without increasing costs in what is a price-sensitive sector.

The demonstrator is on show at CES in Las Vegas comprised an iPhone and a 1:14 scale Lamborghini Reventon Roadster. Using an app from the Apple App Store running on the smartphone, the toy Lamborghini was wirelessly remotely controlled around the exhibition floor.

The iPhone employs a Bluetooth v4.0 chip and is Bluetooth Smart Ready, ensuring it is interoperable with any Bluetooth Smart-qualified product. The Bluetooth smart Lamborghini is equipped with a Nordic nRF51822 Bluetooth low energy/2.4GHz proprietary multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC).  A Bluetooth low energy radio is a prerequisite for a Bluetooth Smart product.

The nRF51822 allows toy manufacturers to bring products to market that can simultaneously and adaptively support Bluetooth low energy and 2.4 GHz proprietary wireless technology in the same product form factor, using identical data formats over the wireless link to minimize design complexity, and without requiring any firmware changes. This offers developers a high level of commercial protection against future consumer technology trends by allowing them to offer a maximum range of alternative options to their customers.