Like it or not, smartphones and cars are becoming inseparable -- with Bluetooth Low Energy as the communication technology that ties them together.
You've already seen how Bluetooth enables hands-free phone calls inside the car, along with infotainment control. But you haven't yet seen Bluetooth Low Energy technology exploited for opening and closing doors and windows, or adjusting seats, mirrors, and lighting -- all wirelessly -- by touching a smartphone or punching a wirelessly controlled in-vehicle button.
Texas Instruments, armed with its automotive-qualified Bluetooth Low Energy device, hopes to be in the forefront of the emerging automotive revolution in which car OEMs advocate to replace in-car cables with wireless technologies, and promote smartphone-controlled applications for their vehicles.
Leveraging the company's wide range of Bluetooth devices, including SimpleLink CC2541 (broad-market Bluetooth low energy solution), WiLink 8Q (automotive connectivity offerings for combo WiFi, Bluetooth, and GNSS), and BL6450Q (dual-mode Bluetooth), TI announced Monday, April 21, a Bluetooth Low Energy wireless device called CC2541-Q1. It's designed specifically to meet AEC-Q100, a critical stress test qualification for automotive ICs set by the automotive electronics council (AEC).
The new device is a "complete Bluetooth Low Energy solution," according to Ram Machness, business director for automotive wireless connectivity solutions at TI. The chip is integrated with RF, MCU, and flash memory. It also features TI's royalty-free Bluetooth low energy stack software and sample applications, including over-the-air download support for in-field updates.
The automotive industry's enthusiasm for Bluetooth Low Energy seems real and is based on realistic reasoning. Rather than driven by the "coolness" factor (controlling a car from your smartphone), car OEMs and Tier-1s are eager to go whole hog with Bluetooth Low Energy for purely economic reasons.
Cable replacement is a big reason carmakers are interested, says TI's Machness.
First, by going wireless, carmakers can shed the weight of cables -- as much, in some cases, as several kilograms, according to Machness.
Second, car OEMs can escape the complexity of assembling cables. For every control mechanism inside a car, a car designer has to run a special wire from the control unit to the end unit. To open and close doors, there's a wire. But the exact length of the wire varies from car to car, and from left door to right. "Nobody wants to have a loose wire hanging," Machness tells us. "Imagine the inventory issues of all those different cables.
"I was surprised to learn how sensitive automakers are when it comes to the weight of cables... as many as 14 cables" in use today just to control all the doors, windows, and mirrors.
Most car companies are using LIN bus today for such non-mission-critical control functions, which generally require the transmission of very little control data. They can all be perfectly handled by Bluetooth Low Energy.
A variety of applications for Bluetooth Low Energy.
(Source: Texas Instruments)