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Consumer Electronics Show 2015

This year’s International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) was held in Las Vegas from 6th to 9th January. With an attendance of over 170,000 visitors and 3,600 exhibitors (c.f. 160,000 and 3,200 for last year), it was the largest show in the event’s history.

Much of the excitement at this year’s event was centered on the Internet of Things (IoT); this is expected to have a huge impact on a broad range of industries as more and more products and devices become connected to the internet.

Demonstrating the potential significance of this market is that new, competing IoT platforms from Apple, Google and Samsung were all represented at CES 2015; Google acquired Nest Labs almost a year ago, Samsung bought SmartThings last August and Apple’s first release of their HomeKit platform came with iOS 8 in September. There were a range of devices supporting each of these platforms present.

Away from these major tech companies, there were many other IoT products on display targeted at the domestic market (as well as other industrial and commercial products); for instance, several appliances manufacturers were demonstrating smart connected “white goods” appliances.

There were also many different types of wearables on display, such as fitness trackers, health sensors and smartwatches. These generated a great deal of interest and this promises to become another very large market segment.

Other smart Bluetooth®appcessories” on display included the “Noke” smart padlock and Bragi’s “The Dash” TruWireless in-ear stereo earbuds that also act as a fitness tracker. CSR also “[lit] up Las Vegas’ nightlife with CSRmesh™ glow sticks”; this rather cool demonstration of their Bluetooth mesh technology can be viewed on YouTube here.

Away from IoT products and wearables, there were (as ever) many of the latest TVs on display; this year, the emphasis seemed to be on bigger, brighter, sharper, thinner and smarter displays. Various companies were demonstrating their latest VR (Virtual Reality) creations and drones were also well represented.

A number of companies had 3D printers on display; these might not have hit the mainstream yet but the technology is certainly advancing. This year saw printers that can work with materials such as metal, wood, stone, nylon and even chocolate.

Several car manufacturers showed off cars with autonomous features – from futuristic self-driving concept cars to real-world-right-now self-parking and collision-avoidance capabilities.

Finally, we were pleased to see that one of our clients has, again, won a number of “CES best of” awards for products that we co-developed with them.

Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards 2015 Finalists Announced

Bluetooth SIG Announces Finalists For The 2015 Bluetooth® Breakthrough Awards

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) have announced the finalists for the 2015 Bluetooth® Breakthrough Awards. Congratulations to all the finalists (as listed below). An overall winner, along with four category winners, will be announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 in Barcelona, Spain on the 2nd March.

“The submissions for this year’s Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards really run the gamut, from fun and novel to life-improving,” said Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “Our finalists this year touch on practically every market, including smart home, health and wellness, retail, accessories, consumer electronics, and even public transport. Bluetooth wireless technology is the common thread that brings all these devices, and the broader Internet of Things, together.”

Finalists by Category:

Breakthrough Products

  • BusAccess®, smart public transport application and product (GeoMobile GmbH)
  • Microsoft Band, fitness tracker (Microsoft Corporation)
  • Nova, smartphone flash accessory and application (SneakySquid LLC)
  • SMART kapp, Bluetooth® enabled whiteboard (SMART Technologies)
  • SwingTracker, motion monitor for softball/baseball bats (Diamond Kinetics)
  • Zuli Smartplug, smart plug/outlet adapter (Zuli)

Breakthrough Applications

  • Cub Connect™, lawn tractor and application (Cub Cadet)
  • Oral-B Application, electronic toothbrush and application (Procter & Gamble)
  • ReSound Smart™, hearing aid and application (ReSound)
  • Riccardo Application, in-store beacon system and retail application (AMP Media Group)

Breakthrough Prototypes

  • COBI​, wireless hub and hands-free bicycle system (iCradle GmbH)
  • FITGuard, Bluetooth® enabled mouth guard (Force Impact Technologies)
  • FreeWavz, wireless headphones with fitness tracking capabilities (hEar Gear, Inc)
  • Noke, Bluetooth enabled padlock (FŪZ Designs)
  • oort, home automation system and hub (Oort Technologies)
  • SmartMat, sensor-laden yoga mat (SmartMat)

Breakthrough Student

  • Santiago Ambit, WeOn Glasses
  • Christopher Morales, BlueFly
  • Olivia Siller, Bluetooth® Diabetic Pump
  • Kenneth Shinozuka, Wearable Sensors for Healthcare Innovation
  • Jody Vankeuren, CAPD Bluetooth
  • Sarah White, Fitwell

CSR shareholders back Qualcomm takeover

CSR shareholders overwhelmingly back $2.5bn Qualcomm takeover

Qualcomm announced their intention to acquire CSR back in October. With no rival bidders coming forward, CSR’s shareholders have now voted overwhelmingly in favour of accepting Qualcomm’s offer. The two companies will now move ahead with the formalities of the acquisition, which they expect to be complete by the summer.

CSR said that 98.6% of their shareholders voted on the takeover, with 95.2% of those votes being in favour of the acquisition.

For our thoughts on the acquisition, see here.

Bluetooth SIG Formally Adopts Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) formally adopts Bluetooth® Core Specification Version 4.2 to enable IP connectivity and deliver industry-leading privacy and increased speed

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) have announced that they officially adopted version 4.2 of the Bluetooth® core specification this week. This new release is focused on improved privacy and increased speed, and a soon-to-be ratified profile will enable IP connectivity for better IoT support.

“Bluetooth 4.2 is all about continuing to make Bluetooth Smart the best solution to connect all the technology in your life – from personal sensors to your connected home. In addition to the improvements to the specification itself, a new profile known as IPSP enables IPv6 for Bluetooth, opening entirely new doors for device connectivity,” said Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “Bluetooth Smart is the only technology that can scale with the market, provide developers the flexibility to innovate, and be the foundation for the IoT.”

Privacy and Security

Bluetooth® 4.2 introduces industry-leading privacy settings that lowers power consumption and builds upon the government-grade security features of the Bluetooth® specification. The new privacy features put control back into the hands of the consumer by making it difficult for eavesdroppers to track a device through its Bluetooth connection without permission. For example, when shopping in a retail store with beacons, unless you’ve enabled permission for the beacon to engage with your device, you can’t be tracked.


Bluetooth® 4.2 increases the speed and reliability of data transfers between Bluetooth® Low Energy devices. By increasing the capacity of Bluetooth® Smart packets, devices transfer data up to 2.5 times faster than with previous versions. Increased data transfer speeds and packet capacity reduces the opportunity for transmission errors to occur and reduces battery consumption, resulting in a more efficient connection.

Internet Connectivity

Building on the capabilities released earlier with Bluetooth® 4.1 and the new features released in 4.2, the Internet Protocol Support Profile (IPSP) will allow Bluetooth® Low Energy sensors to access the Internet directly via IPv6/6LoWPAN. IP connectivity makes it possible to use existing IP infrastructure to manage Bluetooth® Smart “edge” devices. This is ideal for connected home scenarios that need both personal and wide area control. This profile will be ratified by the end of the year.

Further information on Bluetooth® 4.2 can be found on the SIG’s website.

CSR Launches CSR8675

Like the CSR8670 but bigger, better and faster – and with higher quality audio!

CSR plc have today launched the CSR8675™, which it is billing as the “world’s first integrated Bluetooth high definition audio platform with support for ambient noise cancellation” and claiming that it “enables OEMs to differentiate products while providing consumers with higher quality audio”.

The CSR8675 builds on the successful CSR8670™ part (which we use in many of our projects) but offers greater processing power, enhanced quality audio output and improved noise cancellation support. Like the CSR8670, the new CSR8675 is a Flash-based part (allowing it to run custom software), includes a DSP for audio processing and supports dual-mode Bluetooth 4.1 (meaning both Bluetooth® Classic and Bluetooth® Low Energy).

The CSR8675 contains an upgraded digital signal processor (DSP) core that delivers up to 120 MIPS of processing power, compared with 80 MIPS for its predecessor. This enables more advanced audio processing algorithms to be supported, resulting in very high quality, enriched audio performance. Coupled with the chip’s 24 bit digital audio support, this ensures that products based on the CSR8675 platform will deliver the high definition audio that is increasingly demanded by sophisticated consumers. In addition, the chip supports aptX® Low Latency and so will enable consumers to watch video while listening to synchronised wireless audio.

The CSR8675 platform also includes new support for Ambient Noise Cancellation (ANC), removing the need for an external ANC IC as used in many of today’s popular high-end headphones and headsets.

“Audiophiles looking to buy the highest quality audio devices crave exceptional sound quality together with the convenience of wireless connectivity,” says Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President, Business Group at CSR. “The CSR8675 offers customers new processing power and a platform upon which they can significantly differentiate their high-end products while delivering a truly immersive listening experience to the end user.”

CSR8675 key features:

  • Increased DSP performance up to 120 MIPS
  • Integrated high performance stereo DAC & ADCs
  • 24 bit digital audio support
  • 2 x I2S interfaces
  • 1 x SPDIF interface
  • 2 x additional GPIOs compared with the CSR8670
  • Bluetooth v4.1 support
  • 16Mb internal eflash and up to 64Mb external serial flash
  • 6 x Capacitive touch sensor inputs
  • Up to six digital microphone inputs
  • Support for ANC feed-forward architecture

Thoughts on Qualcomm’s Acquisition of CSR

What are the implications of Qualcomm’s acquisition of CSR should this deal be completed?

In this article, we consider the implications of Qualcomm’s proposed acquisition of CSR, should this deal be completed.

CSR’s Financial Health

The company is in good financial health; in the 12 months to 27th December 2013, CSR plc made an underlying operating profit of $104.3 million on revenue of $960.7m (c.f. $74.0m on $1,025.4m for the year to 2012). At the end of this period, the group had cash, cash equivalent, treasury deposits and investments of $306.2m (down from $333.3m for 2012).

During this same period, the main operating business, Cambridge Silicon Radio Ltd, made a profit of $60.2m on revenue of $921.4 million (c.f. $175.6m profit on revenue of $921.2m for the previous 12 months, but that year included a $258.9m windfall from the sale of part of the business to Samsung).

All this suggests that there was no financial imperative for the business to sell itself.

Qualcomm’s Rationale

From Qualcomm’s perspective, there are several benefits to the purchase of CSR; since it sold it’s handset business to Samsung, the remainder of CSR is a good (complimentary) fit with Qualcomm’s existing business, and the takeover would give Qualcomm a big boost in IoT (which is growing relative to the handset semiconductor market that Qualcomm already dominates). The purchase would prevent CSR from being taken over by any of Qualcomm’s rivals (such as Microchip who had already been in takeover discussions with CSR) and would reduce competition in the wireless semiconductor market.

Qualcomm would also gain CSR’s intellectual property (including it’s semiconductor patents and aptX audio standard), engineering teams, sales network and customer base.


While CSR is financially healthy, merging with Qualcomm would still hugely increase the scale of the business. This would help CSR to stay ahead of it’s rivals and to make the company better able to withstand the increasing commoditisation of it’s core technology areas. The boost to the resources available to CSR may also enable it invest more in developing compelling new products, buying out rivals, acquiring complimentary technology and boosting it’s market share.

A further potential benefit is that the combined company would have a market-leading position in the supply of Bluetooth® technology to both the mobile phone manufacturers and to the wireless accessory makers. By having this dominant position in both ends of the Bluetooth® connection, the company would be in a strong position to influence the technological development of the whole system, which could enable it to open up entirely new applications of the technology.

Of course, the flip side is that the acquisition would lead to reduced competition between the Bluetooth® platform vendors which could lead to increased prices and/or reduced innovation (as the need to out-innovate rivals to remain competitive would be reduced).

Financial Return and Investment

It’s not currently clear what RoI (Return on Investment) Qualcomm would expect to receive on the funds used to purchase CSR. However, there is a risk that they will be under pressure to extract a greater short-term financial return from the CSR business than an independent CSR would return to it’s shareholders. This would potentially mean pressure on headcount and reduced funds being available for R&D, leading to reduced levels of innovation.

Loss of Independence

Depending on the management structure that Qualcomm would put in place for the acquired business, there may be issues or concerns relating to the loss of independence and local control. For example, if the management structure becomes too top-heavy, the CSR business may become less agile and so less able to compete with it’s rivals. It may also have limits imposed on it in terms of it’s ability to acquire rivals or complimentary technology and to branch out into new areas of product development.

Staff Morale

Another potential impact of the loss of independence and local control would be a negative effect on staff morale and commitment to the company – especially of the staff based in Cambridge (which is currently the corporate headquarters as well as main R&D site). This would be further exasperated by any redundancies (which often follow takeovers), leading to the remaining staff feeling less secure.

Any such loss of morale or security, or any loss of commitment to the company, could lead to resignations which could, in turn, lead to a loss of competitiveness and innovation (especially if the senior engineers start to leave).

Innovative Edge

Historically, CSR has arguably been the most innovative developer of Bluetooth® platforms. As noted above, though, there are a number of ways in which this position would be threatened by a takeover by Qualcomm – possible reduction in spending on R&D, potential loss of key engineers or reduced levels of commitment to the business, reduced ability to recruit the best candidates, loss of business agility, etc.

On the other hand, Qualcomm may be willing to invest in the CSR business sufficiently that R&D is actually boosted and new areas of development are opened up that create new opportunities within the business for the staff, leading to improved morale and staff retention.

Customer Support

CSR have long been criticised for the poor level of support that they provide to all but their biggest customers. With their greater resources, Qualcomm could help to address this issue, for instance by improving the level of documentation available and better resourcing the customer support teams.

On the other hand, by becoming a small part of a big business, the CSR engineers could become even further removed from their customers than at present and support could get significantly worse. This could be especially true for CSR’s smaller customers; the scale of the combined CSR-Qualcomm business may mean that these customers are deemed to be too small to be worth bothering with, regardless of the possibility of these companies becoming future big customers.


CSR is currently headquartered in the UK and so is governed by UK (and EU) law. After a takeover by Qualcomm, the ultimate headquarters would be in the US and so much of CSR’s business may become subject to US law to a far greater extent than at present. To most customers, this is likely to make little difference, however for some it is a risk to be aware of.

Cambridge Effect

We consider here the local impact on Cambridge (UK) since we are also a Cambridge-based business.

Qualcomm would be unlikely to close CSR’s Cambridge office or make any major reduction in staff levels there as the existing team there is very competent and the CSR business is largely complimentary to Qualcomm’s. Their interest in buying CSR can thus be seen as a vote in confidence in the Cambridge technology cluster.

There will, however, be concerns about yet another of Cambridge’s (and the UK’s) big technology companies being bought out by a foreign business; it’s a further reminder that we are very good at R&D but not at capitalising on it.


There would be a number of benefits to Qualcomm’s purchase of CSR but there are also many risks too. The balance between the two will only become clear in time.

Qualcomm to Acquire CSR

Qualcomm Inc. agrees to buy CSR plc in deal that values the equity of the UK chipmaker at £1.56bn

Qualcomm, the world’s largest maker of mobile phone chips, has agreed to pay 900 pence a share for leading Bluetooth chip-maker CSR. The recommended all-cash offer represents a 56.5% premium on the share price before the start of the offer period, according to CSR.

CSR had previously rejected a bid from Microchip Technology, saying that the latter’s undisclosed offer was too low. The two had remained in talks to reach a deal but the UK’s Takeover Panel had imposed a deadline of yesterday for any fresh bid from Microchip. Qualcomm’s bid was announced just hours before this deadline expired.

While there is a possibility of further bids being made for CSR, this is perhaps unlikely given the high premium being offered by Qualcomm.

Joep van Beurden, CSR’s chief executive, said the Qualcomm deal would give his company, which will now become a significant division within Qualcomm, the resources to compete with bigger rivals.

“This deal is a ringing endorsement of CSR’s product, technology and our team,” he said. “If you look at the overall lay of the land in the semiconductor industry, it is very important to have scale, and with this transaction we’ve achieved that.

“I think it’s a compliment to the British tech scene. Qualcomm is the global leader . . . it’s a very good to be part of that, and it will allow us to continue to grow our business over the next couple of years.”

Qualcomm said the acquisition would strengthen its position in the so-called internet of everything, where everyday objects, from watches to fridges, are able to interact with each other and connect to the web.

Whether CSR’s staff will be as happy with the take-over as their management and Qualcomm’s remains to be seen; many, particularly CSR’s senior engineers, value the company’s status as an independent business and may feel less attached to the company after it’s merger. In addition, there will be concerns about different business practices being imposed on them from the new parent company. The combined company’s management will certainly have to tread carefully to retain CSR’s technical excellence.

New CSR Devices for Wireless Games Controllers

CSR Announce Launch of New Dual-Mode Bluetooth® Devices Targeted at Low Power, Next Generation Wireless Gaming Controllers

Having developed or co-developed a number of Bluetooth®-based games controllers, we are pleased to note that CSR plc have today announced the launch of two new Bluetooth devices designed specifically for this application. Unlike their older equivalent parts, the new CSRB5341™ and CSRB5342™ are both dual-mode Bluetooth® 4.1 parts (meaning they can operate using both Bluetooth® Classic and Bluetooth® Low Energy). Both are targeted at wireless gaming controllers and HID applications.

“CSR is committed to helping OEMs create exciting new functionality for the next generation of low-energy wireless gaming devices,” says Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President, Business Group at CSR. “With the CSRB534x series we are delivering a powerful, flexible and feature rich platform that can be used with multiple operating systems.”

Ultra-Low Power

By combining support for Bluetooth® Low Energy with CSR’s highly-efficient baseband technology, the new CSRB5341™ and CSRB5342™ parts enable the development of ultra low-power wireless gaming controllers that also minimise latency.


The new parts offer a wide range of fully configurable digital or analogue I/O, including direct LED drive. Both include embedded program ROM and RAM, and offer the option of using external SQI Flash memory. Both parts can utilise Apple’s MFi® protocol for use with iOS-based handheld devices, or SPP, HID or HID-over-GATT for other smartphone platforms.

The CSRB5342 also includes features such as embedded USB battery charging for lithium cells and digital microphone support.

“The Future is Wireless”

Bluetooth Special Interest Group survey finds that UK consumers recognise wireless connectivity has the potential to simplify their lives, with 72% of Brits expect to own a wireless accessory by 2016

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) are reporting that a survey they commissioned shows that 60% of Brits currently own a wireless connected accessory, including keyboards, health and fitness monitors and smart home devices, and that this figure will rise to 72% by 2016.

The SIG claim that these findings are in agreement with industry experts surveyed at this year’s Bluetooth World. Both predict that wearable technology devices, such as smart watches, smart eyewear and fitness monitors, will see the biggest growth in consumer demand of all wireless devices in the next year. This was followed closely by smart home devices, including smart light bulbs and temperature sensors. With over half (53%) of those surveyed saying they would like to be able to control appliances in their home directly from their smartphone in the future, smart home solutions look set to see significant growth in the next few years.

As the Internet of Things continues to mature wireless technology will become increasingly ubiquitous with 73% of consumers anticipating that the amount of things they do and control wirelessly will increase in the next five years. For those looking to invest in a device the most important factors when considering which one to buy* are the device being simple to use (54%), it connecting easily and quickly with a smartphone or PC without repeatedly having to reconnect (44%) and delivering information that’s truly useful (38%).

“It’s clear that consumers are seeing the benefit that wireless accessories of all types can bring them, with over half (58%) stating that connected devices could make the things they do every day quicker and easier,” said Suke Jawanda, Bluetooth SIG CMO. “But they also want devices that work seamlessly with their smartphones and tablets, are easy to use and provide them with the data they want. Bluetooth® Smart technology is built into practically every smartphone, tablet and PC on the market which means enabled accessories ‘just work’ with the devices they already own. And by connecting devices and mobile applications it can deliver information that’s truly useful. The technology also offers a simple pairing process and will automatically reconnect – so users looking to buy a wireless accessory know if its Bluetooth Smart enabled they’ll get a simple user experience.”

Mobile phone Bluetooth penetration hits 90%

Bluetooth penetration reaches 90% across all mobile phones

According to a report released at this year’s Bluetooth World event, Bluetooth® penetration across all mobile phones (not just smartphones) has reached 90 percent during 2014, with this figure expected to grow to 96 percent by 2018. This highlights the huge potential market for Bluetooth audio products, Bluetooth® Low Energy enabled proximity tags, fitness, health and sleep monitors and many other types of smartphone accessories.

These figures are contained within IHS Technology’s “Connectivity in Consumer, Mobile and IT Market Tracker” report.

Lisa Arrowsmith, associate director for connectivity, smart homes and smart cities at IHS Technology, notes the growth of Bluetooth technology in hub devices has driven Bluetooth® Low Energy (previously known as Bluetooth Smart) growth in a diverse array of applications. “It has really been phenomenal to watch Bluetooth Smart drive the creation of a whole new class of far-reaching solutions for the ‘Internet of My Things’. This growth is set to continue, as Bluetooth Smart is a leading choice for low-power solutions that need to communicate with consumer devices such as smartphones, tablets PCs, and more, creating a whole new category of ‘appcessories‘.”​

According to the Bluetooth SIG, “In addition to healthy forecasts for Bluetooth penetration in mobile phones, mobile PCs and media tablets, IHS forecasts growth of Bluetooth technology in the home, specifically in the living room. LCD TVs are also set to see growth in Bluetooth connectivity, from 19 percent today to 33 percent in 2018. PCs, both mobile and desktop, are projected to see extensive growth over the next four years. Mobile PC penetration will rocket from 56 percent in 2013 to 75 percent in 2018. Desktop PCs, while declining in sales overall, are expected to see growth in Bluetooth adoption from 10 percent in 2013 to 27 percent in 2018. Mobile and desktop PCs, acting as in-home hubs, will fuel the growth of Bluetooth Smart accessories for diverse applications.”

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