Broadcom unveils new 'Internet of Things' chips

Heart rate monitors, pedometers, door locks, weight scales, thermostats and security cameras? It's all about M2M.

U.S. semiconductor company Broadcom introduced two new microchips this morning, both for use in embedded, "Internet of Things"-style applications.

The first is the company's BCM20732 "Bluetooth Smart system-on-a-chip," or SoC for short, intended for use in low-cost, low-power peripherals that work with Google Android-based smartphones and tablets.

The ARM Cortex M3-based chip allows original equipment manufacturers to connect devices such as heart rate monitors, pedometers, door locks, lighting and proximity alarms, powered by a coin cell battery that will allow for operation for "more than one year," the company claims.

The idea is to add connectivity where none existed before, with a focus on the health and fitness, personal security, and home automation markets.

The other chip is the company's BCM4390 Wi-Fi system-on-a-chip, intended for the same low-power embedded applications as the chip mentioned above but without the Bluetooth and Android-specific use case.

Like the other chip, it's all about adding connectivity where it wasn't before possible in a way that's economically feasible. The chip is designed for 8- and 16-bit microcontroller systems and targets the same markets as the chip above. This model, however, is based on Broadcom's "Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices," or WICED, platform and allows for very simple applications, such as slow cookers and lights.

With a predicted 30 billion connected devices in the market by 2020, the business opportunity is sizable.

The BMC20732 is currently sampling with evaluation boards and SDKs and is available in volume production; the BCM4390 is now sampling to early-access customers, with full production expected in Q4 2013.