Broadcom baits developers with a WICED plan

Broadcom baits developers with a WICED plan

SDK, tag kit with sensors, community, power initiative

Broadcom baits developers with a WICED plan

Broadcom, the $8.43-billion, Irvine, California-based fabless semiconductor giant, is betting big on the Indian software developer community hopping onboard its WICED (wireless internet connectivity for embedded devices) platform to create applications and devices for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT is the network created when sensors on everyday consumer electronic devices and domestic appliances like televisions, alarms, refrigerators and digital cameras share data by connecting to the internet.

The belief is that if you build applications to manage these devices, consumers can remotely control them and lead more meaningful and efficient lives. Broadcom’s role here is as the leader in providing wireless connectivity to the internet for all manner of devices.

“Be it smartphones, feature phones, routers, televisions, remote controls — it’s Broadcom which powers the technology behind wireless connectivity through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, GPS, or NFC,” said Rahul Patel, the senior Vice-President and General Manager of Broadcom’s global wireless connectivity division.

Many platforms would eventually sprout to provide developers with the tools to create IoT applications. Broadcom’s WICED (pronounced “wi-kid”) is perhaps the first major effort in this space.

It consists of a development system for Wi-Fi connectivity called WICED Wi-Fi, another for Bluetooth Low Energy applications called WICED SMART, and a tag development kit called WICED Sense.

The last mentioned is a physical kit which contains a Bluetooth Low Energy board, a system-in-a-chip (SiP) module, five sensors, and software. It costs a mere $20 and is available for purchase through multiple vendors in India.

Developers joining the platform have to access its site (broadcom.com/products/wiced/) to register themselves for free and download either the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth development kit. “At last count, there were 10,000-plus free downloads from around the world,” Patel said.

The sensors are contained in the WICED Sense evaluation kit. The WICED Sense app, available from both the Apple app store for iOS, and the Google Play store for Android devices, is the user interface to control the sensors.

A community to handhold

Developers who want to clear any doubts can go to the Broadcom forum (community.broadcom.com) where an army of peers provide simple solutions. Besides, there’s also handholding from the Broadcom Connectivity team, Patel said.

Broadcom is an unusual semiconductor biggie in that it doesn’t fabricate any chips on its own. Instead, it works with fabs to design the chips with its intellectual property (IP) in it. It makes money by selling these integrated circuits (ICs) — two billion of them annually. Consequently, Broadcom’s WICED platform to create IoT devices doesn’t have a sales window like the app store in iTunes for Apple, or the Google Play store for Android apps.

Broadcom also doesn’t ask revenue share from developers. Instead, it hopes to make money when the IoT devices embed its chips for wireless connectivity. In calendar 2013, Broadcom’s mobile and wireless division was its largest, pulling in $3.9 billion.

Thousands of (IoT) devices created using the WICED platform are already in the market, said Rajiv Kapur, MD, Broadcom Semiconductor India. Devices made by newbies and amateurs are jousting for attention and market share, along with those by established names like Honeywell (Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat), Samsung (Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch), and Leapfrog (LeapPad Ultra tablet). In India, Broadcom has partnered with TCS’ Connected Universe Platform to handhold developers.

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