New BLE Patent Extends Range and Reduces Power

Published: February 16, 2024

Ceva is selling the technology patented by NYU Abu Dhabi researchers that more than doubles the range of BLE devices and reduce power consumption by 90 percent

Researchers at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) have developed a way to extend Bluetooth transmission range that could potentially enable Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) applications that require a long-read range, higher transmission performance or lower energy demands.

The research, led by NYUAD research scientists Ahmad Bazzi and Lisa Meilhac, recently gained a patent on the solution. The technology is now being offered to developers and device manufacturers by silicon and software IP company Ceva Inc.

The technology upgrades performance and enables smaller, lower cost devices for basic rate (BR) Bluetooth and BLE. The upgrade could mean enabling applications that not only need greater distance transmissions, but more precise location, higher reliability in crowded environments, or lower power. Bazzi says the technology requires about 40 percent of the power needed for standard BLE radios.

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Decoding for Lower Complexity

The technology is based on a new approach to decoding the RF signal with a sequence of symbols modulated by CPM (continuous phase modulation). Decoding is a process required in wireless communication as beacon data is sent and received. Bazzi explains that his team created a decoder that uses less complexity than standard decoders, centered around CPM using a simple discriminator receiver.

While compromising some of the inherent complexity of Bluetooth transmission decoding, the system can achieve up to four decibels (dB) of power.

“Thanks to these mathematical approximations you can really boil down the complexity to something close to the [standard] decoder with enormous gains in energy,” Bazzi says.

Bluetooth Audio and BLE Applications

The benefits will be found in Bluetooth audio—speakers or earbuds can gain a longer range when operating with a smartphone or other BLE device.

However, it also will enable applications with BLE in which the system developed by Bazzi’s team would be built into BLE tags, beacons or smart phones that are part of BLE systems.

One example of a BLE-based deployment could be in the healthcare market where products and equipment, such as wheelchairs, need to be tracked as they move around a hospital. With a beaconing tag applied to the wheelchair, and BLE in a smartphone or beacon anchors, a wheelchair could be tracked at 50 meters rather than more traditional 20 meters. That could mean coming within range of the item a user is seeking earlier if they are carrying a BLE device.

If a hospital set up a fixed infrastructure of anchor beacons to interact with assets like wheelchairs, the technology could enable more location data with fewer anchors, ultimately reducing the cost of the deployment.

In another application, Bluetooth-empowered wheelchairs could be controlled by users via a smartphone, or Bluetooth device.

Extending BLE in Commercial Settings

If a retailer was using BLE technology to help transmit relevant content about products and coupons with shoppers based on their location, the technology could enable beacons to capture more data, at a longer range, with potentially high performance than standard BLE, Bazzi opines.

“More people means a more noisy environment for Bluetooth,” said Bazzie, pointing out the patented decoder should be able to operate within that environment so that more people within the same store could send and receive data effectively.

Similarly, for wayfinding, a user could be directed through a site such as a hospital or airport, employing their phone as a beacon device to receive indoor navigation information. The data could show their location and direct them to a specific site, and alert them earlier than with a standard BLE device as they approach their destination.

Home Health Care Solutions

On the consumer side, the technology offers potential benefits as well, Bazzi says. For instance, BLE use in the home of an elderly or at-risk adult could help track behavior and detect safety or health concerns.

If an elderly user of the system falls, doesn’t get out of bed, or leaves the home unexpectedly, that information could be detected and made available to those using a related app. The technology could be used to transmit sensor data as well, such as the heart or breathing rate of someone wearing a BLE device and sensors.

Additionally, the system can improve performance for gaming by identifying where users are located and adjusting their experience accordingly.

Low Energy Use

With the patent approved, the technology will soon be made available to developers and manufacturers, with products using the system expected to hit the market beginning in 2025.

Even if developers don’t require the long range or performance in crowded environments that the system boasts, according to Bazzi, the other benefit is low power consumption.

“Let’s say 20 meters is enough and this is the maximum range you want,” he says. “You will be able to achieve the same distance at less power,” when using the new decoder technology. In fact, devices would typically require about 40 percent of the power needed for standard BLE devices.

That means developers can build a device that lasts longer without a recharge, be smaller and less expensive, due to reduced requirements around power amplification.

“The most expensive part of any electronic device is the power amplifier,” said Bazzi.

Developers could build devices that demand less power amplification and that means offering lower cost products.

Key Takeaways:
  • NYU Abu Dhabi research leads to high performance, low energy version of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
  • Ceva will be offering silicon that uses the new Bluetooth decoder that has been patented, to allow Bluetooth Audio and BLE applications at low power and long range.