Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor finds wearables "really interesting." He should. Broadcom is the king of wireless connectivity, with its chips touching 99.98 percent of all data traffic and resident in 75 percent of cell phones, according to the company.
Now McGregor is aiming to conquer the emerging wearable market, but it will require a substantially different approach than how it seeds cell phone makers with its chips. "In the cell phone market there are about 10 companies who make 90 percent of cell phones," he said. "The market for wearables will be very different because the electronics cost is much lower, enabling huge growth in innovation in next five years."
Selling millions of semiconductors to giants like Apple and Samsung and catering to their needs is much different than selling to thousands of tiny startups crowdsourcing their hardware on Kickstarter.
"We have to make our products consumable by wearable makers, so that someone making a dog health monitor who wants to buy in the thousands could purchase chips and get support," McGregor said. Broadcom is looking at working through distribution partners and offering more Web support for the small players, as well as establishing closer relationships with module makers who can offer pre-FCC certified components to wearable makers.
The company just introduced its WICED (Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices) Direct platform, which includes Wi-Fi Direct support that allows two devices to communicate over Wi-Fi without an access point or computer. The technology allows low-cost, low-power wearable devices, such as fitness bracelets, smartwatches, and health monitors, to communicate via a smartphone or tablet.
At a press event Tuesday, Broadcom showcased a few wearables and Internet of Things, ranging from a Bluetooth-enabled cooking thermometer with an app to a button-sized sensor on garments and fashion accessories that can communicate with a mobile device and enable access to product information, inventory look-up, and social sharing.
IMS Research predicts that as the Internet of Things takes off there will be 30 billion wirelessly connected devices by 2020.