Meeting the UK’s big appetite for truly wearable technology

Sales of wearable devices in the UK is on the rise, according to a new survey from consumer insights research company GfK. Ownership of wearable tech amongst Brits has shot up with a total of 420,000 units bought since January 2014, reaching a combined value of £51 million.

The research, undertaken to investigate the main selling points for wearable tech, suggests that the crossover between technology and fashion in wearables is likely to increase. 73% of those surveyed said that they would consider wearing clothing or jewellery items with integrated trackers.

Earlier this year we conducted our own survey of consumers’ views on wearable technology and our results pointed to a similar trend. The research found that 72% of Brits agree that it’s important that wearable technology devices look good and 67% think that it’s important that their wearables fit with their personal style.

However, GfK has found that companies are not yet meeting these expectations. The report states for example that there is a widespread perception that smartwatches are regarded as “gadgets for geeks” and haven’t yet achieved mainstream appeal desired by manufacturers. This should mean that we can expect new and exciting designs ahead, prompting even more growth for the industry.

In order to prove that a device can balance being both fashionable and functional, we at CSR decided to develop a range of connected jewellery ourselves.

Bluetooth® Smart Jewellery

Bluetooth® Smart Jewellery

Designed in conjunction with boutique jeweller Cellini, the pendant-style connected necklaces contained CSR’s innovative Bluetooth® Smart solution – the CSR1012™. The integrated electronics enabled the wearer to customise the colour and brightness of the integrated LED to suit their mood or to coordinate with a particular outfit.

What is also clear from this report is that the challenges faced by manufacturers extend beyond just looks. Those surveyed by GfK ranked battery life, comfort and functionality as almost equal to or more important as the device’s design. What CSR’s connected pendant proves is that manufacturers can achieve great aesthetics as well as battery life, small form factor and fast connectivity.

If you are interested in learning more about the CSR1012, visit our product page where you can purchase a CSR µEnergy Development Kit.

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CSR’s DDFA amplifier gives Bluesound Powernode star power

What Hi-Fi? magazine recently awarded the Bluesound Powernode a fantastic five stars in this review. From my perspective this is fantastic as the audio performance level achieved by the Powernode is substantially provided by CSR’s DDFA amplifier technology. The reviewer concludes that “the Powernode is one of the most musical systems we’ve heard of this ilk, presenting itself in a very likeable manner indeed” – it’s certainly a glowing endorsement of our DDFA technology.

DDFA stands for ‘Direct Digital Feedback Amplifier’ and products using this technology invariably achieve outstanding audio performance levels; often compared favourably with the best linear amplifiers. We achieve that performance with our unique patented feedback architecture which compensates for any errors introduced by the amplifier power stage or power supply – no other digital amplifier technology can do this.

Sound quality is just one leading feature provided by DDFA. The DDFA architecture is Class D and so achieves a very high efficiency – over 90% – meaning a smaller power supply can be used, there’s far less heat dissipation and so the product form factor can be smaller and more elegant.

DDFA input is digital, meaning it can readily accept digital audio sources without the need for data conversion; this ensures a simpler solution  and maintains the performance level at its best.

In the case of the Powernode, a significant feature comes from DDFA digital input ability to support High Resolution Audio (HRA) – up to 32 bits and with a sample rate up to 192kHz – the Powernode rating of 24bit/96kHz is very attractive to audio aficionados. This requirement for HRA is definitely one that we are going to see more of in the future and not only in this type of higher end product.

You can pick up more on this point by reading What Hi-Fi competitive review of multi-room audio where the Bluesound product comes out on top. High-res is the leading feature which, along with the quality hi-fi sound, gives the product the winning edge.

To find out more about DDFA, visit our product page. Or watch the below video in which I give an overview of the features and benefits of DDFA.

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Want to take advantage of the IoT? Download our latest CSRmesh™ webinar

Are you a developer looking to create a new Bluetooth® Smart powered IoT device? If so, then download the second instalment of our CSRmesh™ webinar series to find out how it could help you.

We also have the first webinar of the series available to download, which discusses the key features and use cases of CSRmesh.

CSRmesh offers a number of advantages, allowing developers to increase the amount of devices controlled by a mobile device, offering high levels of security to the network and supporting a number of use-cases, in the home and the enterprise.

CSRmesh Development Board

The latest session was hosted by Staff Engineer Dmitry Shipilov, who covered:

  • CSRmesh architecture and its operation
    • Bearer layer which transmits and receives messages and passes them onto the transport layer
    • Transport layer which decrypts messages encrypted with the network key
    • Mesh association protocol layer which securely distributes the network key to the newly added device
    • Mesh control protocol which enables control and monitoring of devices within a specific network
  • Overview of the software implementation – on-chip and Android
  • The support developers can get on our forumwebinars, wiki and video channel

 

Interested in learning more about CSRmesh? Visit our web page or sign up below to our Bluetooth Smart newsletter to be kept up-to-date with our latest news and hear about our next webinar first. If you would like to purchase a CSRmesh Development Kit then take a look at the product page.

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Want to offer consumers improved audio quality on their long car journeys? Experience our aptX® enabled connected car at AES LA

 

At this year’s AES show in LA, we will be showcasing the different uses of aptX® in a car and the benefits it can bring to drivers and passengers alike.

The connected car at AES will include:

  • Head unit use case – we will we demonstrating the difference between aptX and the default codec for Bluetooth in the head unit. Attendees will be able to hear the enhanced audio performance delivered by aptX over SBC while sitting in the vehicle
  • Rear seat entertainment use case – by using iPad’s in the back seat of vehicles, we will showcase the improved latency that aptX offers, ensuring that visual and audio sync up for passengers

aptX has become the de facto wireless audio codec of choice for consumers in home and personal audio. Here’s why we expect the same uptake in a car:

  1. Growth of wireless audio

aptX is integrated into the majority of flagship smartphones on the market (including devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z1 and HTC One), giving consumers the potential to stream high quality audio to the head unit. Traditionally, there has been a general consumer complaint about the performance of Bluetooth audio in vehicles being much worse than radio or CD performance but aptX solves this issue. This, combined with the fact that the CD is increasingly becoming an optional component in new models, is driving Bluetooth audio in the vehicle.

And now that some of the world’s leading makers of car infotainment systems are taking notice this could soon become the norm. JVCKenwood and Clarion have chosen to integrate the aptX codec into their products, such as navigation and audio systems and we’ve had interest from many more. aptX is a brand consumers now trust for Hi-Fi audio and with automotive electronics manufacturers such as Alps Electric selecting aptX, drivers can stream pure wireless audio over Bluetooth to their car speakers without any loss in sound quality.

  1. Long car journeys

The average Briton spends 10 hours a week – over 500 hours a year – in their car, and this is similar all around the world, so it makes sense that tech companies would focus on making the driving experience smoother, more efficient and more enjoyable.

Vehicle manufacturers spend significant amounts of R&D money to ensure each vehicle’s audio system is tuned to offer the best possible experience, greatly surpassing anything that the average consumer will spend on their home audio. Using aptX, vehicle designers can ensure that there is no audio degradation over Bluetooth in the vehicle. As poor audio can actually have a negative health effect on those who listen to music for prolonged periods, aptX provides benefits to the likes of delivery men and lorry drivers who spend a lot of time in their vehicles.

  1. Future-proofing vehicles

In a fragmented market of many handset ecosystems that have traditionally caused patchy interoperability, Bluetooth offers universal connectivity, enabling all devices with aptX built-in to link up to the vehicle. As the life cycle of smartphones is much shorter than vehicles, this makes life easier for both customers and vehicle engineers as they can ensure that future mobile devices will connect and provide audio to automobiles.

Visit stand no. 1453 at AES LA to see the connected car in action and learn more about the improved experience aptX can bring to a vehicle.

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Get your mbed connectivity fix with CSR at ARM TechCon

Back in February we announced that we had joined the ARM® mbed™ platform, an industry venture designed to nurture the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), as a component partner. This partnership makes it easy for mbed community members to integrate CSR’s Bluetooth®Bluetooth SmartWi-Fi® and GPS connectivity solutions into existing IoT microcontroller projects.

With ARM TechCon now underway, we are present at mbed zone booth 900 today from 15.00-16.00 in the main hall showing the following:

-          A GPS board based on SiRFStarV

-          A Bluetooth Smart board based on CSR1010™

Notification of when these boards will be available will be shared on CSR’s partner page

Whether you’re a developer who wants to build a consumer wireless home security system or you require connection for sensors to an industrial control system, come and talk to us to discover how we can help ease your efforts in getting your connected products to market quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

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Bluetooth®: Changing the home audio market

This week, I discussed the factors driving growth of the home audio market in a guest blog for Huffington Post. A recent report by Futuresource Consulting found that wireless products have played a crucial role in ensuring that this market grows at a healthy rate and the blog looks at a number of other key market drivers.

Celebrity endorsement, the impact of Apple as well as the growth of soundbars and multi-room audio have all impacted this growth. And with CSR’s aptX® technology delivering CD-like audio quality over a Bluetooth connection, wireless audio products are only set to continue to increase in popularity, fuelling market growth further.

You can read the full blog here. And if you’re interested in hearing more about the importance of Bluetooth in home audio entertainment, you can view the panel discussion at the recent Bluetooth World Event.

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Secure smart lighting: CSRmesh™ leading the way for secure home automation

Many readers may have come across this story regarding a brand of connected LED light bulbs which can be hacked to change the lighting, and worse, to reveal the homeowner’s Wi-Fi® Internet password. It’s a serious issue, and it has illuminated (pardon the pun) that security needs to be considered in depth when Internet of Things (IoT) devices are being developed.

On this note, I thought it would be worth allaying any fears that CSRmesh™, our game-changing protocol which allows for Bluetooth® Smart mesh networks, could be subject to similar breaches. We have considered security at every stage of the design and as such, it primarily prevents against eavesdroppers, man-in-the-middle attacks and replay attacks, and is considered highly robust.

To illustrate this, let’s consider how you add a new device into a CSRmesh network. The network is secured using an encrypted network key. This is derived from a password or phrase that the user is asked to input when they first download the app onto their smartphone. To make the process of adding devices into the CSRmesh network easier, it is possible to publish a ShortText code, barcode, or QR code with the device. This code may contain the device address (128-bit UUID), the 64-bit authentication code, and other short information that may be relevant. This is particularly useful for deployment of larger networks.

During device association, the smartphone app will exchange keys with the advertising device and an encrypted network key will be provided to the device upon completion of the association process

During device association, the smartphone app will exchange keys with the advertising device and an encrypted network key will be provided to the device upon completion of the association process

Eavesdropping

The next phase is about trusting the new device. Once each device has its peer’s public key, then they can start to generate a secret authorisation value using a complex algorithmic process. To test this authorisation value, both the configuring and new devices share a public key and then challenge the peer device’s knowledge of this authorisation value such that they can be assured that not only has the public key been distributed correctly, but that the peer device knows the authorisation value.

Once they have authenticated each other, only then will they distribute the network key, using AES-128 encryption. This mea

ns that nobody else can eavesdrop on this communication to determine the network key. All future messages sent over the network will be encrypted using the network key and only trusted members of the mesh network will know that key and be able to decrypt these messages. Messages containing a different structure or network key, such as those from neighbouring networks, cannot be decoded and are simply ignored and dropped. It is therefore not possible to control or listen-in to a neighbouring network, nor to derive the network key from it.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

An optional authentication procedure can be employed using the private key to verify the validity of new devices before adding them to the network. A QR code or similar, containing this authentication code or private key, can be used for out-of-band authentication of devices appearing on the network and requesting access or association to the network. The smartphone, or associating device can scan the QR code from the device’s original packaging and thus securely obtain the authentication code “out-of-band”. When this device later appears on the network requesting association to the network and therefore requesting the network key, it can be challenged to also provide this out-of-band information or private key. This is then compared with what the associating device already gleaned from the QR code. If the two match, then the device is authenticated and the network key is encrypted and securely passed to the device being associated.

This authentication process therefore prevents an unknown device from accidentally or intentionally gaining access  to the network, a process known as a “man-in-the-middle” attack.

The relaying of messages through the mesh network is also securely managed. To accomplish this, each device that relays messages must also know the encrypted network key. Only messages that can be authenticated against a known network key are relayed. This allows devices that are near other mesh networks, for example a device near to a neighbour’s property, to only relay messages for known networks and not for any foreign network messages.

csrmeshloopReplay Attacks

There is always the potential for someone to steal the network key from a trusted network device, either by recording the encrypted information it is sending over the airwaves and playing it back at a later time, or by physically removing a device and reading its non-volatile memory. For this reason we prevent against ‘replay attacks’, someone trying to mimic a good network device message at a later time to try to gain access. A sequence number identifier is incremented and transmitted with each mesh message. If messages are replayed out of sequence then they are simply dropped and ignored. The network key data is not stored in a logical location in non-volatile memory, but is distributed across the memory hash table, making it very difficult to locate and identify. We would also recommend that any external trusted network devices use a separate network key that does not, for example, provide access to buildings or other secure areas.

The current release of CSRmesh for lighting supports only one network key per device, but a future version will support multiple network keys. This facilitates a ‘class of service’ structure for sub-networks within a building e.g. hotels which may require the enabling of different security zones.

 

Within the CSRmesh protocol there are also other security and control features such as:

  • Time-to-Live (TTL) counter: which determines how many hops or relays a message is allowed to make within the mesh network. The TTL is decremented every time a message is relayed. When it reaches zero, the message can no longer be relayed. This limits the size of a network and sets a boundary
  • TID message identifier: each message carries a unique TID. Devices receiving a new message compare its TID with the last few previously heard messages’ TIDs. If they are the same, that message is dropped,  meaning that messages that have already been heard before are not repeated again. This limits the proliferation of messages and prevents echoes and infinite loops in the network
  • A Seq sequence number: this maintains the location of messages within network and time. If messages appear out of sequence they are ignored, preventing record and replay attacks upon the network

 

As you can see, security is not something that is simple. Nor is it something that should be an afterthought in terms of design. It must be integral to the design of both the architecture and implementation of a networking solution. CSRmesh has been designed from the ground up to be as difficult as possible to be compromised, but it still includes the flexibility to increase the level of security over time as security algorithms improve.

Read more about the new CSRmesh protocol here. For a full list of features and information about ordering a CSRmesh Development Kit, click here.

If you have any security-related questions please post them below or on our support forum and we’ll get back to you.

 

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Interested in learning more about CSRmesh technology to develop a smart home device? Join our CSRmesh™ webinar

You may have heard about CSRmesh™ technology but do you want to hear more about how to use it to create a new Bluetooth® Smart device? If yes, then join us for the second instalment of our CSRmesh webinar series to find out.

In our introductory webinar to CSRmesh earlier this month, we provided an overview of the technology and demonstrated how it can be used by an almost unlimited number of Bluetooth Smart enabled devices that are simply networked together, and controlled directly from a single smartphone, tablet or PC. The webinar also provided information on how developers can use the technology to build intelligence into the network so that devices can communicate with each other directly as well as providing setup instructions.

The upcoming follow-up webinar will take place on September 23rd and will provide more detail on the ways in which developers can use CSRmesh to get their products to market quickly. The topics that will be covered during the webinar include:

•    CSRmesh architecture and its operation

•    CSRmesh protocols – association protocol, control protocol and models

•    Overview of the software architecture and implementation – on-chip and Android

Presenter: Dmitry Shipilov, Staff Engineer, CSR

Register Now: Join us on September 23rd at 8:00am or 4:00pm

In the meantime if you’re interested in finding out more about CSRmesh visit

http://csr.com/products/technology/csrmesh.

And if you’re unable to join the webinar please get in touch with bluetoothsmart@csr.com with any questions or check out our Forum and Wiki.

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Visit us at IFA to experience VibeHub™, the world’s most flexible multi-room audio system

At this year’s IFA show in Berlin, we are exhibiting VibeHub™, the flexible multi-room audio system that we launched earlier this year.

The VibeHub platform can be used to build wireless speakers, intelligent audio adaptors, networked audio amplifiers and a wide range of other consumer audio products. It gives developers a way to create whole home audio systems that are quick and easy to bring to market. The technology can be easily integrated and gives developers flexibility to differentiate their designs and determine the end-user experience.

VibeHub allows end-users to create groups of VibeHub powered products around their home, from a variety of brands, to playback fully synchronised audio using CSR’s unique SyncLock™ technology. It has been designed with the whole family in mind allowing different users to stream the music they want, from a wide variety of sources, in different rooms, all at one time.

synclock-diagram

Devices can simultaneously pull content from multiple sources including digital media servers, Internet radio or cloud services and distribute around the home autonomously. The SyncLock technology inside VibeHub-enabled products allows for support of a wide array of connectivity options, including Bluetooth®, Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, SPDIF as well as analogue for integration with legacy devices in the home.

Brands including BRAVEN, Crystal Acoustics, International Receiver Company, and Podspeakers are demonstrating their latest audio products, powered by the disruptive platform, at the show. Visit us at our exhibition booth (Hall 1.2 – Stand 103) to see VibeHub in action and learn more about CSR’s vision for a cost-effective, flexible and easy to use connected home audio experience.

Full house at IFA

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Developing an IoT device? Here are five things you should know about CSRmesh™

We recently hosted a live webinar on CSRmesh™ to give developers looking to build Internet of Things devices an introduction to the new solution which allows an almost unlimited number of Bluetooth® Smart enabled devices to be simply networked together and controlled directly from a single smartphone, tablet or PC for the first time.

The session was hosted by Applications Engineer, Alan Hay, who gave an overview of CSRmesh including background, key features, and use cases. The recording can be listened to on-demand here, or you can take a quick read of the five key takeaways below:

1. Bluetooth Smart market growth means CSRmesh can scale quickly

With worldwide annual shipments of Bluetooth Smart ICs set to surge to almost 300 million units in 2018, Bluetooth Smart is now integrated into millions of devices including mobiles, tablets, and laptops. As CSRmesh can be integrated into any CSR Bluetooth Smart device, this significantly increases the scope and scale of available connectivity.

2. CSRmesh allows you to increase the amount of devices controlled by a mobile device

Messages in CSRmesh networks are relayed throughout the network, hopping from node to node, allowing for significantly extended range and extended scope of the use cases. It also offers minimal propagation delay with ~15ms from node to node. Nodes in the CSRmesh network can be addressed individually or assigned to a group, with up to 65,535 devices per network.

All of these devices can be controlled from an application on existing mass market devices. These mobile devices can also be connected to the internet, meaning they can be remotely controlled from anywhere in the world.

3. The network is secure and robust

CSRmesh is based on flood mesh architecture so there is no single point of failure; if one device malfunctions, it doesn’t break the overall system. All messages are encrypted to prevent eavesdropping attacks and authorisation codes are used to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

Messages are sent on three separate channels, all of which co-exist very well with Wi-Fi, and are sent using proven CSR silicon including the CSR101x™, CSR8811™, and CSR8670™.

4. It doesn’t require any special hardware

Unlike ZigBee, Z-wave or other proprietary protocols which require an extra dongle or plug-in device, CSRmesh communicates directly from the phone bridging to Bluetooth Smart Ready devices. CSRmesh is also supplied with a software library with accompanying API and is fully compatible with all existing CSR Bluetooth Smart radio devices.

5. The list of use-cases extend well beyond just home automation

Applications for CSRmesh extend beyond just smart lighting to heating controls, temperature sensors, security alarms, access controls and many more. As well as in the Smart Home, mesh networking has an exciting number of uses cases in the enterprise space, for example fitting industrial-scale buildings with smart networks.

Interested in learning more about CSRmesh? Visit our web page or sign up below to our Bluetooth Smart newsletter to be kept up-to-date with our latest news and hear about the next CSRmesh webinar first.

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