What is Wibree?


Wibree is a short-range wireless protocol optimized for low power consumption. Developed primarily by Nokia, the company has submitted Wibree as an open standard to promote adoption and interoperability. Wibree is intended to compliment Bluetooth communications in certain PAN applications where small, lightweight design makes standard Bluetooth communication unsuitable or difficult. For instance, Bluetooth-enabled wristwatches require relatively large transmitters and batteries, making the devices heavy and uncomfortable. Wibree-enabled wristwatches can use smaller transmitters and smaller batteries, increasing user comfort and reducing fatigue while extending battery life.

Wibree operates in the same 2.4 GHz frequency band as Bluetooth, which ensures backwards hardware compatibility. Due to this, a single antenna can support both protocols, and many existing Bluetooth devices will require only a simple software update to communicate with Wibree devices. While these upgraded devices will not benefit from the size savings dedicated Wibree models enjoy, they will see much improved battery life. Additionally, compatibility with newer Wibree models will help prolong the lifespan of existing equipment.

While Wibree and Bluetooth are similar protocols with overlapping functions, Wibree differs from Bluetooth in several fundamental ways. First, recent Bluetooth specifications, notably 2.0, are designed with an emphasis on throughput, or data transfer speed. Bluetooth 2.0 devices can exceed speeds of 350 kb/s under ideal conditions. This is about three times the maximum speed of planned Wibree devices, which transfer data no faster than.128 kb/s. The tradeoff comes to light in terms of power, space and weight savings. Current Bluetooth-enabled wristwatches must replace their large, specialty batteries on a monthly basis. Planned Wibree models, with comparable features, can last over a year on a single standard button battery. In addition to the smaller, lighter battery, Wibree watches utilize antennas less than a third the size of current Bluetooth antennas. The combined space savings help fit the wireless Wibree hardware in a wristwatch no larger than a standard quartz watch, with a comparable weight. In contrast, Bluetooth watches are heavy and bulky, making them inappropriate and even uncomfortable for everyday use.

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