Broadcom Corporation today introduced a sophisticated new software and hardware solution that greatly simplifies the process of securely connecting wireless keyboards and mice to computers and other devices. Manufacturers can now ship wireless peripherals standard with their computers, rather than having to include a wired keyboard for configuration purposes.
This new technology is based on software that Broadcom recently acquired in the purchase of WIDCOMM, Inc., which had developed the most widely deployed Bluetooth software protocol stack in the PC industry.
With current competing solutions, Bluetooth wireless peripherals are unable to create first-time secure associations with a desktop or notebook PC without the use of a wired keyboard that must be included as standard equipment with the PC. In contrast, PCs enabled with Broadcom’s technology can detect and associate with Bluetooth peripherals right out of the box without the need for a separate wired keyboard. Although this implementation is unique in the industry, it is based upon and compliant with version 1.2 of the Bluetooth specification. The inability to ship Bluetooth peripherals standard with PCs has been a barrier to mass market adoption of these products, and this new innovation will help drive the industry toward more standard wireless offerings.
The new feature is available with the Broadcom Blutonium BCM2035 and BCM2040 single-chip Bluetooth transceiver platforms, integrating software and hardware components into a peripheral that presents itself to a target host computer as a USB device, enabling the keyboard or mouse to emulate a wired connection. The user can utilize the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse during PC boot up time and even in Windows Safe mode. This new technology was under joint development by WIDCOMM and Broadcom for a year prior to the recent acquisition and is enabled by tight integration of the WIDCOMM software with Broadcom’s Bluetooth integrated circuit products and embedded software.
With solutions dedicated to wireless peripherals, Broadcom has emerged as a leading enabler of Bluetooth human interface device (HID) products.
“Bluetooth’s goal is to wirelessly bind together the personal electronic devices that are increasingly important to us as we communicate and work,” said Scott Bibaud, Director of Marketing for Bluetooth Products at Broadcom. “Dependence upon a wired keyboard to enable the first time use of a Bluetooth keyboard is now a thing of the past. Our continued focus is on making Bluetooth products easier to use. The recent acquisition of WIDCOMM clearly puts us in a unique position to achieve this strategic objective and thus expand the Bluetooth market potential for our customers.”
Broadcom’s Blutonium Bluetooth chip platforms enabled with this new feature utilize an on-chip three-port USB hub implemented in actual silicon logic to perform a unique USB hardware emulation mode, so that associated PCs or laptops recognize devices as connected via hardware, rather than software. Competing solutions rely upon a software-based HID connection, creating potential security concerns in environments where multiple wireless keyboards are present and requiring the host PC to boot with an appropriate Bluetooth driver pre-installed. This driver limitation necessitates that any new Bluetooth peripheral attempting to connect must be configured by means of another keyboard that is already connected by a wire, adding cost and complexity to the set-up process.
“Connecting a wireless keyboard to a PC shouldn’t require a wired keyboard or multi-step software configuration processes that mainstream users aren’t prepared to perform,” said Myron Jones, President of peripheral manufacturer NMB Technologies Corporation. “Broadcom’s technology contributes to making our wireless keyboard and mouse products more convenient and easy to use, which is what Bluetooth was designed for in the first place.”
In addition to facilitating ease-of-use, the WIDCOMM BTW software for Windows products also includes built-in security features that prevent unauthorized peripherals to connect to host devices once an association has been confirmed. The BTW software provides other enhancements over the native Bluetooth functionality integrated into Windows, providing greater ease-of-use and a richer experience for the user.
Broadcom’s BCM2035 and BCM2040 devices have been shipping in volume production since 2003, and the associated WIDCOMM BTW software with Broadcom’s unique boot mode is now available to Broadcom’s strategic partners.