Took a half day off yesterday to hit up Wireless Japan 2009. One of the things I noticed about the shows this year is that they're much smaller than the events that were held last year. I guess show exhibitors is a pretty decent gauge of the economic health of an industry.

One of the things that surprised me is that I actually knew people at this year's Zigbee Pavilion. I guess the Zigbee community is pretty small. A couple of people actually recognized my blog as well which surprised me. I've spent so much time isolated in Japan that I have no clue about the audience, other than the webstats. And I suspect that half of the webstats are actually computerized bots that just want to spam my site. 

One thing that disappointed me was that TI Japan was conspicuously absent. I was hoping to talk to them because I'm not getting any responses for inquiries on purchasing the radios from the Japan disti. I was hoping to add some CC2520s to my dev board radios since they currently seem to be heavily weighted towards Atmel.

Speaking of Atmel, I was talking to the Atmel product engineer and he mentioned that there are a lot of things coming out soon on the Zigbee front. He was pretty straightforward about them so  I don't think they're a big secret (the datasheet was visibly open on the laptop and he was carrying samples in his pocket). They should be an announcing a single die AVR + radio based on the AT86RF231 soon. This would be a major improvement because their previous multi-chip modules that combined the AVR and 802.15.4 radios didn't seem to get very popular within the 802.15.4 community. You know its bad when they don't even have dev boards with the chips on them. Their most popular dev kit, the Raven, has a discrete AVR MCU and radio. They should have some new dev boards out soon as well.

I was also complaining to him that Atmel was ruining the price of dev kits and modules for everyone by pricing the Raven USB sticks at $40. He just smiled and said that it wasn't the first time he heard that complaint. Apparently, the original price for the Raven USB sticks were $29 but they had so many complaints that they had to raise it to $40. Damn...if they had to buy their own chips, they'd be losing shitloads of money. Other than that, the Atmel guy is totally cool and I told him that if he had free time, we could go to dinner. I hung out with him last year too and the guy's a total trance head. He would stay out until 5am and hit up the trance and techno clubs. Heh kind of engineer...

Checked out the new Ember EM351 ARM Cortex chips too. I have a feeling that they'll be popular in the metering industry since the current EM250/260 series is currently bursting at the seams in terms of code space. It's probably due to all of the security and features that got added into the Zigbee Smart Energy profile, so the Cortex lineup should ease things on that front. 

And one of the things that kind of made me sad was seeing the ANT display at the front of the Nordic booth. ANT is a separate company from Nordic, but you can buy ANT chips which are Nordic nRF24xx chips with the ANT stack in the flash pre-programmed. The problem is that Nordic is making a heavy push towards Bluetooth Low Energy whose guns are aiming directly at the market that ANT made a niche out of. ANT has a good following in the personal health and fitness industry because the protocol is low power, small, and uses the nRF24 which is fairly cheap. However Bluetooth Low Energy is competing directly in this market, plus they have the backing of the cell phone giants and connectivity with Bluetooth enabled cell phones that sport dual mode chips. It's probably going to put the nails in the coffin of ANT if BLE is anywhere near as successful as they hope. It was also the first time that I heard an ANT rep bash a protocol other than Zigbee which was quite amusing.

And finally, here are the pictures. I threw in some eye candy just to see if it'd attract more visitors to the site. If so, then I might turn this into a combined Zigbee/trade show models site. Something similar to LowRider magazine and they're artistic use of females. Enjoy!

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