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Toshiba Adds to Wearable Device Chip Portfolio

The new ARM-based TZ1021MBG chip is aimed at such uses as smartwatches, smart glasses and activity monitors.

Toshiba chip

Toshiba this month will begin sampling a new ARM-based application processor designed for wearable devices.

Company officials announced the TZ1021MBG chip Nov. 10, the latest member of its TZ1000 family of ApP Lite application processors for wearable devices such as smartwatches, smart glasses, activity monitors and smart bracelets. The new product will be on display during the four-day Electronica 2014 show in Germany starting Nov. 11, and Toshiba officials said the goal is to get the chip into mass production by March 2015.

The chip includes an integrated 48MHz ARM Cortex-M4F CPU with flash memory that is found in other chips in the ApP Lite product group, but it comes without the Bluetooth Low Energy and accelerometer that were integrated into the TZ1001MBG, which was launched in April. This makes the TZ1021MBG smaller and slimmer, according to Toshiba officials. The ARM Cortex-M4F CPU includes digital signal processing (DSP) and floating-point processing, enabling the combining of data from multiple sensors.

Toshiba officials said their new TZ1021MBG chip also includes highly sensitive analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) that will help devices pick up and measure weak biomedical signals—such as a pulse or a heart's electrical activity—and leverages a low-power design for devices that need long battery life.

The chip comes in a small package—it measures 6.7mm by 4mm by 1mm—and includes 8MB of memory.

The wearable device space is expected to grow rapidly over the next several years, with IDC analysts saying in April that unit shipments will exceed 19 million this year—three times that of 2013—and that by 2018, that number will grow to 111.9 million units. Major tech players like Samsung, Apple and Google are pushing their way into the space with a growing range of devices, competing with specialized vendors such as Fitbit and Jawbone.

Component makers—from Freescale to Broadcom to MediaTek—also are pushing out products and platforms. Intel is embracing wearables and the larger Internet of things (IoT) trend, from launching a new family of small, very low-power chips called Quark to working with companies like Opening Ceremonies to develop a smart bracelet.