Bluetooth 5: What you need to know

July 27, 2016 OpenSystems Media

The new version of Bluetooth technology promises to make the Internet of Things (IoT) accessible to everyone, but what does that really mean?

First, let’s take a look at the key features of Bluetooth 5, which will include significantly increased range, speed, and broadcast messaging capacity:

  • By quadrupling the range, Bluetooth will deliver powerful, reliable IoT connections that make whole-home, whole-building, and outdoor use cases a reality. Want your upstairs bedroom lights to turn on when you unlock your door? You can do that. Want to keep an eye on the temperature of your steak on the grill from the comfort of your couch? You can do that too. Increased range is going to take the invisible leash off of your wireless devices and connect devices across a large footprint like never before.
  • By doubling the speed, Bluetooth will send data faster and optimize responsiveness. Downloading wearable data or uploading a software update will take less time and you can expect reduced lag in device control. In short, faster speeds are going to make the consumer experience seamless.
  • An 800% increased broadcast capacity will propel the next generation of “connectionless” services like beacons and location-relevant information and navigation. This means you won’t need to open a specific app for or actively connect to every device you want to interact with. Think hassle-free airport navigation experiences, asset tracking of warehouse inventory, improved emergency response, even smart city infrastructure that helps the visually impaired be more mobile.

These updates come at a crucial time for Bluetooth and the IoT. According to Patrick Connolly, Principal Analyst at ABI Research, there are more than 371 million Bluetooth enabled beacons projected to ship by 2020. Already, there are 8.2 billion Bluetooth products in use, and it is projected that Bluetooth will be in more than one-third of all installed IoT devices by 2020. The features promised in Bluetooth 5 are necessary to take advantage of this anticipated growth in the deployment of IoT devices as well as beacons and location-based services in the home automation, enterprise, and industrial markets.

Bluetooth 5 advancements also open up more possibilities for SIG companies – now at an all-time high of 30,000 member companies – to build a more accessible, interoperable IoT. Meaning, Bluetooth 5 has the potential to transform the way people experience the IoT by turning it into something that simply happens, seamlessly, around them. With the major boost in broadcast messaging capacity, the data being transferred will be richer and more intelligent and, again, will be transferred in a seamless “connectionless” IoT model. So, in scenarios where contextual awareness like navigation and pin-point location are crucial, Bluetooth 5 will send custom information people actually find useful in that moment without connection and application barriers.

In other words, this means no more searching through your phone for the right app at the right time. The information you want will come to you when you need it.

Ultimately, we are still in the early stages of the IoT. Developers and consumers alike are dreaming of the perfectly interoperable, totally seamless, smart cities of the future, but Bluetooth 5 promises to be one of the building blocks that will get us there.

Errett Kroeter is the Senior Director of Brand & Developer Marketing at the Bluetooth SIG, and works in conjunction with more than 30,000 member companies to guide the ongoing development, implementation, and market proliferation of Bluetooth technology.

Erret Kroeter, Bluetooth SIG
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