With introduction of the Bluetooth Mesh, the year of 2018 marks itself as the milestone year for Bluetooth technology. Twenty years after the launch of first wireless Bluetooth, the technology continues to rule today with a tremendous increase in the number of users and use-cases. Advancements in IoT technology has led an urge in understanding the location of a person or “thing” indoors across a wide range of industries.
Driving the Evolution
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is the driving force in the evolution of this technology. SIG is the frontrunner in encouraging continued development and reaching out to new industries, while also promoting the current uses of Bluetooth and its growth potential.
A Bluetooth’s compatibility encompasses a variety of laptops, PCs, handheld devices, and wearables. In addition, the Bluetooth SIG has plans to increase the data rates of this technology to support an array of multimedia applications and greater usage. This represents an effort to keep pace with developments in other areas of technology. The Bluetooth technology is likely to prompt the emergence of a new paradigm of applications using micro-location triggers to deliver new experiences and interactions.
Numerous tech-enthusiasts, including the Bluetooth development community, have helped in pushing the wireless communication beyond limits. Nevertheless, Bluetooth has been a key enabler of new markets by becoming synonymous with multiple consumer markets, first in audio and entertainment; then phones, tablets, and PCs; followed by automotive; and later the connected device market.
Indoor location technologies have transformed the retail industry with the use of applications that engage customers with advertisements as soon as they enter a store. These technologies guide the user to the general area where an item they’re looking for is located. Similarly, knowing the location of products, tools and people in the manufacturing industry helps to improve the operational efficiency, employee safety and quality control. The list of applications that can benefit from indoor location capabilities is endless and keeps aiding various industries such as, sports, healthcare, and law enforcement.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chips
Bluetooth beacons – a system of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chips – are utilized by indoor location systems to transmit a unique signal forming a “network” among themselves. Beacons are popular for basic indoor locations because of their simplicity. Each beacon puts out an array unique signals that are received by a smartphone in the vicinity. The smartphone’s location can be estimated by determining the beacon’s location based on these signals and a reference map information. The methodology is quite simple—signals that are received strongly signify the phone is close to the beacon, others that are received weakly assume the phone is further away.
These BLE enabled sensors will act as a platform with millions of possibilities for developers and designers to create truly innovative experiences and services. A user-centric approach with tailored content and experiences for a specific location is essential for successful development of a product. In the age of beacons, contextually irrelevant, impersonal, and random content and services will become annoying and may deter users.
The Bluetooth Mesh
Bluetooth SIG recently released the specifications for the latest development standard – Bluetooth mesh. It is a mesh networking structure for BLE devices, which is a more reliable and scalable solution for various IoT (Internet of Things) and home automation devices that need low-energy networking technology to interact and exchange information among themselves. The technology is already available for use in devices using at least Bluetooth v4.0 and higher.
The Bluetooth mesh could be a single communications standard for connecting our complex world of mobile computing devices. But the major concern, when it comes to IoT, is about the security and privacy of the smart devices.
The latest version of the Bluetooth wireless communication standard, launched by Bluetooth SIG. is Bluetooth 5.0. It’s commonly used for audio hardware and wireless headphones, along with mice, wireless keyboards, and game controllers. A new version of the Bluetooth standard means various improvements, but only when used with compatible peripherals. The benefits of Bluetooth 5.0 are threefold – speed, range and bandwidth. Bluetooth 5.0 multiplies the wireless range by four times, doubles the transfer speed, and increases the bandwidth allows for broadcasting to two wireless devices at once. With Bluetooth 5.0, devices can use data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps, which is double compared to what the Bluetooth 4.2 version supports.
In a recent statement, Bluetooth SIG proclaimed that their working groups delivers one new specification or at least an update each month. As the Bluetooth market and its applications continue to grow, Bluetooth chips are installed within a diverse array of things which are available in the consumer tech market. The evolution of Bluetooth continuously involves the improvement in performance, compatibility, functionality and optimization of the technology. The low-energy versions of Bluetooth devices saves the consumer both time and money, which in-turn improves the sustainability of the technology. This sustainability also aims to open new markets and uses for Bluetooth technology, from travel and tourism to new medical applications.