Today it is difficult to find a wireless enabled smart device that doesn’t use Bluetooth in some form or another. That double arrow head symbol appears in all sorts of places from your car, your wrist, your phone and many smaller items in the home. Bluetooth is a standard and with most standards the need to evolve to meet the changing needs of the markets it is used in.
Most devices today will use a range of Bluetooth 4.0 enabled technologies – this has made a marked improvement on energy efficiency so developers have been able to put Bluetooth into more battery based devices. However the next generation Bluetooth 5 is venturing into different areas, taking Bluetooth out of its usual box. Zigbee has established itself as very short range enabling it to gain traction in the industrial space. Bluetooth 5 is going to open these opportunities even further with several key features:
- The distance that Bluetooth can communicate over is going to increase, expanding Bluetooth as the key communication approach for smart homes. The range offered by earlier versions of Bluetooth meant it was not suitable for pre-installed equipment spread across a property. In the past, Bluetooth enabled devices had to be paired in close proximity before they could be put to use. Bluetooth 5 enables devices to be pre-installed before the pairing is done. The range will be 4x that of previous versions now reaching up to 240m
- The speed of Bluetooth is going to double from 1Mbps to 2Mbps without increasing the energy consumption. Greater capacity enables more complex data to be sent across Bluetooth, even up to real time video which can be useful for surveillance cameras. This all comes with the ability to interoperate with a wide range of devices
- Support for mesh networking where devices can pass data to the next device. This makes it easy to expand the network and add in new devices without having to put in more centralised routing equipment
- Additional security levels are included, vital for IoT implementations and helps to address the concerns of data hacking round smart homes
So why should I care about these changes? A greater range means Bluetooth enabled devices can be pre-fitted in houses easier and the speed that data can be passed round a network can make the user experience more immediate. For example, when you hit a light switch you expect the light to come on without a delay. Finally, it has been designed to be more stable and keep the connection in a more reliable way. This will hopefully enable our mobiles to connect easier to hands free systems and stay connected for longer. With these additional benefits, we could see a greater range of devices and end applications using Bluetooth 5.