There are so many connected devices -- and so many more coming in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) -- that they're weighing down Bluetooth connections. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) is addressing that issue head on.
The Bluetooth SIG just offered a preview of highlights from its 2016 technology roadmap. At the core of the announcement are updates that will make possible longer range, higher speeds and mesh networking. Ultimately, the next iteration of Bluetooth aims to drive smart home, industrial automation, location-based services, smart infrastructure and other IoT-related industries.
“There is significant demand from our members and the industry at large to enhance Bluetooth with the new capabilities we’re announcing today,” said Toby Nixon, chairman of the Bluetooth SIG board of directors, in a statement. “Current projections put the market potential for IoT between $2 [trillion] and $11.1 trillion by 2025. The technical updates planned for Bluetooth technology in 2016 will help make these expectations a reality and accelerate growth in IoT.”
All About IoT
IoT is a running theme through the roadmap announcement. Dubbed Bluetooth Smart, the standard’s range is set to potentially quadruple, essentially transforming smart home and infrastructure applications. Bluetooth Smart will also deliver a broader, stronger connection for home and outdoor uses.
One of the key updates is the reality of doubling speed without driving up energy consumption. That sets the stage for faster data transfers in critical applications like healthcare-related devices because the standard is more responsive with lower latency. Mesh networking, meanwhile, will make it possible for Bluetooth devices to connect together in networks that can cover complete homes and buildings, effectively opening up home and industrial automation applications.
With the announcement, Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, reiterated the group’s mission to continue as a catalyst for industry innovation. Scores of developers and manufacturers have already chosen Bluetooth as their preferred connectivity solution for IoT and he’s betting the new functions will “further solidify Bluetooth as the backbone of IoT technology.”
A Stake in the Ground
We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his take on the Bluetooth SIG's announcement. He told us this qualifies as a stake in the ground for leveraging the technology in emerging use cases and business opportunities.
“That's necessary because Bluetooth is often known by its inherent limitations in both range and the volume of data it can support, not its innovative qualities,” King said. “The SIG plans to enhance both those areas significantly, and if it succeeds Bluetooth could transition from a useful tool for a narrow number of use cases to a general purpose wireless networking technology that can support a wide range of IoT processes in much larger areas.”
This is a smart move practically speaking, but if the Bluetooth SIG fails, competitors including Wi-Fi and cellular will step up instead, he said. In fact, if the group's effort simply stumbles, Bluetooth could be forced into far narrower use cases until it eventually becomes just another technology that failed to live up to its potential, King added.