What You Need to Know About Bluetooth 5

The rate of development in IoT is staggering. Not only are there millions of new devices entering the market every year, but there are numerous emerging technologies for wireless communications, especially those that focus on low power. Keeping track with all of the latest technologies can be difficult, even for industry professionals.

One upcoming technology that is going to be essential to IoT is Bluetooth 5. Promising more range and higher bandwidth, familiarizing yourself with this technology can offer a glimpse into one of the protocols that will power much of our wireless world in the near future.

Bluetooth 5 Requires new Hardware
In 2016, it should not be a complete surprise that a new wireless spec will also require new hardware. While newer Bluetooth 5 enabled devices will be backwards compatible, older devices will not comply with the new specification. This means that current generation devices won’t be able to take advantage of services that use the new specification exclusively.
The level of compatibility between new and old spec devices will depend entirely on developers. With literally billions of older Bluetooth devices around the world, it should be expected that developers will allow basic compatibility between new and old spec machines.

Increased Speed
The current bluetooth spec is incapable of maintaining high bandwidth connections. With 5G fast approaching, and Wi-Fi that exists almost everywhere in developed areas, Bluetooth needed to bring an increased bandwidth solution. The new spec won’t disappoint, and will double the maximum bandwidth of version 4.2. For streaming media, the increase will be significant. Bluetooth should now be able to stream (in ideal conditions) HD video without interruption. Device to device data rates will be increased, and connectivity with Bluetooth beacons and kiosks could benefit from the improved capability.

Four Times the Range
Bluetooth has traditionally been used for machine to close machine communications and local area networks. While some IoT observers may have wished for Bluetooth to become more of a LPWAN solution, this will not be the case with version 5. However, range will be increased by up to 400%, which means better connectivity between devices, and fewer dropped packets in urban transmission. Anyone who has experienced stuttering with Bluetooth audio over distance will appreciate the new developments and (presumably) the new devices that will take advantage of them.

Even Better Battery Life
For some time now, Bluetooth has been well known as a low power network. For consumer devices like smartphones, headsets, and wireless input devices, this has allowed for tiny batteries and small form factor designs. While the Bluetooth Special Interests Group hasn’t specifically stated the power savings of the new spec, they have confirmed that it will use less than the previous generation’s low power mode. For isolated IoT sensors and machines, lower power draw is something that developers will appreciate.

What does all this mean for the Internet of Things? Essentially, Bluetooth 5 promises to bring stronger connections with more bandwidth over longer distances. This could make private Bluetooth networks more viable for home automation, and may even replace Wi-Fi for network access in certain situations.


Ultimately, it will be up to developers to make the most of the new specification, which makes it an exciting addition to the options that innovators have for their future IoT services and devices.
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