Next-gen Bluetooth defined by low power, not data speeds

Telecom Asia Staff
12 Jun 2009

Bluetooth 3.0 is here, and while it promises faster speeds, some industry players and analysts are already looking ahead to Bluetooth\'s next big advance: low energy consumption.

The Bluetooth SIG formally adopted the \'Bluetooth Core Specification Version 3.0 + High Speed (HS)\' (a.k.a. Bluetooth 3.0) in Tokyo in April. The latest version promises data speeds of up to 24 Mbps via the 802.11 Protocol Adaptation Layer (PAL) feature that allows paired Bluetooth 3.0 devices to open a parallel peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection if faster throughput is needed for, say, transferring a video file.

However, at the Tokyo event, developers also gave a preview of the Bluetooth low energy standard, which come courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG\'s adoption of Nokia\'s WiBree platform. According to Nick Hunn, vice chairman of the Mobile Data Association (where he promotes the Bluetooth Low Energy Evangelisation Working Group), Bluetooth low energy will be ideal for \'low cost, battery powered products, such as sports and fitness sensors, home alarms and medical devices\'.

Hunn also says on his blog that Bluetooth low energy will save the US economy $300,000,00 a year, thanks to a proximity function which measures the strength of a Bluetooth radio signal between devices and activates a warning when they\'re too far apart - thus making lost laptops a thing of the past.

Hunn told Wireless Asia that the Bluetooth low energy spec still has to go through a couple more standardization processes before it can be published - namely, interoperability tests with three different manufacturers and an Intellectual Property review.

Both are happening in parallel and shouldn\'t take long, Hunn says, as vendors have been testing for interoperability throughout the spec\'s development, and Bluetooth SIG members have already waived their right to take legal action against any user of Bluetooth IP who is also an SIG member.

\'Unlike other standards such as 802.11 or 802.15.4, this gives manufacturers a very warm feeling that they\'re not going to be taken to court for infringing patents, as has happened repeatedly with 802.11,\' Hunn says.

Hunn expects the low-energy spec to be ready by Q4 this year, although as usual, manufacturers are chomping at the bit to get product out sooner. Texas Instruments plans to have its first Bluetooth low-energy product ready by August.

Meanwhile, at the Bluetooth event in Tokyo, IMS Research analyst Fiona Thomson said that Bluetooth low energy \'could be the fastest shipping wireless technology ever\', with 70% of Bluetooth phones using the standard by 2013.

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