Updated Bluetooth specification paves the way for the wireless standard to play a big role in the Internet of Things market.
Wireless networkers have long tolerated Bluetooth as a competing signal in the busy 2.4 GHz spectrum. The gadget-oriented Bluetooth has become a mainstay for personal device interconnectivity, but with the latest update to the Bluetooth specification -- version 4.1 -- we’re about to see bigger things from a standard that is reinventing itself for enterprise use and the emerging Internet of Things space.
Bluetooth hails from the IEEE 802.15 standard governing personal area networks (PAN). From the early days of the 802.11 standard through today’s .11n technology, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are frequently found together in the same client devices, but have a somewhat cantankerous relationship. Early Bluetooth was sometimes referred to as “rude radio” by Wi-Fi types because the PAN technology had a nasty habit of stepping all over the nearby WLAN environment. But, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth evolved with more sophistication and intelligence, and became a better radio neighbor with each update.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) just announced version 4.1, which will radically change what is possible with Bluetooth. But before examining the new capabilities in 4.1, it's worth looking at version 4.0. Dubbed “Bluetooth Smart” and “Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE),” 4.0 is the magic behind iBeacons, which Apple announced earlier this year. With coin-cell batteries that can last up to three years, iBeacon devices communicate with Bluetooth 4.0 user devices (smartphones, mostly) for precise in-store positioning as the first real application of this capability.
While this might seem like just another in a growing lineup of location-based marketing analytics paradigms, the iBeacon is significant. The devices are cheap, self-powered, easily installed and moved, and a direct threat to Wi-Fi systems that are trying to do the same thing (but usually with a much higher price point). That brings us to version 4.1.
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