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Bluetooth 5: Five Things For IT To Know

Bluetooth 5 promises improvements in speed, range, and application over the current version. Here are five things you need to know about what has been announced, and what it can mean for your enterprise.

Curtis Franklin Jr.

June 20, 2016

3 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/bluetooth-wireless-bluetooth-icon-1330140/"target="_blank">josemiguels</a> via Pixabay)</p>

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"Everything is better with Bluetooth," according to fictional physicist Dr. Sheldon Cooper on the TV series The Big Bang Theory.

It sometimes seems everything is equipped with one variety or another of this popular wireless networking technology. Now, a new version of Bluetooth is being introduced that promises to make it more important for the Internet of Things (IoT) and more prominent in location-based marketing.

The actual technology won't be rolling out until late 2016, but the announcement June 16 by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) gave an intriguing glimpse into the capabilities that Bluetooth 5 will bring. Technical details were scarce in the announcement, and InformationWeek will have an analysis of those details when they're available. Until then, here are five things you need to know about Bluetooth 5 and what it can mean for your enterprise.

1. More Range

According to the June 16 announcement, Bluetooth 5 should offer four times the range of its predecessors. It's hard to say "Bluetooth 5 will work over a range of XX feet" because so many things affect the range of radio communications.

The extended range means that Bluetooth will be able to replace WiFi as a communication technology for many IoT applications. In addition to reduced infrastructure costs (no access points or routers required), Bluetooth tends to be easier on battery life than WiFi. The overall result should be the ability to make small, robust IoT devices for industrial and consumer applications.

2. Greater Speed

Along with additional range, Bluetooth 5 is predicted to feature twice the transmission speed of Bluetooth V4.2. This will have a significant impact on streaming media, and increase capacity for activities such as marketing content, industrial process monitoring, and controlling traffic.

3. Beacons, Beacons, Beacons

With Bluetooth 5, the Bluetooth SIG indicated an 800% increase in data broadcasting bandwidth for "connectionless" traffic, compared with earlier versions of the standard. This is the technology piece with the most implication for new applications.

[Bluetooth isn't the only option for IoT communications. Read Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 1100 Chip Targets Wearables, IoT.]

A Bluetooth beacon doesn't require the pairing that comes with headsets, speakers, and other Bluetooth accessories. Because the beacon can send information when a Bluetooth-enabled device comes into range, location-enabled marketing, site-specific content, process updates, and other applications become possible.

4. Better Battery Life

There are technology enhancements requiring more power and technology enhancements designed to conserve power.

With all the improvements in range and bandwidth, the Bluetooth SIG said in its June 16 statement that reduced overhead and advances in protocols will allow Bluetooth 5 devices to improve the battery life by a bit. Still, you'll still need to think about batteries when designing IoT projects and mobile device apps.

5. You'll Need New Stuff

It's always nice when a new protocol gives new life to old devices. It's nice, but in this case it isn't going to happen. The odds are good that most of your older Bluetooth devices will still work with new Bluetooth 5 equipment, but the older devices will still work at their original speed and distance. Want better Bluetooth? Plan on buying new Bluetooth 5 components.

There are many details about Bluetooth 5 yet to be released, and the standard itself won't realistically begin to have an effect until sometime in 2017. If you've been working on IoT or location marketing applications made impossible or more difficult because of limitations in Bluetooth V4.2, though, it's time to start looking closely at the available specifications and begin planning your new versions, too.

About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin Jr.

Senior Editor at Dark Reading

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and other conferences.

Previously he was editor of Light Reading's Security Now and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes.

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has contributed to a number of technology-industry publications including Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most popular book, The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Podcasting, with co-author George Colombo, was published by Que Books. His most recent book, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, was released in April 2010. His next book, Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2018.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in amateur radio (KG4GWA), scuba diving, stand-up paddleboarding, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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