Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs)
Bluetooth is a well-established and well-known technology that allows a great diversity of devices to connect wirelessly over a short range. Over the last few years there has been a significant evolution in the standards, with ‘old’ Bluetooth becoming Classic Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Bluetooth 5 appearing.
Classic Bluetooth is very popular within consumer electronics, particularly for music and voice wireless connection, though its capabilities are fare wider. Bluetooth Low Energy is designed to transfer small amounts of data (initially not for streaming, but this has recently been supplemented with LE Audio), with a very efficient battery life. It allows a wireless connection to be established faster and consumes a lot less power (between 10 or 20 times less than Classic Bluetooth), which significantly extends battery life.
Bluetooth Low Energy enables power sensitive devices to efficiently connect to the Internet, particularly via smartphones, which carry Bluetooth as standard. It does so not by a stream of data but instead by occasionally transmitting data about the state of the device, allowing for a more detailed interrogation as required.
So what is Bluetooth Low Energy used for?
Connecting the things we carry with us
Watches can act as a remote display for your smartphone notifying you of received messages. Objects can be located via an attached tag or warn if separated from you. A pedometer in your shoe can track your steps and send the data to your smartphone to track your fitness.
Accessing the things around us
Proximity key fobs can be used for access control and as triggers for home and office automation systems. Interactive displays can offer content when we are close with a tag or smartphone. Wall mounted sensors can track a shopper’s route through a store and send tailored offers live to their smartphone.
Low duty cycle M2M (machine to machine) communication
Biometric sensors collect health data and report it via a smart device. Control home heating remotely via temperature sensors at home (though this is often performed using a home automation protocol such as Zigbee – see below)
Communication within a system
Car wheels sense tire pressure and condition and data is displayed on the driver’s dashboard.
Connecting anything that has intrinsic data
Keep track of the weather using barometric and temperature sensors. Monitor home energy use.