Bluetooth 4 – Wider Range Using Less Power

Do you want to get text messages on your watch? Or, would you like to have a remote imagecontrol that not only interfaces with your TV but your computer and iPhone? With the  new Bluetooth 4.0 specifications announced by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group at their All Hands Meeting in Seattle, that could become a reality.

Bluetooth v4.0 throws open the doors to a host of new markets for Bluetooth manufacturers and products such as watches, remote controls, and a variety of medical and in-home sensors.  Many of these products run on button-cell batteries that must last for years versus hours and will also benefit from the longer range enabled by this new version of the Bluetooth specification, said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG.

The new specification rolls three different ones into a single technology. The low energy version can run on a button cell battery like your watch does. It will run devices like remote controls or a watches that can interface with a pedometer. Instead of having to charge the device every night, it will last much longer. The high speed version will focus more on pushing data as fast a possible. You could potentially use this to sync data between devices. The benefit for this new specification  is that it has a wider range. The two devices don’t have to have as close a proximity as devices based on the previous specification. Finally, there is a hybrid version that uses both low energy and high speed for applications like computers and peripherals.

Most Bluetooth devices today have a range of about 30 feet or 10 meters. However, with this new specification, a manufacturer can bump that range up to an almost unlimited distance. One could see there being a Bluetooth radio in your computer that can reach throughout the house enabling you to network it like you would with Wi-Fi, but also connect peripherals via the same wireless system like your keyboard. This would eliminate the need for two different wireless technologies in that system. Things would get simpler and cheaper if this was adopted by manufacturers.

The new Bluetooth specifications will be nailed down by the end of June. After that, manufacturers can begin to use the spec in devices. The Bluetooth SIG suspects that such devices could be available by the end of the year, and definitely by next year.

The only question is whether manufacturers will want to support this? There are already very good Bluetooth devices like keyboards, mice, mobile and smart phones. But, will others that rely on the more ubiquitous Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity jump to this new technology?