It looks like whole Beacon family is about to become more useful, as Bluetooth 5 technology is here. For who follow the latest advancement of Bluetooth, you know it’s no longer just about connecting headphones and speakers to your smartphone, but is shifting to become a conduit for the Internet of Things, thanks to new features including extended range, faster speeds, and the ability to send more data to devices without needing a direct connection.
The announcement was expected, after Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s Mark Powell discussed plans in a public email earlier in June.
Bluetooth 5 signals a shift away from the “version x.x” naming template that has been in use since the technology was introduced. Powell said the change is intended to simplify the organisation’s marketing efforts, and make it clear to users that this is a “significant” update to the technology. (What exciting things will you show us @Estimote and @Kontact.io?).
As the organisation claims, Bluetooth 5 will be released later this year or early 2017, and promises to quadruple the current range of approximately 10 meters, and double the speed of low energy connections, all without sucking too much energy. Where Bluetooth 5 will come into its own is in the home, and through the use of Bluetooth Beacons powering smart cities, stores, fitness, commercial estate and public spaces.
That’s not all. In addition to the extra range and speed, Bluetooth 5 introduces a connectionless feature, where rather than beacons and other devices communicating with an open app or one running in the background, they can broadcast to browsers — such as Google’s Eddystone linking with Chrome. The additional broadcast capacity means more data can be sent, and the messages received more helpful and information packed.
Bluetooth has made its plans for connecting up smart homes very clear in the past, and in 2015, spoke about what it called “enabling technology” coming to Bluetooth soon.
When implementing IoT solutions, many of our Amuse clients from retail and estate industries are reluctant about present Beacon traits. Their high interference makes it almost impossible to track physical devices located in a small proximity from each other.
It appears Bluetooth 5 may bring an end to these problems. The new features make Bluetooth Beacons — the transmitters that will drive smart high streets, and provide information to us automatically, from inside museums, gyms, hotels to navigating around airports — far more useful and, hopefully, more reliable and accurate.
We are yet to find out if Bluetooth 5 support comes via a firmware upgrade, or will it only be supported by hardware designed with it in mind. Previous versions have been a mixture of both, and according to Bluetooth, version 5 will most likely have specific hardware and software requirements, indicating it’ll only arrive on devices designed for it. However, it will depend on Bluetooth 5’s usage, so some features may be pushed through a software update.
We’ll know more as the release date approaches.