What to Know About Bluetooth 5

    07/30/18

    Radios, Remote Sensors, and Connectivity

    It’s hard to imagine a time before 1998, when Bluetooth® was first introduced, that we’d have to endure commutes to work on the train without the “luxury” of internet connection, or workouts with our favorite tunes blasting perpetual motivation through our cable-free earbuds. Remember when cafés advertised free WiFi? Now wireless connections are commonplace and expected amenities in public places. And, noting the difference between WiFi and Bluetooth, the latter—through our Bluetooth-enabled devices—keeps us connected to WiFi. Bluetooth has become a necessary bridge to the world wide web, making it the modern-day lifeline to the internet of things (IoT).   

    What to Know about Bluetooth 5Top 2 Improvements

    Like any other technology, it has improved and morphed to allow a wider span of capabilities. As demand generally does, the latest release of Bluetooth 5 (BLE5) satisfies the needs of today’s lifestyle—both for personal and business applications. The two reigning improvements are speed and distance. People want further range … and they want faster transfer times. According to a Gear Patrol article, the speed of Bluetooth 5 is twice the speed of Bluetooth 4.2, able to transfer data up to 2 Mbps. Range increases to four times that of its predecessor! An example of that: speakers with 4.2 technology currently can work within a 30-foot range; BLE5 speakers can work up to 260 feet away (depending on wall structures). 

    The article goes on to say that this extended range could impact smart-home IoT devices, which currently rely on WiFi connections to function. The low-energy, increased range means that devices such as thermostats, security cameras, and lightbulbs could switch over to BLE5. (Another one of 5’s capabilities is that more devices can be hooked up simultaneously—up to eight times more, according to Mac World.)

    Backward Compatible

    The proliferation of this technology is endless and can (and will) be found in all manner of electronic devices—from fitness trackers to sound systems and automobiles, to more enterprising applications, such as remote sensors and data gathering tools. Bluetooth 5 hardware is backward compatible. For the everyday consumer, this means they will do just fine using the current hardware they have. Some smart phones already have the upgraded hardware, others, once the switch is made, will begin to experience some of the improvements noted above. (Another predicted improvement is that as this technology continues to mature, we may have increased battery life on device peripherals, such as headphones.) 

    Implications for Use in Business and Enterprise Situations

    Because Bluetooth 5 offers two interfaces for low energy operation: one to transmit less data over much longer distances, and one to transmit twice the data over a shorter range, many IoT applications will be greatly enhanced. A Pocket-Link blog tells us that Bluetooth SIG claims the capacity of data broadcasts will increase 800 percent, and that the increase in data will allow for “improved and more context relevant solutions.” The article also shares that according to Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, Powell sees this as a crucial time to introduce Bluetooth 5, as the technology is expected to be in one-third of all IoT devices by 2020. Powell even sees commercial, outdoor, and industrial uses being ideal markets for the new protocol. 

    As such, businesses are scrambling to “retrofit” and integrate this enhanced communication technology. Getting up to speed with these radios, their integrated circuits, antennas, and software is a monumental task. The best suppliers of BLE5 integrated circuits is Nordic Semiconductor. Nordic’s latest chip is the nRF52840, which supports several data standards: Thread, Zigbee, Bluetooth mesh, and Bluetooth 5. 

    In a very informative article discussing Bluetooth 5, Nordic points out, “Under the rules of Bluetooth SIG a device can claim to be Bluetooth 5 compliant by merely supporting the errata completion. That means fixing what was missing or wrong in 4.2, but with no support for the key new features.” To ensure that industry and business customers get all the benefits of Bluetooth 5, it supports the new features of high throughput, long range, and advertising extensions in its nRF52840 chip.   

    According to Nordic, there are five major features that “promise to revolutionize the scope, appeal, and spread of Bluetooth as the primary connectivity solution on the market.” Companies and businesses will surely benefit from these improvements. 

    Major new features of Bluetooth 5

    • Errata
    • High throughput
    • Long range
    • Advertising extensions
    • Increased broadcast capacity
    • Improved co-existence    

    The engineers and designers at Enginasion have deep experience with these protocols and software and hardware implementation, and can integrate these into your product much faster and less expensively than a company just starting out. Anything that communicates can use BLE5: any digital, portable piece of electronic, such as remote sensors, data gathering tools, phones, musical instruments, remote instruments, radios, etc. If you have a device or system you would like to integrate with Bluetooth 5 technology, contact us now to explore how we can help. 

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    Topics: Troubleshooting Technology, IoT Engineering, Internet of Things, Creative Solutions

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    Written by David Bonneau

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