Bluetooth 5 has arrived: Twice as fast with four times the range

8 Dec 2016

Bluetooth beacon deployed in a smart city roll-out in Cluj-Napoca, the second largest city in Romania. Image: Torok Tihamer/Shutterstock

Developed with the internet of things in mind, the next generation of bluetooth – dubbed Bluetooth 5 – has arrived, quadrupling the range of the wireless technology and doubling its speed.

While devices for the technology will need to catch up in the coming months, the wireless standard’s Special Interest Group (SIG) has officially adopted the Bluetooth 5 specification.

Products and devices using the standard are expected to arrive in the market in the next two to six months.

‘The introduction of Bluetooth 5 will create new opportunities in various verticals of the IoT market’

Key features include four times the range, two times the speed and eight times the broadcast message capacity.

Longer range powers whole-home and building coverage for more robust and reliable connections. Higher speed enables more responsive, high-performance devices. In addition, increased broadcast message size increases the data sent for improved and more context-relevant solutions.

Bluetooth 5 also includes updates that help reduce potential interference with other wireless technologies to ensure Bluetooth devices can coexist within the increasingly complex global IoT environment.

The SIG said Bluetooth 5 will advance the internet of things (IoT) experience by enabling simple and effortless interactions across the vast range of connected devices.

“Bluetooth is revolutionising how people experience the IoT,” said Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG.

“Bluetooth 5 continues to drive this revolution by delivering reliable IoT connections and mobilising the adoption of beacons, which in turn will decrease connection barriers and enable a seamless IoT experience.

“This means whole-home and building coverage, as well as new use cases for outdoor, industrial and commercial applications, will be a reality. With the launch of Bluetooth 5, we continue to evolve to meet the needs of IoT developers and consumers while staying true to what Bluetooth is at its core: the global wireless standard for simple, secure, connectivity.”

This is just the beginning of the IoT revolution

The adoption of Bluetooth 5 comes at a crucial time of industry growth, with ABI Research expecting 48bn internet-enabled devices to be installed by 2021, of which nearly one-third will include Bluetooth.

“The global wireless connectivity market is growing rapidly, with an anticipated 10bn annual integrated circuit shipments by 2021,” said Andrew Zignani of ABI Research.

“The introduction of Bluetooth 5 will create new opportunities in various verticals of the IoT market by reducing complexity and cost and giving manufacturers greater flexibility in targeting multiple applications and use cases.”

Bluetooth is the enabling technology that connects a multitude of devices like smartphones to other devices like computers, cameras, headphones and speakers, to name a few.

Bluetooth was developed in 1995 by an industry group involving Ericsson and Intel researchers.

One of those researchers, Sven Mattisson, told recently that he believed bluetooth has a long future and will be integral to the IoT revolution.

“50bn connected devices is only just the beginning,” he said.

Bluetooth Beacon deployed in a smart city rollout in Cluj-Napoca, the second largest city in Romania. Image: Torok Tihamer/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years