Bluetooth v4.2 Lays the Groundwork for IoT

January 16, 2015, 6:00 am

By Jordan Manser, Technical Writer

In just a few short years, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) has taken the world by storm. Now present in nearly all mobile devices that connect wirelessly, BLE has become a key enabler for the Internet of Things (IoT). According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, “… the IoT is expected to connect 28 billion ‘things’ to the internet by 2020, ranging from wearable devices such as smartwatches to automobiles, appliances, and industrial equipment.” Last month, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) officially adopted the Bluetooth 4.2 core specification. The update delivers several performance improvements including the Internet Protocol Support Profile (IPSP) which provides IPv6 connectivity. Designed with the Internet of Things (IoT) in mind, the feature makes it easier for a Bluetooth v4.2 device to connect directly to the internet.

The IoT will connect "things" to the internet, ranging from wearable devices such as smartwatches to automobiles, appliances, and industrial equipment.

According to the Bluetooth SIG, the updated spec is designed to connect more devices and ‘things’ to the internet and is the ideal wireless technology for the IoT. An article in Engadget states, “If a sensor, smart light bulb or other low-power device supports the new technology, it can connect directly to the internet (through a router or other access point, at least) without needing a go-between. That’s potentially huge for home automation – you could control all your appliances and light fixture from anywhere in the world without requiring special hubs.” In addition, Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, says in an interview with EE Times, that the IP-supported profile opens new doors for IoT developers, allowing them to design devices targeting specific applications.

Bluetooth v4.2 has more to offer other than support for the IoT. The specification sports improvements such as faster data transfer, lower power consumption, and increased security and privacy. Key advantages of Bluetooth v4.2 include:

  • Flexible Internet Connectivity Options

    • Extend the reach of power efficient devices to the internet

  • Privacy

    • Prevent Bluetooth Smart devices from being tracked

  • Power Efficiency

    • Added refinements help Bluetooth Smart devices save even more energy

  • Highly Secure

    • Features FIPS-compliant encryption ensuring confidential data stays that way

  • Data Throughput Increase

    • Up to 2.5 times faster with a packet capacity increase of 10x vs. previous versions

So far, 2015 is off to a great start. The flexibility of the new Bluetooth specification and its support for the IoT is really exciting for developers and consumers everywhere. Unfortunately, despite all the excitement, we will have to wait for BTv4.2 to be available in devices. Consumers can expect to see new products roll out in the next 6-12 months. The possibilities for innovation are virtually endless. Laird is especially excited since Bluetooth v4.2 directly affects our upcoming projects on the IoT front. Keep a look out for Laird in 2015!