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Time to rev up Bluetooth in your cloud and mobile apps

We’re seeing an increasing number of cloud and mobile apps turn to Bluetooth for beacon-based location services and other peripheral device connectivity. The number of devices using Bluetooth continues to explode, outstripping the technology’s earlier vision and capabilities. Are you ready to leverage the more-powerful Bluetooth that’s coming your way?

Earlier this week, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, keeper of the technology’s specs, trademark, and licensing, announced a roadmap for 2016 that encompasses longer range, faster speed, and standardized mesh networking. The key driver for this? IoT, of course.

It’s all summed up on one sentence from  Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG:

“The new functionality we will soon be adding will further solidify Bluetooth as the backbone of IoT technology.”

And there you have it.

According to Statista, 2012 saw 3.5 billion BT-enabled devices installed worldwide. The market researcher is projecting the number will soar to 10 billion in 2018. I think that may be low, although slowing growth in the tablet market may have in impact.

There’s several interesting aspects to this. The BT SIG plans to:

  • Quadruple the range of Bluetooth Smart. That will give a huge boost to smart home and infrastructure applications, allowing them to deliver an extended, more-robust connection for full-home or outdoor use cases.
  • Double the speed. Increasing BT speed by 100 percent, without any increase in energy consumption (think battery drain), will enable faster data transfers in critical applications, such as medical devices. You get better responsiveness and lower latency.
  • Mesh networking will enable Bluetooth devices to connect together in networks that can cover an entire building or home, opening up home and industrial automation applications.

The mesh aspect allows device-to-device communications, eliminating the need for everything to pass through a central air-traffic control tower. While it’s still too early to know where this roadmap will eventually lead, the people who dream up new apps must be salivating at the possibilities.

Look no further than Apple’s push into its Health Kit platform, and we can surmise the market for BT-based medical devices is about to explode. Personally, I’d like to see my car communicate and log its own status and health information in detail to my iPhone; that’s a “healthcare” app, too.

Think of this as industrial IoT-based BT, rather than consumer-oriented BT headphones and other similar toys. After all, IoT now represents an enormous market. How big? Toby Nixon, chairman of the Bluetooth SIG Board of Directors, has the answer. “Current projections put the market potential for IoT between $2 trillion and $11.1 trillion by 2025. The technical updates planned for Bluetooth technology in 2016 will help make these expectations a reality and accelerate growth in IoT.” (And yes, that’s quite a “between” fudge factor of $9.1 trillion.)

the addition of mesh networking will strengthen Bluetooth connections by allowing them to bridge from device to device, rather than routing each product through a central hub. These upgrades are just a “technical roadmap” for now, but SIG says we’ll hear about “additional features” and more details in the coming months.

What are your organization’s plans for leveraging Bluetooth? What apps and products are you going to build to beat up your competitors and make the world a better place? Share your thoughts, we’d like to hear from you.