Ageing geeks? There's an application for young and beautiful Register hacks.
There’s more below the covers of Bluetooth 4, or Bluetooth low energy as it’s colloquially known, than is implied in the article.
The range isn’t a result of higher power, as that wouldn’t work with ultra low power devices that run on coin cells. Instead there have been some fundamental changes to the radio specification, such as increasing the modulation index. It means that at a lower power of around 1mW you should get a range greater than 50 metres. There’s a good example of that being put to use in a radio controlled car at www.bit.ly.btlecar.
Bluetooth low energy’s focus is around consumer devices that connect to the phone. There is certainly a contingent of ageing geeks with an increasingly vested interest in health devices, but there are plenty of opportunities for a younger market. The spec includes the ability to measure distance between devices, so these range from child and pet monitors through to access control and lost phone detectors. And it will be cheap to put it into all sort of everyday products that connect via your phone to your Facebook page. So, for example, every time a Register scribe fills up their Bluetooth low energy coffee cup after a gruelling session at the keyboard, their public caffeine score can be updated for the world to see. You can see some more applications at www.bit.ly/btlespec.
As to who will win, that comes down to whoever gets incorporated into the most compelling products that people want to buy. Bluetooth low energy has the advantage that it will connect to a mobile phone that supports the new standard, and there are around 1 billion Bluetooth phones shipped every year. So whether it’s working with an app on the phone, or using the phone as a gateway to a website, the receiving half of the radio link exists. That means people can just but their new Bluetooth low energy toy as an accessory. That’s a major advantage that ZigBee doesn’t have – it has to persuade consumer to stump up for both ends of the connection.