Overview of Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy

Bluetooth Smart Ready
Bluetooth Smart Ready

In July of 2010, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) adopted Bluetooth 4.0 into the Bluetooth Core Specification. The specification defines a low energy version of Bluetooth that allows devices to run for months and even years on coin-cell batteries. The devices that adhere to this specification have the Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Smart Ready logo imprinted on them.

The advantage of this specification is that it allows for a greater range of devices that use Bluetooth where they could not be used before. Health devices like glucose monitors, sport and fitness devices like heart rate monitors and alert devices that would let you know about events on other devices become commonplace when devices adhere to this standard.

Bluetooth Smart vs. Bluetooth Smart Ready

The difference between these devices is relatively simple. A Bluetooth Smart Ready device implements a dual mode that allows it to work with both classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth v4.0 low energy devices. Generally, these are devices like laptops and smartphones.

Bluetooth Smart devices only implement the Bluetooth v4.0 low energy specification and are generally battery-operated sensors like heart rate monitors, smart watches and similar sensors.

What are the attributes of Bluetooth 4.0 low energy devices?

Generally, a device that adheres to this specification has half the range of classic Bluetooth devices. They are also not capable of handling voice data because their over the air data rate and throughput is lower than classic Bluetooth. While seemingly disadvantageous, the applications that generally use this version of Bluetooth don’t have those requirements but have other requirements that necessitate the lower energy. For example, a higher energy glucose monitor could interfere with other hospital equipment because of the longer range. Bluetooth v4.0 minimizes that sort of interference. Balance this with the lower power consumption of the device and you have technology that is attractive in use cases that, in the past, would have prohibited the use of Bluetooth.

The good news

Many devices manufactured since 2012 are now using Bluetooth v4.0 low energy. This allows you to connect your smartphone to things like heart rate monitors, glucose monitors, and other devices. Apps could then track your vitals so you can see trends that could affect your health. Wristwatch devices can alert you to incoming messages or calls, thus allowing you to put the phone in silent mode yet still know if there’s something that requires your attention.

Bluetooth v4.0 low energy opens up an interesting set of possibilities for the hardware and software manufacturer with the imagination to discover unique sensors and apps that would capture consumer interest. I can even see some exciting possibilities in medical devices in the coming decade.

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(Image Credit – Bluetooth )

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