Bluetooth technology is expected to see explosive growth over the next few years. According to statistics from ABI Research, there will be 45 billion installed IoT devices in 2020, around one third of which will support Bluetooth connectivity. Steve Hegenderfer, director of developer programs for the Bluetooth SIG, indicated that smart home, automobile, medical devices and health and fitness, and industrial automation are the four top verticals that Bluetooth SIG members are building things for. “Those are probably the areas where you will see the most traction over the next 2 to 3 years for Bluetooth.”
Hegenderfer considers smart home to be one of the drivers for the expected growth of Bluetooth devices. “Smart home is a big important vertical. Consumers want to control their smart home with smartphones, and they don’t want to have a special remote control. This is a big advantage that Bluetooth has in the smart home. It will definitely grow the Bluetooth members and partners,“ he added.
However, the alliance found that there is market demand for gateway functionality that consumers want to monitor their home security system from the remote location. In early 2016, Bluetooth SIG introduced Bluetooth Internet Gateway Smart Starter Kit that would allow any Bluetooth sensor to relay data to the cloud and back again. The new Internet gateway architecture and supporting set of educational tools enable developers to quickly create Internet gateways for Bluetooth product or integrate gateway functionality into existing products. Users can monitor and control fixed Bluetooth sensors from a remote location.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology features low power consumption and long data transfer range up to 400 meters. The technology can be used for remote control of connected devices or data transfer.
Nordic Semiconductor provides HomeKit compatible smart lock that enables users to unlock the door via their voices or Bluetooth enabled smartphone. In addition, its BLE chipset is embedded into a voice activated and gesture controllable remote control that features a touchpad and Air Mouse. The company incorporates Beacon technology into a light tube for intelligent lighting control. The user can turn on the lights via Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or the light will automatically turn on when the user is approaching.
To enable easy and quick product development, Silicon Labs provides SoC, Bluetooth Smart Module Blue Gecko and software that support C programming language and BG Script. STMicroelectronics provides BlueNRG Expansion Board IDB04A1 compliant with BLE 4.0. The BlueNRG processor communicates with STM32 Nucleo developer board host microcontroller through an SPI link available on the Arduino UNO R3 connector.
Dialog Semiconductor introduced SmartBond DA14583 which is low power, small size and low system cost Bluetooth Smart System-on-Chip with an integrated flash, compatible with Bluetooth 4.1. This new product supports software upgrades over the air (OTA). Furthermore, the DA14583 is pin to pin compatible with the DA14580 thereby offering a unique cost down path from flash to OTP. The solution has embedded gyroscope, pressure, accelerometers, temperature, compass and humidity sensors, ideal for wearables.
Beacon and mesh technologies are two important elements for BLE development this year. Beacon technology can be applied for mobile advertising and indoor navigation. Users can get information about the painting or receive the ads of products on display. Hegenderfer thinks beacon technology is going to be huge and pervasive because there are so many different uses for proximity information. “If I were to pick what’s going to drive Bluetooth, it’s the beacon technology coupled with interesting things like mesh, that’s really going to drive Bluetooth because beacon technology is easy to understand from a technical perspective, inexpensive to deploy, and can be widely incorporated into everything, such as tables, light and chair. You’re seeing it enable payments and micro transactions, you’re seeing it enable people finding. Beacons are very interesting. If the introduction of Bluetooth was all about audio, Bluetooth headsets and that kind of stuff, with BLE, the killer thing is beacon.”
Mesh technology enables more stable and longer transmission range. Hegenderfer indicated that Bluetooth mesh technology will be available in H2 2016. He stated that the Bluetooth mesh technology will be adopted in the smart home space in 2017, and will prevail in the commercial market in the next two to three years. “Mesh is independent from the core. Since mesh is built on top of 4.0, or Bluetooth Low Energy, it can actually be released independent of the core specification. I would not be surprised that there will be products in market very soon after because our partners already working on those products now,” said Hegenderfer.
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