By Pravinraj Panicker
In Internet of Things

Currently, Bluetooth is the world’s most widely used wireless technology. Although wireless, Bluetooth is distinctly different from wifi . Notwithstanding this fact, wireless headphones, speakers, cars, wearables, medical devices, and even shoes all use Bluetooth these days! 

During the 20 years Bluetooth has been around, it has undergone a variety of iterations. In addition to providing better connectivity experiences, they also increase market potential. Version 5 is the latest in this lineage. It is a major improvement as the speed, range, data broadcasting have all increased multifold.

Bluetooth 5 explained 

Classic Bluetooth which is typically used within audio devices, is different from Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Modern devices like smartphones, therefore, implement both standards and are known as Dual-mode Bluetooth devices. Most of the enhancements in version 5 are focused on the BLE implementation because of its relevance for IoT applications.

While different chipsets are used in Bluetooth 4 and 5, the two are backward compatible. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets use dual-mode chipsets. There is one for headphone devices that support BR/EDR. A Low Energy device, such as a wearable or beacon, falls into the second category. In general, as long as both devices have dual-mode chipsets and the same profiles, they will work together. Among the Bluetooth profiles are A2DP (audio streaming), AVRCP (audio/video remote control), HFP (hands-free), and HSP (links Bluetooth headsets with cell phones).

2x Speed, 4x Range, 8x Spectrum

The BLE data rate was fixed at 1Mbps in older Bluetooth versions (4.2 and prior). With Bluetooth 5.0, users can connect at 2 Mbps. As well as offering a couple of additional benefits, this new data rate offers reduced power consumption since the same amount of data is transmitted in less time and improved wireless connection times as a result of a shorter radio-on cycle.

When one compares BLE to other low power wireless protocols like ZigBee, Z-Wave, Thread, the data rate offered is the highest. With the addition of the new 2 Mbps high-speed mode, the feasibility of more IoT applications has increased.

In comparison to previous versions, it offers four times as wide a range. Range capability (single reception) has been increased from 200 feet to 800 feet!! Bluetooth 5.0 introduced a long-range mode that uses Forward Error Correction (FEC). By using FEC, data can be recovered from errors that occur due to noise and interference. Therefore, instead of requiring data retransmission when an error occurs, the receiver utilizes data redundancy to recover the originally transmitted data.- Coded PHY mode. This new mode offers the benefit of increased range in use, but it also consumes more power and reduces speed.

When tested with the long-range mode, ranges as far as 800 meters line-of-sight have been recorded. As a result, BLE can be used in applications such as those that require communication with devices hundreds of meters away. Home automation, long-distance remote control devices, and industrial automation are examples.

Furthermore, it has 8 times data broadcast capabilities. This allows audio to be transmitted to two devices, rather than just one. For stereo effects, use two speakers in the same room or speakers in different rooms. Additionally, it supports two headsets listening to the same audio source. You could also use the microphone on your headset to talk and transfer sound to your connected speaker at the same time.

A BLE device can operate in three different states. Advertising, scanning, or connected can be used. When two BLE devices are connected, one device advertises while the other scans for it before initiating the connection. Advertising relies on broadcast packets that can be discovered by other devices. Depending on the advertisements, the scanning device may decide to initiate a connection if the advertising devices allow it.

Before Bluetooth 3.0, advertising data payloads were capped at 31 bytes. Bluetooth 5.0 introduces Extended Advertising, a new advertising mode. Compared to the original 31-byte limit, Extended Advertising allows sending up to 255 bytes of payload data per packet.

Beacons are a prominent application that utilizes this state exclusively for advertising in BLE devices. The beacon device stays in the Advertising State and broadcasts data that can be explored and read by others. Thanks to Bluetooth 5.0’s increased advertising data capacity, beacons can now send much more data, opening up many new IoT and application possibilities.

Impact on IoT

Despite being one of the most popular wireless radio wave systems out there, Bluetooth is not the only one. Our lives have been transformed by it. Now Bluetooth 5 and 5.1 take this change even further.

With the increased range, the effectiveness of the BLE IoT devices has not increased. It now becomes capable of covering the entire building, full home, even outdoors. These will impact even more personal applications, such as health and fitness wearables, as well as enhancing the ability to personally navigate large and confusing indoor venues. In addition to providing whole home and building coverage, the new, long-range will enable new industrial applications, such as smart city applications.

Faster speeds would mean there is a number of time needed for transmission hence reduced active mode time needing even lesser power consumption. This will help further increase battery life which is again critical to IoT applications. 

In addition to providing a way for advertisers to reach customers, this technology is also a great way to assist people in large venues such as stadiums, airports, shopping malls , and museums. Businesses and individuals can also track their inventory in warehouses with the program.

Location-based services will now be accessible without the need to download additional apps or set up a connection on Bluetooth 5 devices. The result will be that beacons, location awareness, and other IoT services will become more relevant to home automation, enterprise, and industrial markets.

Contextual awareness like navigation and pinpoint location are critical in cases where they are essential – for example, hassle-free airport navigation, warehouse asset tracking , emergency response, or even smart cities that enable the visually impaired to be more mobile – Bluetooth 5 can send out custom information without the need for device or application.This is useful even in current times where a social distancing tracking is an essential norm for safety.

In removing the need to use WiFi for controlling smart home devices, Bluetooth 5 offers significant advantages, including increased efficiency (no need for access points and routers), and longer battery life.

Bluetooth Special Interest Group has released the Transport Discovery Service (TDS) specification. With TDS, Bluetooth can discover and initiate connections with any other wireless link, including WiFi and WiGig. It allows users to turn off high-power links like LTE until they need their bandwidth. No matter what wireless technologies are used by devices, TDS provides a common framework for them to discover and connect. The technology permits devices to remain operational while also consuming minimal power, which is vital to the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Conclusion

Thus Bluetooth 5.0 added features that can be used to implement a wide range of IoT applications. Bluetooth 5 and its new features are still slow to be supported by smartphones. Bluetooth 5 will continue to be adopted, however, its new IoT applications, both on the embedded and mobile, makes it a standard to look out for in this decade. Bluetooth 5 will have a significant impact in many sectors and will be the preferred low-power wireless technology for the Internet of Things. 

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