Bluetooth 5 Aims to Increase Speed, Reliability of IoT Devices

With the launch of Bluetooth 5, Internet connectivity is expected to be greatly improved. According to the Bluetooth SIG, which oversees the standard first announced earlier in 2016, Bluetooth 5, in its low-energy format, will enjoy twice the speed and up to four times the distance of today’s version. Manufacturers are just beginning to develop Bluetooth 5-compliant devices, which will be introduced into the market in the next two to six months, with the added prediction that “major products” could debut by the end of 2017.

The Verge reports that, “even modest gains to both speed and range would improve two of the standard’s biggest shortcomings,” slow speeds for transferring data and unreliability at staying connected to devices “more than a room away.” Bluetooth 5 turns devices into “beacons — the small radios that let stores and stadiums push ads and other targeted info to your phones,” which are more efficient and navigate Wi-Fi, LTE and other potential airwave roadblocks.

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Bluetooth SIG director of business strategy Chuck Sabin reports that, by improving interoperability and quality of the connections, the special interest group hopes to make “Bluetooth a better option for the growing number of Internet of Things devices trying to fill up your home.” He also notes that, although the new standard won’t impact battery life, the energy drain that takes place by operating over long distances should be made up by faster speeds.

Wi-Fi is also attempting to capture the IoT market with its new low-power standard HaLow, but Bluetooth 5 may head that off, retaining its strength in fitness trackers, sensors and “other small gadgets.” The Verge notes, however, that the consumer may notice little change until he is equipped with Bluetooth 5-enabled connecting devices.

One feature that will not be a part of Bluetooth 5 is what’s called mesh networking, which is “the ability for Bluetooth devices to act as hubs that help one another reach farther and farther distances.” Mesh networking is expected to be available early in 2017. Although it isn’t part of the Bluetooth 5 standard, “it is, however, supposed to work with devices using both Bluetooth 4 and 5.”