While Bluetooth as a whole isn’t one of the most exciting topics in technology, over time it has become one of the unsung heroes that help us get through our daily lives. From our automobiles to our home speaker systems, it’s a very wireless world we’ve come to live in. And while we don’t often pay a lot of attention to “the tech behind the curtain”, we do notice when things start working better, or faster, or for longer. So the launch of its newest version, Bluetooth 5, actually is something worth talking about. Here’s everything we know so far.
In a recent letter published in the Bluetooth newsletter, Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG)’s Executive Director Mark Powell announced that the new version will offer twice the speed, four times the range, and a feature called location-awareness. Doubling the speed of any device is obviously good news for the users, but the real cherry on this beamed sundae lies in the revamped range capabilities. Theoretically, Bluetooth 5 should be able to beam a song from your smartphone to your speaker from a distance of one thousand feet or more away. The exact distance will vary depending on your system’s hardware, but it’s nonetheless a fairly impressive boost. The specifics of Bluetooth 5’s increased location awareness are still a little unclear, but in his letter Powell stated that it would “provide significant new functionality for connectionless services like location-relevant information and navigation.” He also added that “by adding significantly more capacity to advertising transmissions, Bluetooth 5 will further propel the adoption and deployment of beacons and location-based services to users around the world.” This appears to reference Beacon technology, which Google and Apple have helped to deploy, that will help to make it easier to navigate massive structures such as shopping malls or stadiums. Lastly, the new version has received some performance updates to better optimize it for the Internet of Things. Ideally, it would perform better while drawing less power when installed in say, a smart home kit or device.
The only possible downside to the update so far is that it may require new chips to take full advantage of its new features. That’s not to say your smartphone or tablet won’t still run Bluetooth 5, simply that you won’t get all the added performance and features. One thing is for sure, though – once it launches, you can expect to see it in every flagship device from every major phone, tablet and PC manufacturer starting as soon as it’s available. IoT devices will also rely heavily on the new version, and will probably be some of the first to boast the new Bluetooth 5 functionality.
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