The new core specification for the Bluetooth wireless standard is now available with Bluetooth 5. We show where the strengths of the new technology lie, and what types of usage scenarios result.Simon Gröflin
The Bluetooth 5 specifications were announced back in June. Now the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has made the standard officially available. This means that device manufacturers can bring their hardware to market with this new technology immediately.
The standard is meant to double the maximum speed between transmitter and receiver, while also multiplying the range of low energy connections by four. Instead of only 100 meters, a range of up to 400 meters is now possible. This should delight more than just music lovers using wireless speakers. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is aiming in particular for greater independence from devices and apps. Analysts from ABI Research predict that by 2021 some 48 billion web-enabled devices will be in use, of which almost a third will support the Bluetooth standard, according to Bluetooth SIG.
The SIG sees potential above all in large spaces such as apartment buildings and outdoor areas. The Bluetooth beacon is designated to play a special role. Numerous transmitters will connect to smart devices in the future without them needing to be constantly linked. Over the long run, this makes more interactions by devices possible. SIG cites as typical examples the monitoring of luggage items at airports, or better support for people with vision impairments, by connecting navigation services to be able to read location-based information. An eightfold increase in data package transfer makes this possible. Analysts predict that in the city of the future, many more beacons (low energy transmitters) will be used for location-based data synchronization or navigation.
These advantages are also important when it comes to wearables (such as fitness bracelets), which frequently send small data volumes at regular intervals. The ranges that will be achieved with Bluetooth 5 ultimately depend on the chip manufacturers. In the audio sector nothing much will change, given that a very high quality is already achieved with aptX Codec and its successor aptX HD.
It remains to be seen how quickly Bluetooth 5 will begin to appear on hardware, but the first devices are likely to show up in early 2017. There will be no software update for Bluetooth 5 but the standard will continue to be backward compatible. You'll be able to play music on your old Bluetooth 4 speaker from your Bluetooth 5 smartphone. But new devices will be needed to take advantage of all of Bluetooth 5's features.