New release, Bluetooth 5.0, will quadruple range and double the speed of wireless connections
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, July 18 2016: In an Olympian year, we inevitably recall that ancient motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius -- Faster, Higher, Stronger. Nice target to set on the sports field. But in the telecom maidan, the fastest is not always first. Practical WiFi speeds have crossed 100 Megabits per second and the range can extend over dozens of metres. But guess which wireless technology beats WiFi in any race for maximum users: the humbler, slower, low-range technology known as Bluetooth.
Since its creation 22 years ago, it has become the most ubiquitous among technologies to wirelessly send data back and forth -- 8 billion of devices from mobile phones to audio accessories to shoes and socks are Bluetooth-enabled. Today it is the global wireless standard that fuels another technology of the future -- the Internet of Things. This it did by cannily reinventing itself in a new low energy avatar --Bluetooth Smart. Developers are creating tiny sensors that can run for a year or more off coin-sized batteries which get recharged by the sun -- or just by the kinetic energy generated when the wearer walks.
Last month saw the announcement of an update to the standard -- Bluetooth 5 -- which will enable four times the range and double the data speed of the current version -- without demanding more power. Now, your Bluetooth enabled-phone or speaker will work beyond the walls of home or office. Already you can turn lights, cookers or TV on and off, open doors, monitor your heart rate -- with a simple one-press pairing of Bluetooth devices. Soon we will see such applications widen when a network of devices, called a Piconet, is connected by Bluetooth, much as WiFi works today. Expect Bluetooth 5.0 to reach products at year end or early in 2017
Hedy Lamarr must be chuckling in her grave. Hedy who? The sultry Hollywood screen goddess of the 1940s and 50s is, believe it or not, is the original source of two key technologies that fuel Bluetooth. When not busy giving Victor Mature a haircut in the biblical epic, 'Samson and Delilah', Hedy won the original patent for spread spectrum and frequency hopping: two key telecom techniques. It took decades for the scientific establishment to acknowledge that a cinemactress could have brains. besides beauty. But half century on, Bluetooth is living breathing evidence that it is indeed so.