Bluetooth SIG On The Future Of The Iot

Posted on July 01, 2014 by Nanci Taplett

Bluetooth World brought together some of the biggest names in the industry for two packed days of programming. These speakers shared insights on how Bluetooth® Smart technology is making the Internet of Things a practical reality for billions of people by efficiently connecting everything from the novel to the life saving and everything in between.

spokespersonSukeJawandaSuke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG, outlines how Bluetooth Smart is the great enabler for the future of the Internet of Everything. Below is his speaker interview from the show and a sample of his presentation. If you attended the show, download his presentation here. If you did not attend, you can purchase the entire PowerPoint here.

 

Bluetooth has been around in products since the turn of the millennium. As we move towards the Internet of Things, how is Bluetooth going to remain relevant for the next stage of development?

The killer application for Bluetooth historically has been wireless audio – whether it is headsets and hands free in cars or more recently, the explosion of wireless speakers and headphones that stream music from your phone or tablet. This uses a version of our technology called Bluetooth Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), which is also referred to as Bluetooth Classic. Bluetooth Classic is optimized for sending a steady stream of high quality data (i.e. music) in a power efficient way. Bluetooth technology’s role in these types of scenarios is pretty straightforward. We connect two devices (e.g. a phone and a speaker) and transport data between them.

A few years ago, we released a new technology branded Bluetooth Smart. Bluetooth Smart is really the enabler of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the current wearable boom, made possible by

Bluetooth Smart, is a great example of this next stage of development. In fact, I expect the proliferation of Bluetooth Smart to dwarf the cumulative shipments of Bluetooth Classic. It took 10 years for Bluetooth to cumulatively ship one billion devices. Bluetooth Smart technology was part of a billion devices last year alone. This is really big opportunity.

Bluetooth Smart is the latest iteration of the standard. What makes it smart and what benefits will it bring over the older versions?

Bluetooth Smart is fundamentally different than Bluetooth Classic. It contains our Low Energy feature and, perhaps even more importantly, an entirely new development framework called GATT (Generic Attribute Profile). As a result, Bluetooth Smart not only connects devices together in an ultra-power efficient way, but also directly connects devices to applications on your smartphone, PC or tablet. The low energy and GATT features are at the heart of the current wearable boom.

Bluetooth Smart not only connects say a Nike FuelBand to your smartphone, but it securely delivers that data to the FuelBand application on your phone, turning that data into useful information. The app makes that FuelBand a lot smarter. The work we’ve done with operating system companies behind virtually all smartphones, PC and tablet companies is what’s enabled Bluetooth Smart to scale so quickly. Apple (iOS, OSX), Microsoft (Windows 8), Google (Android 4.3 and KitKat), and RIM (Blackberry 10) are all in for Bluetooth Smart. Developers and the customers they serve, can count on Bluetooth Smart to just work and bring a whole new level of connected intelligence to their daily lives.

What are Bluetooth profiles and what benefits will they bring to products using Bluetooth Smart?

There are two components to Bluetooth technology; the hardware (the Bluetooth radio) - and software(the profile). If Bluetooth is the universal language that connects things, think of the profile as the specific dialect that lets two devices and now, applications, speak to each other. The profile contains the rules for a specific use case that enables developers to optimize the experience and efficiency of a use case. Before GATT, whatever profiles were flashed on the device when it left the factory floor limited the other things it could talk too. With Bluetooth Smart (and native OS support for GATT in Smart Ready hubs), developers can easily include the unique profile for a Bluetooth Smart device in the application the consumer downloads.

You’ll notice that the first thing the consumer is typically asked to do when “pairing” Bluetooth Smart device with their Smart Ready phone or tablet is to go to an app store and download the app. In doing so, not only is the app downloading, but contained in it is the Bluetooth profile that’s updating the phone, tablet and PC in the background. The end-user doesn’t have to think about this “plumbing”.

For them it just works. For developers, it provides unrivalled flexibility by enabling them to update profiles and apps much more easily on their customers’ phone, tablet and/or PC. This is the key to not only the growth of Bluetooth Smart technology, but also the better interoperability between these billions of devices and a much improved consumer experience.

What’s the key difference between Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready?

Bluetooth Smart is the peripheral (e.g. the fitness tracker on your wrist that’s sending data) and Bluetooth Smart Ready is typically the hub (e.g. your phone, tablet, PC that receives that data and feeds it directly to applications). In order to carry the Bluetooth Smart ready brand, a device has to work with both Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Classic technologies. Today, over 80 per cent of the new smartphones and tablets shipped are Bluetooth Smart Ready. I expect that to be more than 90 percent worldwide within the next year or two. As a result, developers can count on native Bluetooth Smart in products their customers already have, or very shortly will have, in their hand.

How does Bluetooth Smart deal with the crowded, chatty environment of today’s wireless world?

Adaptive Frequency Hopping (AFH) has always been part of the Bluetooth specification and it’s an important part of both Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth Smart. AFH is what let’s Bluetooth cut through the chatter and ensure data from point A securely gets to point B even in chatty environments. It’s why Bluetooth is increasingly counted on as the preferred wireless technologies in network chatty places like hospitals, where secure data transport between devices and applications is paramount every time. Bluetooth shines in these types of scenarios, whereas most other wireless technologies would get stuck.

The sports and fitness markets have proved to be a great fit for Bluetooth Smart. For which other vertical markets would Bluetooth be relevant?

We’re seeing huge gains in medical devices, smart home/automation, and commercial scenarios. Wireless has been in fitness devices for several years. However, it took the features and ubiquity of Bluetooth Smart (supported in the devices the consumer already has) to take this from a niche play to a multi-billion dollar mainstream opportunity. The same will play out in other verticals. The disruption Bluetooth Smart is causing in many industries is still in its early stages. The best is still yet to come.

The smart-home market is one vertical that is expected to boom but there are other competing short-range wireless standards out there. Why will Bluetooth be the best choice for smart home vendors?

Home automation and smart home has been talked about for decades. In fact, the World’s Fair in 1962 showed the connected kitchen of the future. However, home automation has continued to be expensive to make reality. Smart home products have historically been expensive, limited in what they could connect to and requiring an expensive expert to connect them together. This high cost and high effort limited it to a niche play.

Now, you’re seeing a big shift to Bluetooth Smart in home automation starting to take root. You have a performing, industrial grade technology that can talk to the phones, PCs, and tablets that consumers already have with no expensive dedicated hubs needed. This in turn reduces cost and complexity. It’s an open standard that’s relatively easy and inexpensive to deploy. The ease and familiarity of Bluetooth makes it a relatively DIY project, versus bringing in an expensive networking expert to provision and troubleshoot the deployment. These are all key factors that are leading to Bluetooth Smart finally taking the smart home from a niche play to an accessible, mainstream offer.

Tell me about some of the most innovative uses of Bluetooth Smart technology you’ve seen.

This is a tough question to answer because the technology is being embedded in almost anything you can think of. Everything from the novel, to the life-saving, and everything in between. It’s all about connecting things with applications where data is turned into useful information for the end-user. Oral-B is releasing their Bluetooth Smart toothbrush in a few months, the technology is going into hearing aids to help the deaf, and doctors and medical device companies are bringing out new Bluetooth Smart products every month to monitor and manage patient health. Bluetooth Smart beacons are revolutionizing everything from retail to sports - e.g. Major League Baseball and the National Football League are using Bluetooth Smart beacons to better engage fans at the stadium. It’s truly everywhere, and we’re just at the beginning.

Manufacturers know that they need to be part of the IoT or be left behind, but are not sure what to focus on. What would your message to them be?

Come to Bluetooth World and see and hear how leading companies, and potentially your competitors, are approaching this market. Go to developer.bluetooth.org to learn how to get started with Bluetooth. The IoT powered by Bluetooth Smart is very disruptive. You want to make sure you’re on the right side of this opportunity engage and provide a richer service to your customers like never before. This is all about things connecting to things and applications and the marriage of big data in the cloud with little data (apps) on your devices.

Why do you feel events such as Bluetooth World are so important?

You can read about the IoT in a lot of places. However, nothing beats hearing about best practices live. Networking with people who have battle scars in the space is also something you have to do live. Seeing first hand what’s out there in regards people supplying the chips and expertise in one place is so much more efficient than calling around. In a nutshell, if you’re even thinking about wireless or the IoT, this is the event to be at.

In case you missed any of the excitement at Bluetooth World, check out this video to catch some of the highlights. You can also read the wrap ups from day one and day two here. If you missed the excitement of Bluetooth World, catch us at Bluetooth Asia in August and Bluetooth Europe in September.

nanci taplett

Nanci Taplett

Nanci loves watching the world embrace innovation and changing technology.

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