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Bluetooth 5 Released, Mesh Expected 1H 2017

Mike Wolf Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5 was released last week.

The latest version of Bluetooth, which was first announced in June, has a number of significant advances over Bluetooth 4.x.

From the Bluetooth SIG: 

  • Up to 2x bandwidth of Bluetooth 4.2 with low energy.
  • Up to 4x range of Bluetooth 4.2 with low energy.
  • Up to 8x the broadcasting message capacity over Bluetooth 4.2

Increased Range. Up to 2x bandwidth of Bluetooth 4.2 with low energy. This means unobstructed Bluetooth range can hit ~ 200 meters, four times Bluetooth 4.2's 50 meters. More advanced Bluetooth modules can conceivably hit 400 meters line-of-site, but in a typical home we're looking at 120 meters.

While this is clearly longer than Zigbee or Z-Wave range, but what's interesting is this is also longer than that of Wi-Fi, which in the latest iteration of tech using 802.11ac, which benefits from beamforming but also operates in the 5 GHz band, which tends to transmit shorter distances than in the 2.4 GHz band.

Increased Speed: Up to 2x bandwidth of Bluetooth 4.2 with low energy. This puts BT5 at 2 Mbps. For context, Zigbee is at ~ 250 kbps and Z-Wave 40 kbps, while Wi-Fi's latest spec is 

Broadcast Messaging: I wrote about what the increase in broadcast messaging capacity and connectionless IoT would mean for smart home in June: 

"The success of Bluetooth beacons have been well documented, particularly in retail environments, but with this new focus on what the Bluetooth SIG is calling "connectionless IoT" in BT5, we expect Bluetooth beacons to become more prevalent in other areas of our lives, including smart homes.

What does this mean? For one, we'll see more smart home gear and regular old appliances utilize Bluetooth broadcast messaging. The end result will be our smartphones receiving info and alerts from things like dishwashers, coffee makers, home systems and our cars, all of which will give us information without having to download a purpose built app for each of these devices."

The Bluetooth SIG has said the first products should ship in two to six months. Since the vast majority of Bluetooth radios will not be field upgradeable, it will likely be a few years before we can truly reap the benefits of pervasive Bluetooth 5 technology.

It also should be noted that even though many new products will have Bluetooth 5 chipsets, product designers will make specific choices around implementation. Battery powered devices with tight power budgets will likely not take advantage of advantages of Bluetooth 5. 

All of which makes the arrival of Bluetooth Mesh, which was not part of this release, extremely important. BT5 coupled with mesh would make BT a powerful replacement for technologies like Z-Wave or Zigbee, so with the mesh specification expected in the first half of 2017, we'll keep an eye out for that.  



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