Later this week, the Bluetooth SIG will announce Bluetooth 5, the latest standard for the ubiquitous short range wireless technology. During an analyst update, they also indicated that Bluetooth Mesh, which is an initiative separate from the new standard, will arrive late this year or early next.
In an email to members from Bluetooth SIG Executive Director Mark Powell, the SIG indicated they would announce the specifics of the new standard on June 16th. Much of what will be in Bluetooth 5 has already been discussed on the Smart Home Show and around the Internet, but here is a refresher as well as some new info around the improved Bluetooth broadcasting feature coming in BT5:
4X range: the new spec will reach up to 4 times the current distance of Bluetooth 4.2, meaning it will transition beyond being a personal area and short range peripheral network to a longer range, local area, low-bandwidth network. This puts it in more direct competition with Z-Wave and Zigbee, both long-range low power network standards.
2X speed: BT5 will have twice the speed of current Bluetooth, which is a nice to have, but not nearly as big a game changer as the increased range since Bluetooth - like Z-Wave and Zigbee - is oriented around smaller bandwidth traffic, something that shouldn't change even as it transitions to becoming a true IoT technology.
Expanded broadcast messaging: While we knew about the increase in range and speed, the expanded broadcast messaging capacity is a new detail we're pretty excited about. 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.
One of the struggles we are having in the smart home world is there are too many apps. With Apple's announcement yesterday of a Home app and the forthcoming Bluetooth 5 with broadcast capability, we are slowly making progress towards a less app-cluttered smart home and IoT.
What About Mesh?
The SIG has made it clear that its Bluetooth mesh initiative is separate from the new standard. However, it did indicate that mesh for Bluetooth is on its way late this year or early next year.
Bottom line: The combo of mesh with Bluetooth 5 is a compelling one. I wrote a couple years ago that Bluetooth had significant potential as a next-generation smart home technology and now, with the imminent arrival of longer range and mesh technology, we could be on the cusp of potential becoming a reality.
Michael Wolf is the Chief Analyst for NextMarket Insights, where he advises smart home, home security and IoT companies on business models and strategy. Subscribe to his newsletter to get posts like this in your inbox. Also, check out the Smart Kitchen Summit.