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What is Bluetooth® Low Energy and how is it different from ‘Classic’ Bluetooth®?

16 November 2012

Bluetooth® is an established, and well known, technology that allows devices of various sorts and flavours to connect wirelessly over a short range. Over the last couple of years there has been a significant evolution of the technology with the release in 2011 of Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth® v4.0 or Smart Bluetooth®

The technology is an evolution of ‘Classic’ Bluetooth® in order to allow wireless connection to be established more quickly and consume a lot less power (between 10 or 20 times less than ‘Classic’ Bluetooth®), which means much better battery life. In fact, Bluetooth® Low Energy aims to enable power sensitive devices to be permanently connected to the Internet, typically operating for many years without needing a new battery. The technology has been primarily aimed at mobile telephones, enabling the phone to connect to an ecosystem of other devices. However, BLE does so not by constant streaming of data (such as used in streaming audio), but instead by transmitting data about the state of the device frequently.

So how does BLE differ from ‘Classic’ Bluetooth®? Below is a table showing some of the main ‘headline’ technical differences:

BLE vs Bluetooth Classic

Source: connectBlue

In layman’s terms, what is Bluetooth® Low Energy good for?

1. Connecting the things we carry with us:

- Watches: remote display from other devices

- Tags: locate objects or keep track of them (e.g. warning if you walk away)

- Health/fitness sensors (e.g. pedometer in your shoes)

- Body sensors (e.g. blood pressure, pulse rate, etc)

2. Accessing the things around us:

- Fobs: use proximity as a security/access control means

- Home and office automation

3. Low duty cycle M2M communication:

- Sensors and controls in homes, offices and factories

4. Communication within a system

- Car to car wheels/tires

5. Connecting anything that has intrinsic data to the Internet

 The ASH team began development with BLE over 18 months ago, and posted our initial reflections here.  Since then we’ve enjoyed further development as BLE devices have become more widespread. Whilst only initially available in a couple of smartphones, BLE is now available in a whole suite of mobile devices ranging across manufacturers and operating systems. PCs, tablets and smart phones all have representatives, enabling the applications of Bluetooth® Low Energy to be wider and wider. 

Sources:

Blue Creation, IEEE, connectBlue

© ASH | Creative Wireless Electronics

Categories: Wireless
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