By Mark de Clercq, Director of Low Power Connectivity Business Unit
With the market for Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity continuing to grow at a breakneck pace, it was only a matter of time before an even more efficient and performant Bluetooth® specification would come online. Enter Bluetooth 5, the fastest and most capable iteration of Bluetooth technology to date, which was officially adopted as the new standard connection specification by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) in early December.
This new specification is expected to help boost the creation of IoT devices, a market segment that is expected to grow to 48 billion connections worldwide by 2021, as well as offer enhanced capabilities. While Bluetooth 5 and Bluetooth 4.2, the preceding SIG standard, may not even be a whole numeral apart in terms of designation, the differences between these two generations of service specifications are drastic.
For starters, Bluetooth 5 is twice as fast as its predecessor and can connect devices at four times the range, making it much easier for IoT gadgets to communicate with each other both at greater distances and through physical barriers like walls and buildings. Bluetooth 5 also can handle twice the bandwidth of Bluetooth 4.2 at 2 Mbps, allowing devices featuring the new standard to transfer twice as much data than before at the fastest rate to date.
Bluetooth 5 is also more efficient in its use of broadcast channels, which have become crowded on the 2.4 Ghz radio band that Bluetooth transmissions travel over. Bluetooth 5 delivers an 800 percent increase in the broadcast channel capacity, which enables developers to develop less restrictive Bluetooth-enabled devices. For instance, developers move from developing applications that only function when paired with specific devices (ie. smartphones) to connectionless services like personal navigation and other applications based upon location-relevant information. This new spec can even enable the creation of experience-based apps that leverage virtual and augmented reality.
In tandem with the adoption of Bluetooth 5, we’ve developed our latest SmartBond™ System-on-Chip (SoC), the DA14586, which is the smallest, most flexible and lowest-power chipset as well as being the first qualified Bluetooth 5 standalone SoC. Although new products featuring Bluetooth 5 aren’t expected to hit the market for many months, making our SoC available right on the outset of Bluetooth upgrade allows customers to create advanced use cases that are interoperable with the latest standard’s specification.
This new SoC builds on the benefits of our existing DA14580 SoC, which already leads the industry in terms of flexibility and power efficiency. The DA14586 will now enable even more advanced applications from the smallest footprints and power budgets, along with supporting an integrated microphone interface that reduces the system cost of voice-command remote controls. This opens the door to a new era of connected devices and applications, ranging from the proliferation of voice-controlled devices to sensors, beacons and wearables that can seamlessly connect and communicate with each other.