Updated: May 16
Bluetooth is one of those background technologies no one pays attention to, until a device doesn’t “pair” properly or it doesn’t work. Then it can be a real annoyance.
The organization that oversees the development of this wireless connectivity standard has just released the specifications for Bluetooth 5.0, which aims to dramatically improve its performance as well as removing one of the most frustrating aspects of using the technology today.
Who Controls Bluetooth?
The development of Bluetooth is controlled by an organization called the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which has just announced its 30,000th member. It is a not-for-profit group based in Kirkland, Washington, that promotes the use of Bluetooth and counts among its members a who’s who of the tech world, including Apple, Intel, IBM and Microsoft. It oversees the licensing of Bluetooth technologies and trademarks to manufacturers.
Does Bluetooth Still Matter?
Well, yes. Bluetooth is today used in 8.2 billion devices around the the world from smartphones and laptops to speakers, beacons and cars. This is set to grow rapidly in the coming years as the Internet of Things phenomenon kicks off, and everything from your light bulbs to your refrigerators are connected. Cisco has predicted there will be 50 billion of these smart devices in use by 2020, with SIG claiming up to one-third of them will feature Bluetooth.
What is Better With Bluetooth 5.0?
To put it simply: It will be able to send much more information, much further and faster.
The new standard claims it will be able to send data four times further than Bluetooth 4.0, which means up to 1,200 feet. It also promises to send that information twice as fast and the amount of information it can send is being increased 800 percent, according to SIG.
What Difference Will That Make?
Firstly, it will allow you to connect to devices such as speakers from much further away, but more importantly, because of the “richer set of information” that Bluetooth 5.0 allows devices to send, the pairing process, which is so clunky today, will be very much streamlined.
This will mean that setting up wireless accessories like keyboards, headphones and speakers will be a much more frictionless experience. Rather than needing to manually pair the devices, Bluetooth 5.0 is expected to be smart enough to automatically analyze what type of connection is needed and simply make it work. Secondly, the technology will make it easier for warehouse managers to find stock items, while retailers will be able to show their location to customers without the need for a Wi-Fi or cellular connection — something that will be ideal for travelers who may not have any data connection.
When Will Bluetooth 5.0 Be Available?
Bluetooth SIG says the protocol will be available in late 2016 or early 2017, meaning we are likely to see the first devices supporting the new standard some time next year, though it could take longer for devices like smartphones to adopt the standard as they will need to make sure it works with a range of other components.