Bluetooth tech is a way to exchange data over short distances using UHF radio waves. Jaap Haartsen, a Dutch electrical engineer, who worked for the telecommunication company Ericsson, invented this technology. Bluetooth technology was originally developed as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables. In this article, we will explain Bluetooth 4.0 and differences between Bluetooth versions such as 2.0, 2,1, 3.0, 4.0, 4.1, 4.2, and 5.0. Bluetooth, managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, has over 30,000 member companies in fields including consumer electronics, telecommunication, networking, and computing. Since Bluetooth SIG oversees development, manages qualifications, and protects trademarks, manufacturers must meet standards to market devices listed as Bluetooth compatible.
Pairing/Connecting devices means making a Bluetooth device “discoverable” within the device you want to connect to and then turning on your Bluetooth enabled device and following any directions that may appear. It’s usually a quick and easy process. However, not all Bluetooth enabled products are createdequally, and with the different Bluetooth versions out there, it’s best to understand these differences so that you can choose the best device within the full range of Bluetooth products available.
An Overview Of Bluetooth
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Bluetooth 2.0 And 2.1
This 2.0 version introduced EDR (enhanced data rate) and improved the potential up to 3 Mbps. Version 2.1, released in 2007, brought SSP (simple secure pairing) to simplify and improve the process. This version is still quite common, especially in devices where the 2.1 improvements still meet the device’s Bluetooth needs.
This version of Bluetooth, known as high speed, is faster than its predecessor Bluetooth 2.0. Several headphones (wireless) use this version, which transfers at a rate of 20 megabits/second and allows for enhanced power control. Smartphones adjust to operating at minimum power levels need to keep a connection with the wireless headphones while still increasing the power of the Bluetooth connection if the phone gets further away from the headphones.
This version of Bluetooth boasts a couple of additional features such as greater range and connectivity. Audiophiles and those interested in the IoT (internet of things) will find this version helpful due to the LE (low energy) protocol. IoTsimply means the concept of connecting any device with an on/off switch to the Internet and/or each other.
This version of Bluetooth takes LE (low energy) to the next level and is currently being used to manage power better on devices being paired by automatic on/off based on a power plan. Older versions regularly interfered with other types of wireless tech like 4G LTE; however, the newest development fixed this problem.
This version of Bluetooth, according to CSR, dramatically increases speed by 2.6x allowing for super fast downloads versus older versions. Privacy upgrades were also included in this version, and the 4.2 Bluetooth tech currently features in the Apple iPhone 6.
This version is the latest released, as well as the fastest, and is specifically designed to secure communications. Bluetooth 5.0 can process connections 2x the speed over 4x the range while handling more than 8x the data of earlier versions. This means with higher speeds and devices become more responsive. This version has the potential to support two devices at once, meaning two devices can pair with the same device; however, there aren’t many devices compatible with this version at this time.
What Is Bluetooth 4.0?
Bluetooth 4.0, released in 2011, enhances the technology and splits the specifications into three separate categories including classic, high speed, and low energy. The Classic and High-Speed categories are backward compatible, whereas the Low Energy category is not. The newest performance breakthroughs are found in the LE (low energy) specification, but compatibility with older tech means you can still use older devices.
The Bluetooth LE, while combining the convenience of classic Bluetooth, adds significant low power consumption to its benefit list. It does sacrifice some data and range in achieving the benefits, but it’s become the existing gold standard regarding peripheral devices that they reply on battery power and don’t require constant transmission of data. Smartwatches are one beneficiary regarding Bluetooth 4.0 enhancements, and they have become major players in the health and personal fitness market. With Bluetooth 4.0 using low energy tech, manufacturers can now add Bluetooth to small battery-operated devices. This is an important benefit for consumers/developers of handheld devices. This version of Bluetooth splits into two groups, including Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready, which we will explain in further detail. First, we need to understand the challenges to Bluetooth such as the constant pairing/re-pairing and battery drain.
Bluetooth 4.0 was designed to be more intelligent regarding energy conservation, with the technology placing less emphasis on maintaining a constant flow of information, but rather focusing on sending tiny bits of data only when needed and keeping the connection in sleep mode when not in use.
Bluetooth Smart Ready
Gadgets considered Bluetooth Smart Ready include “primary devices” like smartphones, tablets, and laptops that receive/share Bluetooth signals from accessories like headphones. A good way to think about it is that devices that are Bluetooth Smart Ready can be compared to a “mothership” sending/receiving data from “drones” surrounding it.
Keeping with the previous analogy, Bluetooth Smart devices would be the “drones” and are the peripherals connecting to the primary Bluetooth Smart Ready devices. Bluetooth Smart devices can remain paired with the “primary” devices even when they are not being used, and thanks to the emphasis Bluetooth 4.0 has on wake/sleep modes, the Smart devices that aren’t in use remain in sleep mode indefinitely and can wake in an instant already paired and ready for data sharing with the Smart Ready devices.
Does Bluetooth 4.0 Make Existing Bluetooth Products Obsolete?
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Not necessarily. Newer phones, laptops, and tablets with Bluetooth Smart Ready will work with previous Bluetooth peripherals like wireless headphones or wireless speaker systems. However, Bluetooth Smart peripherals will only work with their Bluetooth Smart Ready counterparts.
In other words, if your “primary device” is Bluetooth Smart Ready, then your Bluetooth enabled “peripherals” will work, but if your Bluetooth enabled “peripherals” are Smart and your “primary device” isn’t Smart Ready, you must upgrade your primary devices to Bluetooth Smart Ready. Doing this will allow you to take full advantage of Bluetooth 4.0’s low-power capabilities.
In conclusion, Bluetooth 4.0 not only features the important capabilities of this technology, but it also expands the wireless capability of a device to a plethora of other types of products. One example of this is the iPhone 4S, as it can communicate with smartwatches, medical bracelets, scales, thermometers, or networking which was previously impossible due to power restraints. However, Bluetooth 4.0 uses hardly any power, which opens up immense potential in terms of interaction to small electronic devices.
The efficiency of Bluetooth 4.0 has implications for everything from health/fitness monitors to medical devices, allowing them to “wake” on command, communicate directly with smartphones, laptops, or tablets, and save users the hassle associated with having to constantly charge components.
The pairing system between devices also enables two devices to communicate without the need for cables such as USB, allowing users to download pictures from a smartphone to a laptop wirelessly. This technology also facilitates the sharing of data between smartphones via “bumping” or “tapping” and might provide the option to implement wireless digital payments through a mobile device you simply tap or swipe at a cash register.
Near-field communication (NFC) technology has been used in a limited amount of contact-less payment system, but Bluetooth 4.0 provides some competition in this arena. With digital payment systems becoming more popular, not only do shoppers have the ability to use a smartphone to wave and pay for an item, but retailers can interact with shoppers with either prompting them to download a brand’s application in exchange for product discounts.
Some potential applications of Bluetooth technology include hospital settings where the tangle of wires and cords connect patients to monitors displaying several types of information. Small sensors attached to the patient could replace the cords/wires by sending signals to the monitors and displays and the sensors could also collect information from the patient sending it to the nurses and doctors through the WiFi connection at the hospital.
This technology represents a shift towards more interactivity between not just typical mobile devices like smartphones and computers, but less sophisticated electronic devices like headphones and speaker systems and is another move towards electronic integration with the devices we use.
Although Bluetooth tech has so far been applied mostly to small and simple devices, the potential applications regarding wearable sensors and body computers are quite amazing and interesting. Who knows where Bluetooth technology will go and what amazing things we’ll be able to do.