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Bluetooth Smart to tap IPv6-powered Internet of Things after 4.1 upgrade

Smartwatches and other wireless gadgetry to benefit too

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The brains behind Bluetooth have published a new version of the wireless peripheral specification which will, they claim, enhance the standard’s support for the very low-power gizmos that make up the Internet of Things.

Bluetooth’s suitability for wearable kit, from smartwatches to health monitors and fitness gauges, will be improved too.

Bluetooth 4.1’s central Internet of Things (IoT) upgrade is the ability to establish dedicated communication channels between devices. With this mechanism in place, a future version of Bluetooth will be able to direct IPv6 traffic, turning Bluetooth into a true internet-compatible network along the lines of Wi-Fi.

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That, says the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), the organisation that oversees the standard, positions Bluetooth as the ideal way to link up tens of thousands – if not millions – of very low-power devices, such as the nodes of a sensor network.

This feature is part of Bluetooth’s Logical Link Control and Adaptation Protocol (L2CAP), which in Bluetooth 4.1 also gains the ability to transmit data in bulk. The SIG’s use-case example: a wearable monitor that tracks a swimmer's progress will be able to fling over details of all those laps once it’s back in the changing room and in contact with the owner’s phone.

Speaking of device connections, the SIG promised Bluetooth 4.1 will improve the re-establishment of connections dropped because the communicating devices temporarily move out of range, or one turns off its radio. The reconnection time interval is now flexible.

“The consumer can leave the room and upon returning, two recently used devices reconnect without user intervention,” said the SIG - and about time, too.

Bluetooth Smart – formerly called Bluetooth LE, the key, low-power system added to Bluetooth 4.0 – devices will be able to act as both hubs and peripherals under 4.1. So a smartwatch can access data from a pedometer while still simultaneously operating as a peripheral, displaying notifications sent over from a host phone.

Tie that in to the IPv6 compatibility and the watch itself can route pedometer data out to the internet and receive the returned results of server number-crunching. In essence, it will allow smart devices to be less dependent on phones, in turn allowing gadget-makers to come up with more capable kit.

Not that many will be able to cut their smartphone shackles entirely, not least because that will provide their main route to the internet. So 4.1 adds techniques to allow Bluetooth LE to operate more harmoniously with 4G/LTE radios on phones and fondleslabs by automatically co-ordinating transmissions through the two to minimise near-band interference.

The Bluetooth 4.1 specification is available to peruse now. Gadgets supporting the new release could appear next year. ®

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