Bluetooth 5.0 emerges, ready to chew on the internet of things

Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. Better … stronger … faster. And meshier, before long

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has officially adopted Bluetooth 5 as the standard's new specification.

The announcement is a bit of a rubber-stamping exercise, as version 5's specs were revealed back in June 2016. This is therefore more of a “go forth and adopt” moment than a “oh wow, check out the new standard” moment.

But in case you've not paid close attention to Bluetooth minutiae (yes, we know not all of you have read the 2,822-page specification the SIG says it delivers “2 x speed, 4 x range and 8x data”.

If those claims look a bit fuzzy, that's because Bluetooth 5 is now a single spec, instead of the previous arrangement of having of Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE. The new spec is also a superset of all previous Bluetooths. Then there's the fact there's a Basic Rate for data transmission and an Enhanced Data rate.

In terms of numbers, the doubling refers to the new 2Mbps achievable in low-energy mode. Which will come in handy for things on the internet of things. Range can now hit 200m under the right circumstances. “8 x data” refers to message size. Think bigger packets with all the fun they can bring.

As ever, having a standard out the door means the ball – or perhaps tooth – is in the court of kit-makers. Can we mix metaphors by pointing out we're now in the chicken-and-egg phase of adoption? Looks like we just did.

Suffice to say that in not many months Bluetooth 5 will be baked into lots of devices that will work just fine with current Bluetooth kit. Not many months later most widgets will ship with Bluetooth 5 and we'll all enjoy faster wireless connections without really caring about how it happened.

The Internet of Things is where it's expected things will heat up, as longer range will increase the number of applications for which Bluetooth is a sensible option.

But Bluetooth 5 isn't the most interesting thing the SIG has on its plate: to The Register's mind, that's Bluetooth Mesh, the standard that will take Bluetooth from a star-and-hub tool to one in which signals can traverse a mesh of nodes. Once Bluetooth can do that, the IoT opportunities will become even more interesting. ®


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