Bluetooth gets updated for the Internet of Things

Update makes the spec play nice with other transmitters and handle a lot more data

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The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) last week announced the Bluetooth 4.1 spec, which prepares the wireless format for the Internet of Things (IoT) by laying the groundwork for IP-based connections, along with better connectivity and larger data transfers.

The 4.1 update focuses primarily on usability concerns. Up to now, Bluetooth has existed somewhat in its own realm and never needed to work with other protocols. It connected your keyboard to the computer or headset to your smartphone and that's it. But now it needs to play nice with new technologies, particularly TCP/IP v6.

Hence, 4.1 focuses on three areas:

Coexistence — Bluetooth 4.1 will work seamlessly and cooperatively with the latest generation cellular technologies like LTE by having the two radios communicate in order to ensure transmissions are coordinated and don't interfere with each other.

Better Connections — Device manufacturers will have more control over creating and maintaining Bluetooth connections by making the reconnection time interval flexible and variable and also making pair devices automatically reconnect after being separated.

Improved Data Transfer — Bluetooth Smart technology will provide bulk data transfer. For example, there is a growing number of sports and athletic devices people can wear and can collect data, such as distance run or hiked. When the user returns home, that data is transferred quickly and all at once.

The new 4.1 spec also adds a standardized way to create a dedicated channel, which could be used for IPv6 communications in the Core Specification.

This is the first major update to the Bluetooth spec since 4.0 was released in 2010. Version 4.0 is also known as Bluetooth Smart because of its low energy consumption. With 4.1, a single device can act as both a Bluetooth Smart peripheral and a Bluetooth Smart Ready hub at the same time, so it can gather data from multiple devices and send that data to another at the same time.

The Bluetooth SIG plans to start qualifying products effective today (December 10).

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