Bluetooth spec lets some gizmos to go years between charges

A standards group announced Tuesday that a new low energy spec for Bluetooth has been finalized

Bluetooth is being primed to boldly go where it has never gone before.

A standards group announced Tuesday that a new low energy spec for Bluetooth has been finalized, a spec that's expected to expand greatly the wireless technology's presence in a host of gadgets.

"A spec may not sound too exciting even to Bluetooth fans, but this new version, which includes the hallmark feature, Bluetooth low energy technology, will help usher in a new generation of wireless devices that do amazing things," Bluetooth Special Interest Group Executive Director Mike Foley wrote in his blog.

"Some of these new low energy devices will be able to operate for years on just a tiny, button-sized battery," Foley explained. "The ability to run on such a miniscule amount of power--as little as 10 percent of the energy used by Classic Bluetooth devices--will enable a host of new uses for wireless products in everything from sports and fitness to healthcare and home entertainment."

Among the electronic fruit cited by Foley ripe for low energy Bluetooth:

* Fitness monitors that record your activity levels, heart rate, weight and more to help you live a healthy, active lifestyle.

* Health sensors that collect vital information such as your pulse, temperature, and blood glucose level, then automatically send the information to a mobile phone or PC, allowing doctors and other healthcare providers to monitor you remotely

* Watches that let you control wireless headsets, mobile phones, and other portable devices so you can listen to music or take phone calls while you work out, as well as monitor your pulse, speed, and distance.

The new spec, technically called Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0, "opens entirely new markets for devices requiring low cost and low power wireless connectivity, creating an evolution in Bluetooth wireless technology that will enable a plethora of new applications some not even possible or imagined today," the Bluetooth SIG said in a statement.

Although just starting out of the gate, adoption of the technology is expected to be swift, so swift some predict it will grab half the market within the next five years.

"Bluetooth low energy will be a significant contributor to the overall Wireless Sensor Network market, representing nearly half of all shipments in 2015," Kirsten West, principal analyst with West Technology Research Solutions, wrote in a report released last week. "The advantage to this new protocol is that it is totally optimized for low power battery operation."

How soon can we expect to see gizmos incorporating Bluetooth 4.0 arriving on the shelves? According to Foley, the first devices should start arriving this fall, "with a flood expected in 2011."

Tags Bluetooth 4.0Networking & WirelessbluetoothBluetooth Special Interest GroupNetworkingwireless

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John P. Mello Jr.

PC World (US online)

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