Bluetooth 5: Get Ready For Faster, More Efficient Connections... Someday

If you're reading this, you likely use it already.

Bluetooth, the global wireless communication standard that connects devices like fitness trackers and earpieces to mobile phones and wireless keyboards to computers, is getting an upgrade with its latest release, Bluetooth 5.

"Bluetooth 5 has a lot to offer," said Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, in a June newsletter. "It will quadruple the range and double the speed of low energy Bluetooth transmissions." That should help your sleep monitor stay connected to your phone and let your smartwatch fetch a map faster.

Bluetooth 5 will be much stronger than the range of current low-energy Bluetooth transmissions but Powell says it will also be better for beacons that beam location data or advertisements to your phone as you wander around malls, airports or other public spaces. In other words, devices will be more aware of their own location, helping you navigate indoors.

According to techradar, "Theoretically you could be 660 feet (200 meters) or so away from your Bluetooth speaker and still beam a song to it. The exact distance limits depend on the hardware you're using."

The ubiquitous Bluetooth is already connecting billions of products in use today, all part of the Internet of Things (IoT). A tiny chip in a Bluetooth device uses radio waves to connect to another device like a phone or computer. Two to eight Bluetooth devices can talk to each other by pairing over short-range, ad hoc network. Far from just a simple connection, though, Bluetooth offers convenient functionality to many elements around the home. Of course, it can send music from your phone or computer to your speakers, but Bluetooth-enabled lights, door locks, TV, shoes, basketballs, water bottles, pet toys and much more can also be controlled from an app on your phone.

The development of this technology isn't short of attention--Apple, Intel, and Microsoft are all backers--so we can expect to see more from Bluetooth in the future. Not only has the company saturated the market and become an industry standard, it operates on low power, is very easy to use, and Bluetooth-ready modules are inexpensive. There are few drawbacks to the technology, apart from its spatial restrictions, and innovative adopters are constantly finding new ways to use it.

Apple added Bluetooth 4.2 support to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2 in 2015, bringing 2.5 times faster speeds and up to 10 times higher data capacity to the devices, MacRumors reported. And with the iPhone 7 possibly losing its headphone jack in the quest for thin, Bluetooth stands to gain even more ground.

The update will require new Bluetooth module chips instead of an upgrade, so expect to see devices released later this year to be Bluetooth 5 enabled.

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