7 Emerging Bluetooth Technology Trends to Watch
It’s no secret that the world is more connected than ever. With millions of smart devices deployed in private and commercial settings around the world, seamless communication is becoming an increasingly common part of daily life.
Today, Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) technologies are enabling new IoT use cases, opening a wide range of applications that promise significant and sustainable growth. Supported by a rich portfolio of Bluetooth LE tools from Silicon Labs, these seven technology trends should be on everyone’s radar in the months and years to come:
1. Highly Accurate Asset Tracking
Bluetooth technology is powering rapid growth in real-time locating system (RTLS) solutions. These solutions are capable of helping locate tools and workers in a warehouse or medical devices and patients in a smart hospital, for example. With a predicted 516,000 implementations of Bluetooth RTLS asset tracking use cases by 2025, asset tracking is becoming more refined and accurate. Emerging technologies like Angle of Arrival (AoA) and Angle of Departure (AoD) leverage antenna arrays to triangulate more accurate positioning, while High-Accuracy Distance Measurement (HADM) offers accuracy down to the centimeter.
Potential applications: Medical equipment/supplies/patient tracking; shipping and logistics; heavy machinery and power tool tracking and maintenance
2. Indoor Navigation and Wayfinding
From airports and train stations to museums and hospitals, Bluetooth indoor positioning systems (IPS) have quickly become the standard for overcoming the indoor coverage challenges of GPS, helping visitors navigate their ways through complex facilities. Currently, 77 percent of Bluetooth location services implementations include indoor navigation. Whether it’s Bluetooth RSSI radio networks, AoD beacons, or even Bluetooth capabilities built into Wi-Fi or wireless lighting systems, consumers can more easily navigate complex facilities simply by utilizing their smart devices.
Potential applications: Wayfinding and indoor maps for malls, airports, hypermarkets, train stations, and hospitals
3. Device Networks
With Bluetooth Mesh technology as the primary driver, device networks are expanding and becoming more capable than ever. These networks help control and monitor systems such as networked lighting control and building automation. Device networks are the second fastest growing application for LE Bluetooth, after location services.
Potential applications: Light sources, light/occupancy sensors, control devices, HVAC systems, temperature/humidity sensors, and access control
4. Personal Item Finding
An estimated 140 million Bluetooth personal tracking devices will ship annually by 2026, and the affordability of Bluetooth has boosted the adoption of this technology. A growing number of consumers are attaching Bluetooth tags to keys, wallets, purses, and other personal property. When an item with a tag is misplaced, they can simply use an application on their smartphone to locate it. Growing networks like Apple’s Find My, combined with HADM technology, make finding lost items of great value easier than ever.
Potential applications: Air Tags and smart tags for personal items, or items of high value
5. Digital Keys
The smartphone’s role in everyday life continues to expand. Bluetooth technology is enabling smartphones to be used as convenient and secure digital keys, unlocking doors and spaces as you approach your car, home, office building, and more. Devices with Bluetooth-powered key applications grant access to a door when the user is within a certain proximity or when they initiate access on their smart device. Built-in security features of smart devices (e.g., face recognition, passcodes, etc.) add an additional layer of security to digital keys.
Potential applications: Digital keys for cars, buildings, and homes; remote check-in for hotels or other hospitality sector venues
6. Audio Streaming
Low-energy Bluetooth technologies are opening new applications for sharing audio with multiple users, enabling safer on-the-job communications, and making the world more accessible for people needing hearing assistance. Building off Classic Audio, LE Audio is supporting technologies for in-helmet communications or more sensitive hearing aids that can differentiate between background noise and desired communications. Patients staying in hospitals can benefit from in-bed audio systems, making their stay more comfortable.
Potential applications: Headphones, smart watches, car infotainment, set-top boxes, hearing assistance, safety helmets
7. Higher Data Transfer Rates
35 percent of all connected IoT devices depend on Bluetooth. Items ranging from consumer toothbrushes to remote air quality monitors are streaming data to the Cloud to be consumed, analyzed, and used to improve personal life and societal well-being. Emerging Bluetooth technologies are offering faster firmware updates, quicker bulk rate data transfer, and the ability to steam larger media files.
Potential applications: Smart watches/fitness devices, portable medical devices, PC peripherals (e.g., mouse, keyboard, etc.), small appliances, access points on device networks, power tools and heavy machinery
While Bluetooth technology is already widely accepted and even expected by consumers in almost every industry, these new low-power consumption options are taking Bluetooth solutions farther than ever before. By leveraging these emerging trends, and the supporting silicon technologies that enable them, developers can ensure their applications remain as connected and secure. Learn more about how Silicon Labs supports Bluetooth integration into your smart device designs.