Set to debut this month the next-gen Bluetooth standard will allow devices to automatically switch between low-power and high-speed modes, and even gets friendly with Wi-Fi.
Some 15 years after the creation of Bluetooth by two Ericsson engineers, the short-range wireless technology will kick things up a notch with this month’s official debut of the Bluetooth 3.0 spec.
While the Bluetooth Special Interest Group
will officially release the Bluetooth 3.0 standard on April 21, it’ll take many more months – possibly until the end of the year – until we see the first Bluetooth 3.0 devices on the shelves.
But when they arrive, they’ll boast some smart new tricks which offer both low power drain and high speed data transfer.
The former comes through the use of ‘Bluetooth Low Energy’, which is a data-only protocol intended to link to watches (which can display Caller ID plus alerts to incoming email and SMS messages), toys, input devices and remote controls plus sensors for sporting, healthcare and in-car applications.
By removing the need to handle voice, the Low Power spec can make do with a much slower data rate and throughput compared to standard or ‘classic’ Bluetooth, which makes for substantially lower power consumption.
While Bluetooth Low Energy is expected to be part of the Bluetooth 3.0 spec, it’s likely to be available in stand-alone chips for specific devices as well as built into full Bluetooth 3.0 chips.
Those full-featured Bluetooth 3.0 chips will be able to switch between the low-power data-only mode and a high-speed ‘ultra-wideband’ or UWB mode that redlines at 480Mbit/s for quickly transferring photos, music and even video. When the high-speed pipeline isn’t in use, the Bluetooth radio drops back to its low-power idle mode.
Devices such as headsets which require only a ‘classic’ Bluetooth connection will automatically use that protocol, while newer data-only devices built with a Bluetooth Low Energy chip will fall back to that most parsimonious of protocols.
In addition, devices with both Bluetooth 3.0 and WiFi – which is likely to include most laptops and smartphones – will be able to establish a device-to-device session using Bluetooth pairing but then hand off the actual data transfer to a direct Wi-Fi link.