The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, or SIG, have announced an updated Bluetooth specification, up to version 4.2. The new update includes several new features, including enhanced privacy and better data speeds. One of the improvements allows for Bluetooth over IPv6, that is, an IP address that incorporate six groups of numbers rather than the original IP address (now renamed to IPv4). The update to IPv6 won't in itself allow a device to have a direct connection to the Internet, this is still showing as a "coming soon" technology, but it's going to open up new possibilities for Bluetooth sensors and other accessories. Mark Powell, Executive Director of the Bluetooth SIG, said: "Bluetooth 4.2 is all about continuing to make Bluetooth Smart the best solution to connect all the technology in your life – from personal sensors to your connected home. In addition to the improvements to the specification itself, a new profile known as IPSP enables IPv6 for Bluetooth, opening entirely new doors for device connectivity. Bluetooth Smart is the only technology that can scale with the market, provide developers the flexibility to innovate, and be the foundation for the IoT."
The privacy improvements are designed to make it harder to track you from your Bluetooth devices; now a Bluetooth Smart location tracker may only be followed by the owner or a trusted group and will consume less energy. The SIG have incorporated FIPS-compliant encryption to enable secure communication between Bluetooth-enabled devices and home automation products. Better privacy is going to be increasingly important as Bluetooth beacons become standard in public spaces and users must give permission to allow other devices to track the location. Bluetooth beacons are designed to enhance location tracking in buildings and are popping up in shopping centres and similar locations; the technology allows the venue to accurately position your location and could be used for aisle-level advertising pushed to your device, if the user allowed it. That fills me with horror! Bluetooth 4.2 is also claimed to be up to two and a half times quicker than current standards; the advantage of higher speed Bluetooth connections is that it means our wireless sensors can offload their data to our smartphone in a shorter space of time, which means that the connection and connected devices spend more time at idle, which saves power.
Bluetooth has been around for a very long time, but it's only in the last four years that I've been able to leave the technology running all of the time thanks to Bluetooth 4 Low Energy, without it destroying my battery. Lower battery consumption from our Bluetooth accessories has helped the wearable market for fitness bands and similar. Not such a bad rap for a technology named after a particularly bloodthirsty Viking!