Expanding the Wild Blue Yonder

Stefanie Diesi, Staff Engineer

Last month, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced yet another new Bluetooth® spec, called Bluetooth 5. This new release, out at the end of this year or early next, quadruples the range and doubles the speed of the previous spec. When they hit the market, Bluetooth 5-enabled devices will be able to connect at speeds up to 50 Mbps and distances up to 800 feet. To put this in perspective, that’s like connecting your phone to a device over two and a half football fields away!

Increased Range

I’ve seen quite a bit of banter about how people will use this new technology. Much of it centers around the improvements and range and potential for indoor navigation. I’ve even seen articles about how the new Bluetooth capability will allow you to walk outside without losing connection. However, I’m less excited about this because, like the current Bluetooth capability, my hearing doesn’t extend through buildings either.

Increased Speed

I’m surprised by how few people are talking about advantages of the increased speed. Nowadays, Bluetooth devices and wearables are limited to audio and data only: smart watches and Bluetooth speakers and headsets. If this is of interest to you, you can check out things like a Promotional Bluetooth Speaker which can be customised and is available in different designs. However, I can’t help but wonder

tonya image

Photo credit: Brad Clement / Spindrift Films

if the new spec will promote a breakthrough in video devices. At 50 Mbps, it would be possible to stream HD video over Bluetooth.

Possibilities

Just think of all the possibilities this opens up!

  • How about a helmet camera and connected screen for rock climbers? Someone on the ground could watch the live feed and suggest a better handhold or a different route.
  • What if you could connect your phone to your baby monitor without downloading another app and signing up for another account?
  • The new technology could allow people to share a TV screen the same way people currently share a speaker in “party mode.” At family reunions, everyone could share pictures and videos without passing a phone around the room.
  • I could also see a new kind of Bluetooth-capable media hard drive. It would allow you to take your entire video library to the park or, better yet, on the airplane so your kids don’t decide they have to watch the only movie that wouldn’t fit on your tablet’s hard drive.

These are just some examples of what could be engineered when this new technology becomes available.

Of course there are technical hurdles that need to be addressed. Battery life is probably very high on that list. There are also the issues of increased processing power and the memory required to encode and decode video streams as compared to audio. Only time will tell if it’s practical to stream video with Bluetooth 5. But I can’t wait to find out.

 

 

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