BLUETOOTH 4.2 recently arrived, the first iteration of the stalwart standard that allows direct connection to the internet over IP.
The INQUIRER caught up with senior marketing director Errett Kroeter and technical programme manager Martin Woolley from the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) to bring us up to speed on what's new since we last spoke in 2013.
Bluetooth SIG is a user body which has just surpassed 25,000 member organisations, working together for best practice and cohesion in the Bluetooth standard.
"This is the most connected, most secure and most nimble version of Bluetooth yet. We've upgraded to fully FIPS-compliant encryption and added a privacy feature which makes it very hard to track a Bluetooth device," says Kroeter.
"We've made sure any device, say a Fitbit, isn't advertising the same address all the time, so you can't track a single device down to a single location. Manufacturers can now mask the address, but also change it on a time-variable basis."
Bluetooth 4.2 sees upgrades specific to Bluetooth Smart rather than Bluetooth Classic, although both are served by the standard. Part of Bluetooth's longevity is reliant on its full backwards compatibility right the way back to Bluetooth 1.0.
"We've increased the data capacity by about 10x in any given transmission, which means data transfer is 2.5x faster," says Koeter.
"Along with that, we've announced direct internet connection via IPv6, so now we've got a world where not only is your Bluetooth device connected through a hub, but you can give an IP address to that device and connect it directly to my cloud. We see that opening up huge opportunities for the Internet of Things."
But with so many developers doing so much surrounding the Bluetooth Smart standard, there must be risk of repetition. Are there no plans for a marketplace to swap code, best practice and avoid reinventing wheels?
"It's something we're talking about right now, but we see a need for that so watch out for some announcements about that next year," says Koeter.
"We're looking at ways that not only can developers create profiles more easily without having to start from scratch each time, but then provide a way for people to share these things."
The next thing for Bluetooth is meshing. "We announced a Smart Mesh study group working with some of the companies that have created their own mesh protocols," explains Kroeter, referring to infinitely scalable, interconnected and intraconnected beacons that can send messages in 'hops' down to where they are needed in super quick time.
"What we're interested in is establishing a standard for that meshing and we're working with companies including CSR to bring together the different flavours."
Since we spoke to Bluetooth SIG, CSR has progressed with its plans for Bluetooth CSRMesh.
"There's already a mesh of 200 beacons on Regent Street," chimes in Woolley. This network allows people walking down the street to opt in to special offers from shops and restaurants based on a preference profile but, unlike the days of Bluejacking, is completely optional.
"That's going to be the next big thing for Bluetooth: announcing that standard," says Kroeter.
And that should be that, but Woolley has saved the best for last. "What people don't realise is that if you have a 4.0 or 4.1 device in your network, as long as one gateway device is 4.2, Bluetooth 4.2 will just work," he says.
In other words, as long as there's a gateway device, such as a television or router, that carries the latest iteration you won't have to upgrade everything else.
The gateway will, as Woolley puts it, "act on behalf" of the other Bluetooth devices in your home in making them discoverable and controllable.
The number of devices with Bluetooth is about to hit three billion, and Bluetooth has just done something very clever. It's made itself futureproof.
Bluetooth 4.2 is being added to devices currently in development and should be in the kit you unwrap on Christmas Day 2015, if you can wait that long. µ
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