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There were 1 billion connected Things back in the 90’s. That doubled quickly thanks to smartphones. And with each passing year even more Things are entering the space. People are getting so excited it’s easy to see it all as hype and overexcitement. But that’s not true; the IoT is still growing and evolving.
That’s why we believe in the importance of Bluetooth, and that’s why we were honored to have Martin Woolley, Bluetooth SIG technical program manager, at our recent Beacon Business Industry Development evening in Berlin.
In a talk about Bluetooth 5.0 and its business impact on beacon tech, Woolley walked us through the standard's new specs, what they really mean, how they came about, and he gave us a very very small peak into what’s next, the details of which remain very hush-hush.
Woolley gave us plenty of numbers to ponder including a rather popular one: 48 billion. By 2021, there will be some 48 billion devices connected to the internet. But, at this point, it won't plateau. It will continue to grow faster and faster as everything becomes readily connectable to the internet. It's easy to think IoT and the whole "IoT revolution" is just hype, but the numbers tell another story.
The numbers say 'this is happening,' and we have to respond appropriately. In order for the IoT to work in the long run, we’ll need seamless communication between devices, and we’ll need at least one powerful standard to connect many of our favorite devices. As we’ve discussed probably too many times to count, this is why Bluetooth is increasingly important in nearly every market. Then we’ll also need devices to support this Bluetooth ecosystem. For us, this is the Bluetooth tag or 'beacon.'
The reality is, without a device like the beacon, an infrastructure will have limited proximity information and that means limited functionality. As the network of connected things grows and we close in on dreams of a hyper-connected future, proximity information will be central to automating a number of daily processes.
Bluetooth 4 and BLE powered the first generation of devices, where items could say one thing about themselves. Bluetooth 5, with all its added strength, is now (finally!) enabling items to say all kinds of things about themselves.
Bluetooth 5 has been a very exciting upgrade for everyone in the beacon and Bluetooth tag industry. With all the increased functionalities, it will power existing and new use cases especially in asset tracking. This was no accident.
“Bluetooth was already much faster than other low power wireless communications technologies, so why did we bother making it even faster? It’s about use cases. At the end of the day we will see use cases where even faster data transmission would be useful. Sometimes this is just for user experience, but that’s very important. If users don’t like the speed, they won’t use it, and you’ve already failed.”
Real world use cases and needs are what's driving changes to Bluetooth, and we like to say the same about our Bluetooth tags (hence why we're always sending you surveys and crunching data about use cases and pain points).
From error correction to packet chaining, Bluetooth 5 is powering the second generation of tags. This next generation of tools and tech will push us into that great number, 48 billion connected devices. But we’re still not done.
The next chapter in Bluetooth and tags is coming soon. How “soon?” We’re also curious.
“The next big thing for us is Bluetooth mesh networking. This has been a work in process for the past 2 and a half years or so, I believe, and now you’ve got people asking 'well, when are you gonna release? We’re sick of you saying its coming soon.’ Now, it’s coming really soon, really really soon. In the near-ish future. Is that vague enough? I can’t tell you when, but it’s kind of imminent.”
Our beacon development evening has only continued to provide proof that the world is moving towards Bluetooth tags and beacons. After months of research, an official US tour, and years of networking, we continue to be surprised at how the demand for beacons continues to grow. They may not know the exact metrics, but companies and consumers alike are feeling this growth in IoT and they want to be ready for the newest capabilities.
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