First Bluetooth 5-Ready Beacon is on the Market!

Beacon Pro is one of the best selling products in our portfolio, and now it’s also the first Bluetooth 5 ready beacon on the market.
Within hours of Bluetooth 5.0’s launch, we were receiving calls from excited customers talking about the next chapter for beacons. Now, all Beacon Pros bought after May 26 are Bluetooth 5 compatible. That means you can enjoy the benefits of Bluetooth’s 5 higher speed and greater messaging capacity.
What’s more: All future products will support Bluetooth 5, too.

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Bluetooth 5 is driving the beacon revolution

Bluetooth 5 is Bluetooth’s answer to an increasingly complex global IoT environment. With 4x the range, 2x the speed, and 8x the broadcasting message capacity, Bluetooth 5 is a clear step to enhance functionality of Bluetooth for the IoT devices and beacons.
*Note that the Nordic chip used in Beacon Pro is not currently able to support the increased range associated with Bluetooth 5. That means the usual range will still apply.
We talked to Martin Woolley of Bluetooth SIG about their latest developments. He put it this way:

“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.”

Big winners: Real-time Location Systems, Industrial IoT

As discussed in detail in our Bluetooth 5 Means Better Asset Tracking blog post, it is Bluetooth-based asset tracking and Real-Time Location Systems that will be the biggest winners with Bluetooth 5

Applications of Bluetooth 5

Exactly how Bluetooth 5 will affect your business depends largely on your use case. For some, Bluetooth 5 isn’t a huge game changer. But for others, it will mean brand new possibilities and cheaper solutions to age-old problems.
We can start by separating Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy. While Bluetooth itself was designed for high data transfer—for example, which is required to transfer audio from a phone to headphones—BLE was designed maximize the battery life of battery powered devices like beacons, location tags, and telemetry tags.
There are three major applications for Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy:

  1. Stationary beacons
  2. Location tags
  3. Telemetry tags

Each of these are similar in terms of technology but they support very different use cases. For example, stationary beacons hang in a store and are registered by passers by. Location tags move through a space, creating a digital image of physical movements via gateway or router. Lastly, telemetry tags add sensor data to the mix. Temperature, humidity, and other data can now be used to monitor state and changes of state.

Each of these use cases will be affected differently by Bluetooth 5. First, we have to break down the three major qualities of Bluetooth 5.
Bluetooth 5 boasts:

  • 800% more broadcast messaging capacity
  • 4x range
  • 2x throughput

1. Data

Perhaps most impactful will be the increase of the messaging broadcast capacity. For comparison, Bluetooth Low Energy was able to send 32 bytes—a byte being a character. Bluetooth 5 can send 251 bytes.
But for stationary beacons this impact is minimal. Beacons only need to send a very small amount of data. That data can be managed by Bluetooth Low Energy without issue. Similarly, the location tags do not generally require more data than Bluetooth Low Energy can support. This leaves us with telemetry tags.
For telemetry tags, more data means more possibilities. More sensors and options in terms of what can be monitored enables businesses of different kinds to build all new use cases or finance infrastructures that weren’t affordable before.

2. Range

Then there’s range where Bluetooth 5, again, brings an increase. While Bluetooth Low Energy reaches 70 meters, Bluetooth 5 can reach 140 meters. Of course, it still is hindered by walls and crowds as is typical of the 2.4GHz frequency range.
Here, the impact is a bit more complicated but similar to the above.
For stationary beacons, the impact is not huge simply because of the most common use cases. Businesses like retailers and museum managers don’t necessarily want their one beacon to reach users at such great distance. In the case of the increasingly hot use case of indoor navigation, solution providers will likely use distances under 30 meters rather than over 100.
For location tags, there is a benefit of increased range. Longer reach simply means fewer receivers are required. This is hugely useful in asset tracking which we discuss at length over here. This is also true of telemetry tags, which can now be read at a greater distance.

3. Throughput

The last factor: throughput. This is expressed:
(data per packet x number of packets) / time.
The first thing to note is that Bluetooth Low Energy isn’t about maximizing throughput. It’s about lasting battery at a reasonable data rate. This makes the increase on throughput less relevant to the above applications. There is, however, a mild impact on telemetry where the amount of data transmitted/second can matter.
The clear winner with Bluetooth 5 is telemetry which is both interesting and exciting. It’s interesting in that we are seeing more and more companies across industries putting forward technology that is useful for such use cases, and it’s exciting because it means we can finally make solutions like asset tracking more practical, affordable, and even more complex.

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