Bluetooth, the invisible glue that holds together the connected gadgets in your life, is about to get a major upgrade. In an email published on the Bluetooth special interest group (SIG) website, executive director Mark Powell said that Bluetooth 5, which will be formally announced next Thursday, will boast quadruple the range and double the speeds of today’s low energy Bluetooth standard.
To many, Bluetooth is what you used to use to send photos between phones, before the advent of internet-based messenger apps on smartphones. Over the years, the energy-sipping standard has grown into a staple of the connected home. TV remotes, game controllers, selfie sticks, smart fridges, and a whole lot more all use Bluetooth to send small amounts of data without running down the batteries.
A new version of the standard could help manufacturers connect gadgets they never would have dreamed of before. What if your stove knew when your food was cooked, told your TV to display a message that dinner’s done and sent a request to the bulbs to dim the lights, before telling the stereo to start playing the “dinner” playlist? With an upgrade to the Bluetooth standard, this setup could work faster than ever before.
Bluetooth 5 will be a big boost to the growing range of wearables on the market. Smartwatches like the Pebble and Apple Watch maintain a connection to a user’s nearby smartphone over Bluetooth, for example, pinging the wearable when a notification comes through. The new version’s further range will mean keeping the functionality going when a wearer moves further away from their phone, while faster speeds will improve device responsiveness.
It may seem like the standard would eventually be replaced by wifi and the like, but if Bluetooth continues to improve on its key strengths of low energy transmission and simple setup, there could be a future where the two carry on operating side-by-side. As internet-connected gadgets like Philips Hue smart bulbs increase in popularity, demand will soar for a new version of a standard that offers power efficient networking.
Powell also said that Bluetooth 5 would introduce support for “connectionless services like location-relevant information and navigation.” Whether this means something as simple as telling other devices which country they’re in, or if it means something bigger, will hopefully be revealed next week.