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Summary

Bluetooth is positioning itself to take an enlarged role in the smart home, thanks to the launch of version 5.0 of the protocol and the coming launch of mesh networking capabilities. At its Bluetooth World event in Santa Clara, California, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) highlighted how the increased range and throughput enabled by Bluetooth 5 will lead to advances in areas such as the smart home, smart buildings, and beacons.

Bluetooth as the second tier of authentication in the home

Thanks to Bluetooth 4, also known as Bluetooth low energy (BLE), the protocol has grown out of its initial niche of enabling wireless audio and has become the standard of choice for tethering devices such as tethering wearables to smartphones. In the smart home, Bluetooth is also the preferred way of connecting smart locks, such as those from Kwikset, because it enables point-to-point interaction instead of sending the request to unlock the front door from the user's smartphone to the Wi-Fi router and back to the lock.

Bluetooth 5 is expected to enable further use cases in the smart home and smart building, owing to its longer range and increased data transmission capabilities. The SIG envisions Bluetooth coexisting with other protocols, primarily Wi-Fi, in the smart home, where Bluetooth's advantage would lie in uses around two-tier authentication. For instance, Bluetooth could notify smart home devices that the user has entered, triggering climate, lighting, and entertainment settings based on which member of the household is present.

The power improvements in BLE and Bluetooth 5 will be critical for powering uses in the smart home, as well as mesh networking capabilities, which are expected to arrive by the end of 2017. Just as critical will be Bluetooth's interoperability, such as its Transport Delivery Service, in ensuring that Bluetooth devices can communicate with devices using other protocols that are better suited to heavy data transmission. Wi-Fi, for example, will continue to be the cornerstone of the smart home network.

Appendix

Further reading

"Bluetooth's move to mesh networks will be key to adoption in industrial IoT," TE0019-000010 (April 2015)

"Bluetooth SIG launches Transport Delivery Service to connect IoT standards," TE0004-001070 (March 2016)

Author

Francesco Radicati, Senior Analyst, Consumer Technology

francesco.radicati@ovum.com

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