IoT devices have to be connected but power consumption is usually a real concern. If you think about wearables, like for example fitness wristbands, the time between charges could make or break the product. Even if Wi-Fi looks attractive to connect an IoT device, the system developers have quickly realize that the power consumption associated with Wi-Fi technology was too high, leading to short active time before recharging. Bluetooth 4.0 (aka Low Energy or BLE) has generated high interest from the developers of emerging IoT applications.
But Bluetooth has been initially defined for short range usage, typically headset and smartphone, with paired device broadcasting approach. According with Bluetooth SIG, the future launch of Bluetooth 5 at the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, will not only suppress these limitations in term of range and broadcasting capability, but also double the speed and by consequence half the power consumption. Let’s review in details these four improvements and their impact on Bluetooth 5 adoption for battery powered connected devices.
Doubling the speed means that Bluetooth Low Energy 5 (BLE5) will support 2 Mbit/s data rate, doubling the version 4 (BLE) data rate (1 Mbit/s). For most applications, the speed of current Bluetooth standard for relaying data to the platform (smartphone or gateway) was sufficient. If we take again the example of the fitness wristbands, the amount of data to be transferred is pretty modest and BTLE data rate support was enough. Nevertheless, even for such wearable devices, higher transfer speed will allow faster software and firmware updates and improves user experience.
One consequence of doubling the speed will have a very strong impact on user experience as well: double speed means half the power consumption! In other words, we can expect the time between charges to last longer, up to twice the time when using the previous Bluetooth release. This impact on power consumption would not be true if using wired devices, like high speed SerDes. In fact, if you double the speed of wired device (SerDes on the same technology), you almost double the power consumption. But Bluetooth is a wireless technology and the radio frequency stays the same at 2.4 GHz with Bluetooth 5 and the radio frequency dictate the power consumption, not the data rate. For the same power envelope, Bluetooth 5 allows exchanging twice the amount of data and the consequence is that the device consumes half the power to exchange the same data. The magic of wireless technology!
When selecting a wireless standard for battery powered IoT application, providing the same amount of data at half the power is already very important. The next improvement may have an even stronger impact, as the new standard will increase the range of communication by a factor of four. For existing wirelessly connected consumer devices, Bluetooth standard is ubiquitous, like USB for wired connection. If you need to be convinced about the standard ubiquity, just take a look at Bluetooth SIG web site and you will realize that it references 30,000 member companies. Extending the range of communication by a factor of four will allow users to gain control of their smart home products from anywhere in their home. By the way, this remove the main advantage of using power hungry Wi-Fi to control smart home devices. IoT application will see wide adoption at the express condition that the devices can be affordable at low cost. As of today, many products have multiple and redundant options for connectivity. Bluetooth 5 could become the unique wireless standard if it offers the same benefit than Wi-Fi in term of range or data rate, but much lower power consumption.
The range improvement going with Bluetooth 5 may also open new doors, especially when we consider the boost in broadcasting offered by the new standard: 800% improvement. Increasing broadcast capacity will propel the next generation of “connectionless” services like beacons and location-relevant information and navigation. If we can receive and interact with these services without installing any additional applications and without the nuisance of setting up a connection beforehand, we clearly open up more possibilities for Bluetooth powered systems. The four improvements offered by Bluetooth 5, doubling the speed and half the power consumption, increasing the range of communication by a factor of four and the boost in broadcasting, added to the ubiquity of the standard in consumer devices, should allow wider adoption of the standard, including emerging IoT. It’s even possible that Bluetooth 5 eventually stays the unique wireless standard implemented in many interconnected application…
Thanks to acquisition of RivieraWaves, CEVA has expanded from Digital only DSP and SATA/SAS IP, to support wide interconnect solution, adding WiFi and Bluetooth IP to the port-folio. We have already written in Semiwiki how smart this move was at the time the deal was made. If we take a look at Q2 2016 results from CEVA, the IP vendors completed ten license agreements and six of these agreements were for CEVA connectivity IP. We don’t know how many of these six licenses were for SAT or SAS IP (ranked in connectivity) but we can guess that a majority was for wireless connectivity.
According with CEVA, target applications for customer deployment are vision processing for a virtual reality product (DSP), 5G base stations (DSP), voice processors (DSP), Bluetooth low energy and Bluetooth 5 connectivity for various IoT devices and storage drives (SATA/SAS). Did you notice than in advance of the official standard release by the SIG, CEVA has already closed several deal with Bluetooth 5 for IoT device? This is good sign for CEVA and good sign for Bluetooth 5 adoption in IoT!
We have found many interesting information in this blog “Will Bluetooth 5 Enhancements Make BLE the Best Choice for IoT?” from Franz Dugand, Director of Sales & Marketing, Connectivity Business Unit, CEVA.
You can find the Press Release from Bluetooth SIG announcing Bluetooth 5 here