Nitin Gupta, lead engineer, µEnergy Applications, CSR India Pvt. Ltd., is an expert in Bluetooth Smart, the low-power variant of Bluetooth. He tells us about the relevance of Bluetooth Smart for the IoT. He will also be speaking at Electronics Rocks, about how BT Smart enables very small hardware devices to connect to smartphone apps, resulting in IoT-enabled ‘appcessories’…
The Internet of Things requires almost all objects to have some communication-ability built into them. What is the scope of Bluetooth Smart in the IoT scheme of things?
Smart devices, both tablets and smartphones, are likely to be central to the IoT. For direct consumer control and gathering data from low-power devices, Bluetooth Smart is ideal. With developer APIs available on all the major OS platforms Bluetooth Smart may provide the first wave of IoT devices.
Bluetooth is likely to work with WiFi to deliver consumer IoT products due to the huge deployment rates of these technologies.
What are the other options for M2M communication, and what are the advantages of Bluetooth Smart over these?
For M2M, cellular communication options are available, but these attract a service cost which can be prohibitive for products, as well as higher power consumption. These are typically much higher cost per unit, and also much higher power consumption. Looking forward, whitespace radios using the weightless standard may have a role to play where longer range is required in monitoring of infrastructure.
Bluetooth Smart offers rapid rollout of low-power consumer products around the latest smartphone and tablet platforms creating a large addressable market.
It is said that Bluetooth Smart is a completely new technology as compared to classical Bluetooth. Is that so? If so, how does an engineer decide which is best suits to his/ her needs?
Bluetooth Smart introduces significant changes to the radio for the low energy peripherals. It is optimised for applications that transfer small amounts of data. Peak throughput is limited to ~120Kbps. Bluetooth Classic is optimised for streaming data in the range of 300Kbps-1Mbps, making it perfect for audio or high data-rate sensor applications.
Are there any known shortcomings of Bluetooth Smart, and is there a revision in the offing?
The Bluetooth SIG is currently working on the 4.1 specification for Bluetooth. There are no mandatory changes in the specification but it does open up some further flexibility. The current 4.0 version of the spec enables star topology networks only. This means that a smart watch can only be master to a set of slave sensors or slave to a smart phone, but not both master and slave at the same time. For developers, this means that the smart watch has to switch roles to support both connections. In the 4.1 spec it will be possible for the watch to be slave to the phone whilst maintaining several slave sensors.
Bluetooth Smart support in Android is expected to cause a boom in IoT objects – what is your take on this?
Bluetooth Smart support in Android is a huge step, and Android continues to dominate market share in smart devices. I therefore agree that support in Android will enable new innovation and encourage more developers to work with the technology.