The Bluetooth SIG promises Bluetooth 5 will quadruple its range to up to around 400m and will also double its speed. As well as the obvious benefits for standard communications this will help support the use of firmware and security updates.
Broadcast message sizes (the ‘advertising packets’, to use the protocol’s terms) will also increase by a factor of eight to help extend the scope of applications. This will build on existing blocks such as UUIDs and compressed URLs (found in different beacon formats such as Apple’s iBeacon or Google’s Eddystone, for example) to allow a greater range of application specific data.
The next release is coming “late 2016 to early 2017”, says the SIG. The current version, Bluetooth v4.2, was released in December, 2014.
“Bluetooth 5 will transform the way people experience the IoT by making it something that happens simply and seamlessly around them,” said Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG.
“Increasing operation range will enable connections to IoT devices that extend far beyond the walls of a typical home, while increasing speed supports faster data transfers and software updates for devices. And now with the ability to broadcast a much richer set of information, Bluetooth 5 will make beacons, location awareness, and other connectionless services an even more relevant part of an effortless and seamless IoT experience.”
The Bluetooth SIG also released some latest stats for the low-energy protocol, as part of the announcement. For example, there are more than eight billion Bluetooth products in use, it says, And as well as the organisation recording its 30,000th member (a company called Blossom Group) there was an astonishing projection for beacon sales.
More than 371 million Bluetooth enabled beacons are projected to ship by 2020, according to Patrick Connolly, Principal Analyst at ABI Research.