May 6, 2010
Bluetooth 4.0 is coming -- even though only half of the world's Bluetooth devices have been upgraded to version 3.0 so far.
Version 4, currently in its final testing phase, was announced recently by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. It will open new avenues of wireless device connections, SIG director Michael Foley said.
"Its biggest new feature is what we call low-energy technology, and that allows Bluetooth to be used in entirely new types of applications and products that it can't be used in today," such as industrial sensors, keychains, and wristwatches, Foley explained.
For example, robots could use it to monitor products as they move down an assembly line; car keys could activate an alarm when they're a certain distance away from your pocket; and wristwatches could display silent alerts for important messages.
The new version will start appearing in products later this year and is expected to make headway in 2011, Foley said. A special dual-mode version will retain compatibility with the current versions 2.0 and 3.0.
Such technology brings Bluetooth past its mobile phones forte and closer to machine-to-machine niches. Foley's sample applications are not dissimilar to those imagined by the Cisco-backed IPSO Alliance, which advocates that small wireless devices should communicate using a TCP/IP layer. IPSO recently said its technology was successfully tested with the IETF's RPL IPv6 routing protocol and 6LoWPAN-HC low-power header compression format.