Bluetooth is about to connect straight to the Internet

A new version of Bluetooth, adopted and about to be ratified, is going to make Bluetooth the go-to choice for IoT connectivity, according to the developers.

bluetooth lead image
Credit: Bluetooth SIG

We've all fiddled around with that crazy Bluetooth pairing nonsense, which is often hit-and-miss as to whether pairing will happen at all. And what’s with the “0000” passwords? A little insecure, no?

It’s been a messy, vague interaction at best.

Well, times might be changing, because the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, or SIG, appears to be taking the short-range, low-power wireless protocol to another level—and just in time for IoT, or Internet of Things, too.

The Bluetooth SIG has officially adopted version 4.2 of the Bluetooth core specification, which enables a direct connection to the internet, among other things.

That alone takes Bluetooth into a new space, and primes it for IoT.

Here’s a look at some of the key changes:

What’s new?

Principal changes in this new version of Bluetooth, called 4.2, include the aforementioned IP connectivity, plus speed gains and some privacy elements.

Internet

The Internet Protocol Support Profile, or IPSP, in Bluetooth 4.2 will allow Bluetooth Smart sensors to connect to IPv6/6LoWPAN with low power.

GATT, or Generic Attribute Profile, is another form of data transport included in 4.2, according to the Bluetooth SIG. It uses something called Bluetooth Smart Internet gateways.

IPSP is ready now, and Internet via GATT will be included sometime in 2015.

Incidentally, the previous version of Bluetooth launched L2CAP-dedicated channels. That was the initial stage for IPv6 support.

Speed

Packet size, or Bluetooth Smart packets, as the group calls it, is increased 10 times with this new version. This capacity increase allows for a two-and-a-half times faster connection over previous versions, according to the group.

It also lowers the chance of transmission errors.

A third benefit is improved battery use.

So, over-the-air firmware updates will be faster and more reliable, for example.

Beacon privacy

Beacons now require permissions before they can engage with a Bluetooth device.

Beacons are those intrusive attempts to grab your attention by retail outlets. The store hits up any passing Bluetooth-enabled smartphone that happens to be rolling by and sends Zen-interrupting pings to it.

I’ve written about in-store mannequins that have Bluetooth beaconing chips in them before.

The Bluetooth SIG says that this protection stops the tracking of a device by a beacon. In other words, only the owner or a trusted group can follow a Bluetooth smart device.

Privacy

In addition to the beacon-thwarting measures, further privacy measures include encryption. A secure connection could be used when pairing a domestic door lock, for example.

The encryption complies with Federal Information Processing Standards, a U.S. government computer security standard used to accredit cryptography.

And the future?

Low-power use, along with this new, direct IP connectivity, clearly makes Bluetooth a contender for IoT adoption by developers.

But it’s an abominable UI in my opinion. Unfathomable, half the time. Perhaps the next version could include an explanation of what the sequence of red and blue flashing lights means during a pairing process. Maybe it could be beaconed?

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