Bluetooth SIG celebrates 20 years as it heads to Bluetooth World

Bluetooth lights
Bluetooth isn't just for audio connections; it's also being used to control lights in buildings. (Pixabay)

While a lot of folks know Bluetooth for connecting devices in their cars or providing audio for their headsets, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group would like to expand that thinking to other things, like smart buildings and lighting control systems.

The Bluetooth SIG is celebrating 20 years of the technology as it heads to Bluetooth World taking place Sept. 18-19 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California—and as they say, it’s come a long way. 

“For the most part, what we’re trying to do is actually move the discussion beyond the radio and turn it more into a discussion around what are the solutions that Bluetooth is actually enabling in the market,” said Chuck Sabin, senior director of business strategy and planning at the Bluetooth SIG. They also want to focus on how these solutions are contributing to the delivery of new markets and new market opportunities.

There are four core solutions Bluetooth is delivering on: audio streaming, data transfer capabilities, location services and device networking capabilities, Sabin told FierceWirelessTech.

Bluetooth 5.0 is the latest specification. A complementary spec was released in 2017 addressing the mesh network, but it’s not dependent on Bluetooth 5.0; it can work with earlier iterations, Sabin said. The mesh networking enables the creation of large-scale device networks for control, monitoring and automation systems where tens, hundreds or thousands of devices need to reliably and securely communicate with one another.

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The smart buildings arena is one of the areas in which there’s a lot of opportunity for growth. Companies are rigging their buildings with LED lighting because it’s more efficient, and while they’re at it, they’re looking at other ways to add solutions that will increase their return on investment, Sabin said. Bluetooth sensors may be added for wayfinding purposes, environmental sensing or management of meeting rooms, for example.

In fact, lighting and beacon companies are starting to come together to discuss how their businesses can complement one another; these types of conversations are happening in retail environments and elsewhere, he said.

“It’s a very interesting combination of business types that are starting to come together,” he said. Of course, beacons represent a big area for location sensors, and they’ve seen tremendous growth there.

Bluetooth SIG hasn’t really started to communicate the capabilities associated with the next iteration of the specification. Traditionally, the technology will go about one and a half to two years between major upgrades to the spec. They aren’t overly aggressive because they have to consider all the devices already in the market, he said.