The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has announced the formal adoption of Bluetooth 4.2, a new variant of the core specification which introduces new features including higher speeds, boosted privacy and support for internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) traffic for the first time.
While the technology was originally developed at Ericsson Mobile back in 1989 as a means of connecting a headset to a mobile phone wirelessly, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group wasn't founded until 1998 when a partnership of Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba joined forces to develop Bluetooth and promote it as a formal standard. Since that time, it has become a standard feature of feature- and smartphones as well as tablets, laptops and even home theatre systems. While Bluetooth excels at low-bandwidth tasks such as audio streaming, its relatively low speed and short range compared to 802.11-based wireless technologies along with a lack of support for IP-based traffic have hampered its adoption for other tasks.
That, the SIG claims, is to change from now. The new Bluetooth 4.2 standard builds on IP support added in Bluetooth 4.1 to include IPv6 capabilities, enabling each Bluetooth device to have a globally unique IP address with no risk of collision. The privacy of the technology has also been improved, including a mode which prevents Bluetooth devices from being tracked by beacons - frequently used in shopping centres and similar facilities to track shoppers and their habits - unless given express permission by the device owner.
The new standard also boosts the speed, which has long lagged behind 802.11 rivals. With an increased packet size, Bluetooth 4.2 is claimed to increase the data transfer rate between devices by 2.5 times, while reducing the likelihood of data transmission errors requiring battery-draining retransmission.
While Bluetooth is best known as the technology that drives hands-free phone headsets, the SIG has its sights set elsewhere with its Bluetooth Smart initiative. 'Bluetooth 4.2 is all about continuing to make Bluetooth Smart the best solution to connect all the technology in your life – from personal sensors to your connected home. In addition to the improvements to the specification itself, a new profile known as IPSP enables IPv6 for Bluetooth, opening entirely new doors for device connectivity,
' claimed Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, at the unveiling. 'Bluetooth Smart is the only technology that can scale with the market, provide developers the flexibility to innovate, and be the foundation for the IoT [Internet of Things].
The SIG has published a guide to the new features of Bluetooth 4.2 on its official website