Bluetooth is a wireless technology conceived by Ericsson in 1994, with their initial intention being to enable wireless headsets. Bluetooth has since expanded to drive a wide range of gadgets we use today, providing connectivity solutions in smartphones, hearables, wearables such as fitness trackers, gaming devices and accessories, and sensors for smart homes and industries. Bluetooth has found itself almost indispensable in many different areas of technology today. With a continuous evolution, Bluetooth stands at version 5.2 as of 2022, with lower battery consumption and the ability to connect multiple devices to one single source transmitting data. With current technology, seven devices can connect to a single source forming a "piconet".
Wireless connectivity and IoT
Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining momentum with the rollout of 5G throughout the world. IoT devices use various methods to connect and share data, with most of these devices using wireless connectivity. According to Bluetooth Specialist Interest Group, by 2020, more than one-third of all installed IoT devices will be Bluetooth-enabled. With its ability to connect various devices and industries through short-range technology, Bluetooth can transform the way devices communicate with each other. It can rapidly pair and reconnect devices in a couple of milliseconds, making it ideal for gathering data quickly with the least energy expenditure. Thus Bluetooth, a standardized protocol for communication, is ideal to realize the full potential of IoT applications, making it the communication protocol of choice.
We increasingly live our daily lives wire-free yet connected. Whether it be with smartphone manufacturers continuing to kill off the headphone jack; the popularity of smart speakers and hearables; the gaming industry going wireless; or the advent of wearables - all are helping to make Bluetooth ever more ubiquitous.
With the development of digital voice assistants and connected devices, Bluetooth powers most of the hearables market, joined by a bandwagon of high-end audio devices moving into the wireless segment ranging from audiophile-grade headphones to speakers.
Just a few years back, wireless gaming was far from the reality due to the latency issues. Thanks to today's low latency Bluetooth standards, wireless gaming is now possible on the latest game consoles from Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo; game streaming services like Stadia and GeforceNOW; and PCs.
There is also the promising market of wearables, gadgets with sensors that can be worn on the body by the user. Devices range from a simple fitness tracker or smartwatch to AR/VR headsets, with all strongly driven by Bluetooth for synchronization and connectivity.
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Lionel Sujay Vailshery
Research expert covering the consumer electronics industry