Bluetooth 5 was announced at the end of 2016 and began to be implemented in mobile phones in early 2017. Today we are going to explain what it is and what are the novelties that the new Bluetooth 5.1 has just been introduced and its differences with Bluetooth 5. It is a technology that is present in most of our home devices so that every novelty that is announced for it marks the path of what is to come in the next technological equipment.
What Exactly is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a wireless communication protocol between devices. With it, we can connect different devices with a secure radio frequency in the ISM band of 2.4 GHz, and through this connection, you can transmit voice and data between them without having to physically connect them via cables.
The uses that can be given to this protocol are many. For example, you can connect peripherals such as keyboards and mouse to your computer or mobile phone to use them. You can also share all types of files between devices, from music to photographs, videos and any of your files or documents. You can also synchronize speakers or headphones to hear what is playing on another device.
Today you can find Bluetooth on all types of devices, from computers to smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It is also used by mice, keyboards, printers, digital cameras, headphones, televisions and all types of receivers. You can also see it implemented in the audio systems of current cars or in some game consoles. In addition, since the Bluetooth module is integrated into the devices you do not need to connect any antenna as with some other wireless alternatives.
One of the great achievements that Bluetooth achieved since its inception is not to interfere with other wireless systems that operate by radiofrequency. For this, this technology sends weak signals of less than 1 milliwatt, limiting the range of action of the equipment to a maximum of certain meters of distance.
In this way, data travels efficiently and without being interfered with by other signals. In addition, unlike infrared connections, Bluetooth does not need to be in the line of sight of the equipment to carry out communication. This means that the devices that connect do not have to be in the same room since the Bluetooth signal manages to pass through walls.
Bluetooth 5.0 & Bluetooth 5.1
The development of “short-link” radio technology, which was later renamed Bluetooth, was initiated in 1989 by Ericsson Mobile. Since then, this protocol has evolved with different versions, each of them providing different innovations that improve the technology by adding more functionalities and possibilities.
The Bluetooth 5.1 is the latest version that has been announced of this technology as soon as 2019 begins. It is, therefore, the version following Bluetooth 5 that was presented in December 2016. As usually happens in other developments, is the version 5.1 and not 6, we are told that it is more of an evolution of the previous version than of a more complete version, although not for that reason, it ceases to have news.
In any case, what has been done now is to present this new version of the standard, so it could still be months or even a year until we see it implemented in all our devices. Keep in mind that you cannot manually change the Bluetooth chip to your mobile, so you will have to wait to buy one that has this Bluetooth 5.1 among its specifications to use its new features.
Bluetooth 5.0: Features
More Speed, Distance, and Performance
Like every new version, Bluetooth improves speed and range. According to Bluetooth SIG (the organization that is responsible for the development of the Bluetooth standard) version 5.0 has:
- Twice as fast (up to 2 Mbps).
- Four times more range (up to 240 meters).
However, this has a trick and is that these improvements only apply to Bluetooth low energy, also known as BLE.
Bluetooth Low Energy 5.0
With version 4.0 many new features were introduced. One of the most important was the distinction between two different Bluetooth classes:
- On the one hand, we have the Classic that is the normal one of a lifetime. The one that has been used to connect speakers, mice, headphones, etc.
- And on the other, came the Low Energy (LE) class that uses much less energy and is designed to be used on devices that are connected 24 hours a day, such as GPS watches, activity wristbands, home automation devices and other devices of the IoT (Internet of Things).
The best thing about the BLE 4.0 version is that it consumed very little energy. However, it had many restrictions so its use was very limited. For example, it could not be used to stream music via Bluetooth.
As we have seen, most of the improvements in version 5.0 are intended for this class of devices that can now reach data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps.
Thanks to this, practically everything that was done before by Bluetooth Classic is going to be able to be done by Bluetooth LE, which means that our devices with Bluetooth 5.0 will be able to do the same using much less energy, including audio transmission.
Bluetooth 5.0 also brings a new feature that allows you to play audio at the same time on two different devices.
It serves both to play the same music at the same time in two headphones or speakers or transmit two different audio sources to the two devices at the same time.
Fortunately, all Bluetooth versions are backward compatible, so they can be connected to each other, although the capabilities will be limited to the older version.
This means that even if your phone has Bluetooth 5.0 if you connect it to an accessory with Bluetooth 4.2 it will work as if they were both version 4.2.
Bluetooth 5.1: Features
If Bluetooth 5.0 already had improvements such as the transfer speed of up to 2 Mbps, more range, lower consumption, the operability of different devices connected to the same device, among others. In the new version 5.1, priority has been given to improving the location.
More Accurate Tracking
As you know the tracking capacity of the current versions is still inaccurate. This is precisely what has been worked on for the new version. Therefore, the main feature of Bluetooth 5.1 is its ability to track other devices with a smaller margin of location error. The version we use today is usually between 1 and 10 meters, with the new version we would be talking about centimeters.
Origin of the Signal
You will be able to identify the direction from which the signal you are looking for comes from.
This type of technology in detail would also help in industrial environments. With it, Bluetooth receivers can be placed to products that are located in a large warehouse, and with a Bluetooth 5.1 device, they can search and know where in the warehouse you can find each product.
Extension of Information
Another Bluetooth application that is being worked on is the incorporation of information into a device. As an example, in a museum, you can add to each work a Bluetooth that when you approach the device you can expand the information about a pictorial work. Although this is still a goal to achieve and surely a debate will open on how this will affect user privacy.
This could also be useful for indoor location services, for example, to be able to locate a visitor inside the building without the need for mobile data or GPS. Experts estimate that by 2022 there will be 440 million devices compatible with the location via Bluetooth connectivity.