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The Ultimate Guide to Bluetooth Low Energy

Bluetooth Low Energy

Technology has become the differentiator between a flourishing business and a dying one. It is one of the most crucial parameters that govern productivity, efficiency, growth, and value creation at a workplace.

From analytics to data-backed decision-making, from optimizing day-to-day business operations to enhancing customer experience and fulfilling customer expectations, technology has transformed businesses cutting across market verticals.

The use of IoT in Industry 4.0 is deemed the driving force behind this fourth industrial revolution. Although Industry 4.0 also entails various other technologies like Cloud computing, Big Data, Simulation, Augmented reality, Additive manufacturing, System Integration, Autonomous Robots, etc., the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) is a significant one.

Bluetooth Low Energy is a versatile wireless IoT technology that is trending across various industries like retail, healthcare, education, manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, utilities, etc. It is known for its low power consumption which makes it most suitable for IoT applications in smartwatches, beacons, wristbands, and other wearable devices. 

What is BLE and how it Works?

Bluetooth low energy, BLE, is a Bluetooth-based protocol that is known for low power consumption and intermittent signal it transmits as a Bluetooth beacon.

It works on the same principle as Bluetooth Classic but allows data transmission with low latency and low power consumption.

The reason behind industry-wide BLE adoption is the low cost of implementation in short range as well as ubiquitous smartphones and tablets that can read the data transmitted from the BLE beacons. With ever-present smartphones and tablets, BLE is the perfect technology for short-range advertisement and promotion using the Periodic Advertisement with Response (PAwR) feature. 

How BLE is different than Bluetooth Classic?

In 2006, Nokia developed a specification that aimed at addressing various features that common wireless technology didn’t have, low power consumption was one such feature. Nokia named it Wibree. It was later 2009 merged with BLUETOOTH 4.0 and christened as Bluetooth LE specification which is now upgraded and promoted by Special Interest Group (SIG).

Bluetooth low energy is based on similar specifications as Bluetooth classic however it differs in data transfer rate latency and power consumption.

Bluetooth classic clocks a data transfer rate (over the air) of 1-3Mbps while BLE has a higher data transmission rate (up to 24Mbps) resulting in low power consumption in BLE devices.

Bluetooth low energy is far more efficient than Bluetooth Classic as it uses a higher bandwidth (2MHz) in comparison to Bluetooth Classic (1MHz).

Bluetooth LE (Bluetooth 5.4) also offers periodic advertising with response (PAwR), encrypted advertising data (128-bit AES encryption same as Bluetooth Classic), and authenticated and unauthenticated pairing.

A BLE device is able to run off a coin cell battery for several years. Another important thing that should be noted is that Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth LE, both are compatible with the same device (say a smartphone) as both use the same 2.4GHz ISM frequency band.

How BLE is different than RFID?

Bluetooth low energy is a wireless IoT tool just like RFID. Both of them find applications in short-range data transmission and communication. While Radio Frequency Identification has a larger market size and growing rapidly in the sectors of retail, supply chain, healthcare, education, asset management, security, etc., BLE is quite popular with advertising applications in transport, retail, smart homes, and smart city projects. The vertical markets are not exclusive though.

While BLE uses high-frequency radio waves (2.4GHz), RFID uses low-frequency radio waves (125 KHz, 13.56 MHz, and 860-960 MHz) than BLE to transmit data.

In terms of efficiency, RFID is more efficient when it comes to tracking assets. BLE can also help you track assets once you divide the space into several zones and track the BLE beacon signals.

The cost of deployment depends upon the no. of RFID readersRFID tags, antennae, and BLE beacons employed to perform the task. With Low energy consumption, BLE is an obvious choice in shorter spaces than RFID, although the cost of RFID tags and RFID readers is coming down heavily, it might be a good option as well.

Applications of Bluetooth Low Energy

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), due to its low energy consumption and ubiquitous nature of smartphones and tablets, finds many applications in retail, FMCG, healthcare, fitness trackers, education, supply chain, smart homes, and smart city projects.

Let’s see some of the applications of BLE technology:

1. By employing Bluetooth LE beacons in malls, airports, railway platforms, bus stations, and healthcare facilities, BLE can be used to broadcast valuable information to consumers and flyers. With PAwR and BLE beacons, information about flight arrival, departure, terminals, waiting area, dining area, baggage check-in and baggage claim, security, etc. can be directly sent to flyers’ mobile devices, which significantly improves flyer experience at airports. 

2. It can also be used in BLE advertising where coupons, flyers, discount brochures, menus, new seasonal stocks, membership benefits, etc. can be transmitted and can be read on a consumer’s smartphone.

3. In healthcare, BLE beacons can be used to monitor heart rate, blood glucose, etc., and to alert individuals about the same. Many healthcare wearable devices feature sensors and BLE technology, which means crucial health-related data can be sensed and accessed on a smartphone. BLE also enables remote patient monitoring, which reduces the burden on exhausted healthcare facilities.

4. In the retail sector, BLE is used for sharing advertisements on discounts, the latest products and offers, smart shelving with ESL (electronic shelf label), etc. Most present-day smartphones come with BLE feature and BLE beacons in retail stores and malls can directly share promotions on shoppers’ smartphones. 

5. BLE is also used for indoor positioning systems where one can locate a BLE-tagged item with great accuracy. BLE beacons and BLE transponders periodically send out information in small patches of data which can be used to locate BLE-tagged items by triangulating the location of the same.

To conclude, BLE beacons and gateways are used to establish a BLE connection indoors, and in malls, shopping complexes, retail stores, healthcare facilities, airports, schools, libraries, etc. BLE, as a low-power-consuming technology, allows for wireless data transfer for information sharing and promotion while keeping the power consumption to a minimum, unlike other IoT technologies such as Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Classic. BLE technology is extensively used in wearable devices, allowing for long battery life of devices while sharing information.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Apr 11, 2023
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