In today’s advanced and connected world, the internet has become an essential part of our lives. As an Internet of Things technology, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) is helping us connect our physical world to the digital world. From smartphones, and fitness trackers to smart homes and wearable devices, BLE is playing a significant role in enabling a seamless connection and wireless communication at low power consumption.
BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy is greatly popular as a wearable IoT as the global BLE market surpassed USD 9523 million in 2023. The technology, BLE IC, is used in wearable devices such as smart watches, wrist bands, fitness trackers, eye wares, etc. Since many smartphones also support BLE technology, it allows users to directly share data from wearable devices to smartphones and tablets.
The technology utilizes a BLE beacon(s) and gateway to transmit data when it is used for periodic advertisement in retail, supply chains, inventory management, healthcare facilities, etc.
BLE is a power-efficient version of the classic Bluetooth technology. It was first launched as a part of Bluetooth version 4.0 in 2010, which was focused on improving power efficiency.
In 2006, Nokia developed this network standard and named it Wibree. It was invented for the sole purpose of minimizing the power consumption in battery-operated devices while providing the benefits of already existing technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Classic. In 2010-11, Wibree became part of Bluetooth 4.0 and was renamed as BLE. It is also known as “Bluetooth Smart”. Not only that, but it operates on a radio frequency of 2.4 GHz to 2.438 GHz.
BLE is particularly used in the various applications of the Internet of Things like fitness trackers, smart home devices, BLE beacons for location-based services, and industrial IoT. BLE is a communication protocol that allows devices to communicate with each other based on Bluetooth technology and transmits signals at regular intervals with the help of a small BLE device named Bluetooth LE beacon.
A BLE beacon will remain in an idle state (sleep mode) until you initiate the connection between two or more devices, and they can switch swiftly at various rates of radio frequencies to consume less amount of electricity. Bluetooth classic and BLE devices cannot communicate with each other, even though they are variants of the same technology.
What is a Bluetooth low-energy Beacon?
A BLE beacon is a small radio transmitter device that broadcasts Bluetooth signals containing information that can be received by smartphones or other BLE-enabled devices. Beacons are specialized in navigating directions and real-time location tracking, which are widely used in various industries like travel & tourism, transportation, retail and advertising with its periodic advertisement with response (PAwR) feature.
The range of a BLE beacon will depend on its hardware capabilities. A beacon is capable of transmitting BLE signals up to 80 meters. Most of the BLE beacons offer 18 -24 months of battery life support, but beacons with an additional feature of energy-saving can last over 5 years.
What is a BLE beacon gateway?
The BLE gateway works as a bridge or a medium between BLE beacons and a central device, say a smartphone. They can process and aggregate data from multiple beacons, which makes them suitable for applications that require data analysis and real-time processing. A BLE beacon gateway detects Bluetooth signals from smart devices. It then processes the signals and records relevant data. The gateway works as a medium to send data to a cloud server, where it is processed again by using a unique algorithm.
BLE beacon gateways play a crucial role in expanding the capability and range of a BLE beacon. The gateway can pass on advertising data over the MQTT/HTTPS protocol. It continuously scans the nearby environment within a range of about 100m. The device transmits the signal at regular intervals to the gateways.
It can read in a range of 100 to 300 meters. They are frequently used in many IoT applications like retail, asset tracking, and smart building because they are cost-effective, have a wide coverage area to establish connections, and are easy to install.
Advantages of BLE
Followings are the prominnt advantages of BLE technology:
1. BLE ensures smooth connectivity and communication between devices.
2. It is a fast data-transferring technology and can transmit over 1 megabit per second of data for real-time communications.
3. It requires minimal hardware support and technical knowledge to use.
4. BLE has a variety of security features supporting encryption and authentication.
5. It is a good choice for applications where numerous devices need to connect.
To conclude, BLE revolutionized the way we connect and interact with smart devices. It is power efficient and capable of transferring data quickly in a wider range of applications. BLE has found its place in various industries like retail, asset tracking, smart building, and healthcare to enhance and improve their overall efficiency.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What is MQTT protocol?
MQTT stands for message queuing telemetry transport. It is a messaging protocol used for machine-to-machine communication on the Internet Of Things. It is designed to establish connections with devices that are capable of sharing remote locations within a limited network bandwidth.
Q2) What is BLE data encryption?
Encryption in the BLE technology is meant to make data inaccessible to all, but accessible to only masters who can decrypt the data by using an encryption key. Data encryption is used to prevent passive and active man-in-the-medium (MITM) eavesdropping attacks on Bluetooth lower energy connection links.
Q3) What protocol is used by BLE?
BLE uses the GATT (Generic Attribute Profile) protocol for establishing a secure connection between devices. GATT protocol provides some commands for a client to retrieve information about the BLE server.