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Manufacturing Use Cases in IoT Era heading
Evolving Bluetooth Sustains Wireless Innovations
Anticipated updates and enhancements will bring wireless technology to new heights, enabling new markets and bringing forth innovations in wireless connectivity in four solution areas.

or more than two decades, the Bluetooth® member community continues to experience strong growth and now has 35,000 companies spread evenly across all regions of the world, highlighting the true global footprint of Bluetooth technology*1. With the support of the community, Bluetooth technology has met the growing demands for wireless innovation. The community expands the technology to solve new connectivity challenges while creating new market opportunities.

Since its introduction in 1998, Bluetooth device shipments continue to increase with no sign of slowing down. Annual shipments of Bluetooth products continue to grow at an incredible rate. With 4 billion shipments expected to ship this year alone, Bluetooth continues its strong growth towards nearly 5.5 billion Bluetooth devices shipping each and every year by 2023*2.

Innovations in Four Solution Areas
Specifically, Bluetooth is driving four waves of innovation in solution areas. After first addressing audio streaming, Bluetooth expanded into low-power data transfer. Now, Bluetooth is meeting the market demand for location services and reliable, large-scale device networks. More than just a radio technology, with each developers can get full-stack, fit-for-purpose solutions aimed at addressing specific connectivity needs. The Bluetooth specification will deliver what developers need to ensure the devices they build will meet their demands, and work with other solutions in the market.

Great things to come for audio streaming
In the area of Audio Streaming, migration to wireless audio streaming is nearly complete. By 2023, over 90 percent of all speakers sold worldwide will include Bluetooth*3. Ninety-three percent of all new cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) shipped worldwide by 2023 will come standard with Bluetooth technology*4.

Given the choice to purchase new headphones, over half of all consumers choose wireless headphones over wired headphones. Moreover, the trend to remove the audio jack from smartphones, speakers, audio systems and other audio devices is driven by Bluetooth capabilities.

By 2023, there will be over 1.25 billion Bluetooth audio streaming devices shipping, each and every year*5. As one of the single largest use cases for Bluetooth – audio streaming solutions will only get better with great things to come.

Growing wireless data transfers
The second waves of innovation is the solution area for Data Transfer. Simple data transfer is set to become the number one solution area for Bluetooth by 2023*6. Also, over 1.3 billion devices with simple data transfer will be shipping, each and every year*7. This shows the strength and importance of Bluetooth Low Energy. For years, Bluetooth Low Energy has been helping create new markets like wearables, smart watches and many more. What is more interesting is the diversity and variety of devices and innovation that is coming to market.

By 2023, over 14 percent of all connected end points will fall outside traditional device category definitions*8. This means these devices, beyond imagination, using simple data transfer in 2023 can be a connected device, free from wires*9. This idea of anything can be a connected device has been driven by a number of recent announcements, including longer range that is extending up to four times to support devices needing reliable connections for whole home and building use cases, and higher speed which is effectively doubling the throughput of data to support faster data transfer for wireless firmware updates and solutions needing the ability to quickly offload large amounts of data.

Audio streaming solution is one of the largest use cases for Bluetooth advertisement
Photo 1: Audio streaming solution is one of the largest use cases for Bluetooth.

These capabilities effectively gave developers the ability to fine tune the technology to meet their specific needs. This flexibility and more to come has all but assured the acceleration of low power data transfer solutions and the diversity of devices that include Bluetooth.

Use expansion in location services
The third wave of innovation from Bluetooth is the solution area for Location Services. Members of the Bluetooth SIG developed Bluetooth Low Energy to address the opportunity for inexpensive, mass market, indoor location, positioning, wayfinding and asset tracking services. Traditional technologies, like GPS, do not perform well in indoor environments. Therefore, Bluetooth has filled the gap. By 2023, there will be 1.7 billion handsets such as phones, tablets, among others, actively engaged in Bluetooth location services*10. Furthermore, the industry expects to see six times growth in annual shipments of location services devices between now and 2023*11. Enabling use cases like indoor navigation, proximity marketing, asset or item finding. Location services is the fastest growing solution area for Bluetooth at present.

Location services has received significant focus over the past couple releases. Especially this January, Bluetooth introduced the Direction Finding feature for location services that was added to Bluetooth in version 5.1 of the Bluetooth Core Specification.

Bluetooth Low Energy has been helping create new markets
Photo 2: Bluetooth Low Energy has been helping create new markets like wearables and smart watches.
The medical field has been one of the growing applications for Bluetooth
Photo 3: The medical field has been one of the growing applications for Bluetooth, too.
Fig. 1: Bluetooth location services
Fig. 1: Bluetooth location services

There are several things that make Bluetooth unique as an enabling technology for location service solutions. The first is Bluetooth being very flexible and can be used to develop both indoor positioning systems (IPS) such as indoor navigation solutions, as well as real time locating systems (RTLS) such asset tracking solutions. In addition, as opposed to other technologies used to support IPS solutions, Bluetooth can provide much greater scalability as well as privacy. Furthermore, as against other technologies used to support RTLS solutions, Bluetooth is significantly lower cost while providing a centimeter level of accuracy.

In addition, as Bluetooth is already included in all smartphones, tablets and laptops, it makes it possible for developers of location services solutions to reach mass market very quickly. Support for the feature within many enabling technology products including chipsets and stacks as well as some modules. Based on history, we would expect to start seeing end products incorporating the feature in 2020. There is so much more innovation to come with location services, especially as developers integrate location solution into almost everything for item finding, asset tracking and wayfinding purposes. Also, location services are being integrated into lighting systems to increase the utility of the automation networks being deployed today.

Robust growth in device networks, too
The fourth area of innovation being driven by Bluetooth is Device Networks. The release of Bluetooth mesh networking has paved the way for the creation of large-scale device network solutions such as those used to monitor, control, and automate smart homes, smart buildings, smart factories, and smart cities around the globe. The industry is witnessing a tremendous amount of momentum behind the mesh networking capabilities of Bluetooth, including large players in the smart home market making strategic platform decisions to support Bluetooth mesh networking for developers using their smart home platform.

Device networks will see a three times growth in annual shipments of devices, growing to 360 million per year by 2023*12. In the smart home, 4.5 times growth is expected in annual shipments of residential smart lighting by 2023*13. The growth in this field will also continue to be driven by members making a strategic bet on Bluetooth mesh networking technology. Using Bluetooth mesh, developers can deliver true industrial grade solutions for commercial applications as well as scale their solutions to the smart home. The market support is increasing with companies announcing platform support for Bluetooth mesh networking, and we expect many more announcements to come. Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) continue to improve mesh with more models and more network optimizations.

Bluetooth enables inexpensive, mass market indoor location, positioning, wayfinding and more
Photo 4: Bluetooth enables inexpensive, mass market indoor location, positioning, wayfinding and asset tracking services.
Bluetooth paved for the creation of large-scale device network solutions
Photo 5: Bluetooth paved for the creation of large-scale device network solutions used to monitor, control, and automate smart homes, buildings, factories and even the entire city.

Continuing Enhancement
Very soon, the community will launch the next generation of Bluetooth audio, which will drive wireless audio innovation for the next 20 years. It will include a number of enhancements relevant to truly wireless earbud products. The anticipated updates include the ability to deliver audio over Bluetooth Low Energy, a new advanced audio codec, as well as support for multicast and broadcast audio.

Moving forward, Bluetooth community is continually enhancing Bluetooth technology to meet the ever-expanding needs of various markets. The coming new features will set up Bluetooth for the next 20 years of wireless innovation.

*1 Source: Bluetooth SIG, as of 30 Nov 2019
*2-12 Source: ABI Research
About This Article:

The author, Lori Lee, is Senior Regional Manager, APAC, Marketing, at Bluetooth SIG.