The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Paul Williamson Headshot

Riding the Next Wave of Bluetooth

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Imagine this: You come home on a hot summer's day from walking through town or from a quick sprint at the gym and, as soon as the mobile phone or tablet you've been carrying is synced up with your home Wi-Fi, your fitness stats have been uploaded online, a cup of coffee has automatically begun brewing in the kitchen, your windows open to let some fresh air in, then your fridge sends you a message to inform you of recipes you can make based on its contents. The image of the smart home is fast becoming a popular one, but most people don't know the importance of Bluetooth in realising this dream.

Bluetooth may seem like an aging technology, but it has recently evolved. 2011 saw the introduction of the first 'Bluetooth Smart Ready devices'. The iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy SIII and the latest iPad can all reap the benefits brought by Bluetooth Smart, which include drastically reduced power consumption via a low pulsing method that keeps devices connected without the need for a continuous stream of data. Devices stay disconnected most of the time, activating and deactivating to transfer data in less than 3ms. This means that battery life can be measured in years, not days. Bluetooth Smart is therefore ideal for small, wearable, inaccessible or critical devices that can't afford to run out of power every day. The new standard supports a variety of low-power, sensor-filled devices like fitness and health monitors and smart home devices.

It is not just major brands like Apple that are adopting the technology. Small, start-up companies are using it to meet niche specific needs. Perhaps the biggest advantage of Bluetooth Smart is that it's an open and unified standard - manufacturers can implement whatever features they desire onto the platform and launch to market immediately. The potential for app designers taking advantage and loading up their apps with innovative features is limitless.

And Bluetooth Smart is no fly-by-night standard; it has Bluetooth's enormous install base to ride on, meaning that it is assured of fast, widespread penetration of the market.

We are likely to see innovative products crop up over the coming years which seize the opportunities that Bluetooth Smart presents. One market in which the innovation and efficiency underlying the technology has become increasingly significant is in the medical field. Bluetooth Smart is enabling the market to move forward through implementation of health monitoring devices, such as in glucose meters and blood pressure monitors.

The healthcare industry hasn't adopted wireless equipment in large numbers due to their relatively high cost. However, the market for consumer medical devices is growing fast. Mobile handsets which provide unprecedented computing power and connectivity, now give ever greater value to the healthcare community. The patient is now in essence carrying a powerful platform for the provision of services, while Bluetooth Smart has the ability to combine reliable, standardised compatibility with wireless health devices that can last for years on a single button battery.

An asthma patient can, for example, use a Bluetooth Smart peak flow meter which collects data on the patient's condition. This data is then transmitted to a Bluetooth Smart Ready smartphone and then in turn can be shared via the cloud to the patient's doctor, family or carers.

Healthcare organisations such as Bupa could, perhaps, extend their services by offering their own apps which will monitor their patient's health, updating results directly into their medical records, and providing a summary of the progress for the patient's next appointment. These applications can be extended to provide services advice and reminders to the patient to help them to better manage their condition between visits.

A truly connected life is coming and Bluetooth Smart technology will be an integral cog in the great smart machine that will undoubtedly be making our lives easier. Personally though, I'm looking forward to how the technology will be used to benefit our health. From encouraging us to brush our teeth properly or reminding us to take our pills, to letting our doctor know that our blood pressure is abnormal, Bluetooth Smart won't just act as a time-saver, but also as a life-saver.