Bluetooth SIG introduces Bluetooth 4.1 with new features, improved usability


It seems like it wasn’t too long ago that Bluetooth only existed to connect tacky headsets to cell phones. But these days, the wireless technology is used for connecting peripherals, data transfers, and nearly everything in between.

This week, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced the latest update to the Bluetooth specification, bringing it to version 4.1. The update features a number of enhancements, like improved data transfers and more…

Here are the release notes from the Bluetooth SIG’s press release:

Improving Usability
Bluetooth 4.1 extends the Bluetooth brand promise to provide consumers with a simple experience that “just works.” Major usability updates come in three areas:

Coexistence — engineered to work seamlessly and cooperatively with the latest generation cellular technologies like LTE. Bluetooth and LTE radios can communicate in order to ensure transmissions are coordinated and therefore reduce the possibility of near-band interference. The coordination between the two technologies happens automatically, while the consumer experiences the high quality they expect.
● Better Connections — provides manufacturers with more control over creating and maintaining Bluetooth connections by making the reconnection time interval flexible and variable. This improves the consumer experience by allowing devices to reconnect automatically when they are in proximity of one another. The consumer can leave the room and upon returning, two recently used devices reconnect without user intervention.
● Improved Data Transfer — Bluetooth Smart technology provides bulk data transfer. For example, through this new capability, sensors, which gathered data during a run, bike ride or swim, transfer that data more efficiently when the consumer returns home.

Empowering Developer Innovation
Bluetooth 4.1 extends the Bluetooth Smart development environment by providing product and application developers with even more flexibility to create products that can take on multiple roles. With this new capability, a single device acts as both a Bluetooth Smart peripheral and a Bluetooth Smart Ready hub at the same time. For example, a smart watch acts as a hub gathering information from a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor while simultaneously acting as a peripheral to a smartphone — displaying new message notifications from the phone. As the Bluetooth Smart ecosystem grows, the Bluetooth SIG expects more solutions to play both a hub and peripheral role. Bluetooth 4.1 delivers this type of flexibility to Bluetooth Smart devices and application developers.

Enabling the Internet of Things
By adding a standard means to create a dedicated channel, which could be used for IPv6 communications in the Core Specification, the groundwork is laid for future protocols providing IP connectivity. With the rapid market adoption of Bluetooth Smart and the coming addition of IP connectivity, all signs point to Bluetooth as a fundamental wireless link in the Internet of Things. These updates make it possible for Bluetooth Smart sensors to also use IPv6, giving developers and OEMs the flexibility they need to ensure connectivity and compatibility.

The SIG calls Bluetooth 4.1 “an important evolutionary update to the wireless specification.” The update’s goal is to improve consumer usability and aid in developer innovation, while laying the ground work for future technology.

Users shouldn’t have to worry about compatibility if their devices are already Bluetooth Smart-compliant. Bluetooth 4.1 is backward compatible with existing hardware, and can be distributed by device-makers via a software patch.

Most (if not all) of Apple’s current products are Bluetooth Smart-ready.