Bluetooth technology often serves as a linchpin in the Internet of Things, connecting everything from wearables, smartphones and computers to smart home accessories. Bluetooth 5 promises to make that connection stronger, faster and more robust.
If you own any recent Bluetooth-enabled devices, you're already familiar with the current standard. The present version (Bluetooth 4.1) started appearing on consumer devices in early 2014. We've come a long way from the weak, skipping connections of the past, but Bluetooth still has limits when it comes to speed, range and data transfer capacity.
According to Bluetooth SIG (the special interest community responsible for pushing this technology forward) we can expect a big boost from the new release. Bluetooth 5 is said to be twice as fast as Bluetooth 4.1, with four times the range and eight times the data capacity. It also has increased capacity to withstand interference from other wireless connections (like Wi-Fi and LTE) all while maintaining the same low energy consumption and security standards.
It's easy to understand the benefit of increased speed: less waiting for syncing and communication between devices. And a larger range is obviously an improvement – we're coming closer to achieving larger, fully connected areas, both indoors and out.
But the sizable jump in data capacity is more opaque to fathom. It could pave the way for increasingly powerful devices to go wireless, as well as greater broadcasting capabilities in the types of devices that are already Bluetooth-enabled. According to Bluetooth SIG, it also enables increased use of beacons and other location-based technologies, which could provide navigation services in areas where GPS can't reach.
Bluetooth 5 is expected to arrive in consumer electronics in the first part of 2017. We expect to see this year's major smartphone flagships to be among the first devices to bear the new standard. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip – the processor we expect to see in the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 series – has Bluetooth 5 built-in.
However, you may need to replace your connected hardware across the board before you start reaping its benefits: Bluetooth 5 devices will be compatible with the earlier standard, but the latest perks will only work on connected devices with Bluetooth 5-supporting chipsets.