The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has unveiled more information about the forthcoming Bluetooth Core Specification 4.0 that is expected to start appearing in devices late this year or early in 2011. Central to the new spec, which will replace the Bluetooth v3.0 + HS standard that was officially adopted on April 21, 2009, is a low energy mode designed to enable the expansion of Bluetooth technology into a range of low power devices, such as watches, remote controls, and a variety of medical and in-home sensors.

One of the main targets for the new specification are products that run on batteries, usually button-cell, that must last for years as opposed to hours and will also benefit from the longer range enabled by the new version. In order to maximize flexibility and suitability for a wide range of devices Bluetooth v4.0 is like three specifications in one - Classic Bluetooth technology, Bluetooth low energy technology, and Bluetooth High Speed technology– all of which can be combined or used separately in different devices according to their functionality.

For example, sensors like those in pedometers and glucose monitors will run only low energy technology, thus saving power, cost and space within the device. Watches will take advantage of both low energy technology while collecting data from fitness sensors on the body as well as Classic Bluetooth technology when sending that information to a PC, or separately displaying caller ID information when wirelessly connected to a mobile phone. Meanwhile, mobile phones and PCs, which support the widest range of uses, will utilize the full package with Classic, low energy and high speed technology running side by side.

As with previous versions of the specification, the range of the Bluetooth v4.0 radio may be optimized according to application. The majority of Bluetooth devices on the market today include the basic 30 foot, or 10 meter, range of the Classic Bluetooth radio, but there is no limit imposed by the Specification. With Bluetooth v4.0, manufacturers may choose to optimize range to 200 feet and beyond, particularly for in-home sensor applications where longer range is a necessity.

Samples of sensors utilizing the new specification are available from some silicon manufacturers today with integration of Bluetooth low energy wireless technology within the Bluetooth specification to be completed before June 30, 2010. The Bluetooth SIG expects the new spec to appeal to a wide range of device manufacturers, so don’t be surprised to see more mobile health (m-health), sports and fitness, security and proximity, and home entertainment devices sporting the Bluetooth logo starting to appear late this year or early next.