SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The next big thing in Bluetooth — the mesh networking standard — was not quite ready for Bluetooth World. So the annual event here focused on showcasing startups, the frontiers of new use cases, and software extensions.
Bluetooth Mesh, in the works for two years, is in final interoperability testing with a standard release expected in July. How many nodes and hops it will support with what throughput and latency is under wraps until then.
In December, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group officially rolled out its 5.0 standard. It includes a modular set of optional extensions for throughput up to 2 Mbits/s, range to an estimated 120 m at lower data rates, and support for about 256 bytes in beacon messages to broadcast a URL rather than a unique identifier pointing to one.
Three of the largest Bluetooth chip vendors — NXP, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments — did not set up booths at the relatively small expo here. But the second tier was well represented with Dialog, Mindtree, Silicon Labs, and others — and giants Toshiba and Renesas manned small stands.
An engineer at one booth noted a more distant goal — disposable Bluetooth Low Energy chips. A range of medical and consumer apps are exploring patches, trackers, and other apps that would need a 25-cent chip.
Collecting the requirements of these users and creating a spec for a simplified BLE chip could take years. Today’s smallest parts typically cost $1 and are made in ~55-nm process technology.
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