Hello and welcome to another episode of “Learn Technology in 5-minutes” from MAKERDEMY.
In this episode, we will learn about Bluetooth Low Energy - the Bluetooth protocol for the Internet of Things.
We are very familiar with Bluetooth technology in our everyday life. We use it to stream audio to our car stereo, connect to our wireless headsets and so on. But what is this Bluetooth Low Energy? Well, you know what? If you are using a fitness tracker or a smartwatch, it is most likely that you are using a Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE device.
You can think of Bluetooth Low Energy as a low power Bluetooth designed for the Internet of Things. Now, as you all know, Bluetooth or to be more precise, Bluetooth Classic is a short-range personal area network wireless technology that is used to transfer data and voice from one device to another.
But, here is something very important that you should know. Even though both Bluetooth classic and BLE are designed and marketed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the 2 technologies don’t interoperate. What that means is that you can’t get a BLE device to talk to a Bluetooth Classic device directly. But if you have a mobile phone, then you have a device that most likely has a dual-mode module that can communicate with both BLE and Bluetooth classic devices and transfer data between both the protocols.
You may ask, How is it possible for the BLE devices to consume significantly less power than the Bluetooth classic? This is because the radio of the BLE device sleeps between transmissions. The radio transmits and goes back to sleep. And it is not just that, with BLE even the connection times are faster. This allows the BLE devices to sleep longer as they connect fast, transmit, disconnect and go back to sleep. Third, BLE transmits smaller packets, so that data is transmitted faster and the radio can go back to sleep fast.
BLE was introduced in 2010 as part of the Bluetooth 4.0 specification. The BLE is a new technology that is designed for the IoT with a very specific use case - to transmit small amounts of data at lower speeds while consuming very little energy. BLE operates at the 2.4 GHz ISM band, the same spectrum as the Bluetooth Classic.
By now it should be clear that the BLE is not meant for the typical use cases of Bluetooth Classic such as streaming audio or large files. Can you take a guess as to which use cases are ideal for the BLE? Well, the BLE is ideal for wearable devices like fitness trackers, smartwatches, personal health care devices, and home automation applications like smart locks and smart lighting. In BLE there are 2 types of devices - the peripheral device and the central device. The peripheral devices are typically constrained devices that need to conserve energy. The central device is typically the device with more processing power and memory where much of the processing gets done. For example, your fitness tracker is the peripheral device and your mobile phone that syncs with your fitness tracker is the central device that processes and displays the data in a dashboard for you to view.
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