What are Low Energy Bluetooth Devices and their Applications?

February 14, 2020 Cadence PCB Solutions

Keyboard that has bluetooth devices connected on a key

 

Since its invention in 1994 by Dr. Jaap Haartsen, Bluetooth technology’s reign over the electronics kingdom is unparalleled. Even the name Bluetooth holds some royal significance since it is a derivative of a tenth-century king named Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth). Furthermore, he is the King (Denmark and Norway) accredited with uniting two warring tribes (Denmark).

Moreover, the choice for the use of the name Bluetooth serves two purposes. First of all, if you have ever thought about obtaining a name for a new business, book, or product, then you are already aware that nearly every name in the Oxford dictionary is in use. Therefore, the name Bluetooth serves the purpose of being unique. Secondly, the use of the name Bluetooth points to its functional intentions. In essence, the design of Bluetooth aims to unite different devices of all types, configurations, and applicational uses.

Bluetooth provides a means of communication between the incompressible, as did its namesake, Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth). Although Bluetooth is as universally recognized as, say, wireless technology, that was not the case a few years ago. To this day, I still find it humorous as I recall my grandfather wondering why there would be a need for a tooth on the phone. The look on his face was priceless as I attempted to explain his new phone’s features to him.

The Evolution of Bluetooth Technology

Bluetooth technology is the one technology we all use for wireless communication, even if we do not realize it. Furthermore, this technology is in use in our smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, and even our audio devices (home and car). Moreover, Bluetooth is a radio-wave technology, and its design aim is for communicating over short distances, usually around 30 feet. For example, you can use it to connect a wireless (Bluetooth) mouse to your PC or Laptop, transfer photos from your digital camera to your PC, or for hands-free connectivity while driving.

Bluetooth, like all technology, is steadily evolving as the demand for it increases. Also, currently, the newest Bluetooth standard is version 5.0, which began in 2016. Like cellular transmission standards increase, so does Bluetooth technology. Furthermore, the technology, as a whole, uses classifications to signify the wireless range of the device. More specifically, there are three classifications of Bluetooth, and they are as follows;

  • Class 1 signifies a range of 328 feet (maximum). For example, laptops and PCs.

  • Class 2 indicates a range of 33 feet (maximum), and it is the most common class on the market — for example, smartphones and Bluetooth headphones.

  • Class 3 designates a range of approximately 3.3 feet (maximum) — for example, small devices like an ECG (electrocardiogram) stress test wireless medical device.

As Bluetooth technology continues to see its implementation into a more extensive array of devices, there is also an increase in the diversity of its fields of application. Furthermore, with the onset of the IoT devices, even the medical field sees an increase in the use of Bluetooth technology. Also, there are two categories in which we see Bluetooth technology. One classification is called classic Bluetooth, and the other is called low energy Bluetooth.

Digital arrangement in the symbol for Bluetooth 

Bluetooth is used widely through the IoT field of devices.

 

What is Low Energy Bluetooth?

The use of wireless technology in all of its forms, afford simplicity, convenience, and it saves time as well as lowers cost. For example, instead of the need for cablings, such as speaker wire, Cat 6 ethernet cables or USB, you can achieve connectivity through wireless Bluetooth functionality. Furthermore, Bluetooth truly brings functionality and interaction between different devices once thought impossible, like a smartphone and your car stereo.

However, with such widespread use of Bluetooth technology in so many portable and battery-operated devices, the need for more efficient iterations of Bluetooth is warranted. Therefore, this need for more efficient, less power demanding transmission technology prompted the development of low energy Bluetooth devices.

Furthermore, in 2011, low energy Bluetooth technology ushers in a new era of battery life expectancy and energy conservation. In summary, the latest version of Bluetooth conserves energy, and increases battery life, while maintaining the same range as well as providing all the benefits of data transfer. However, with all things in life, there are side-effects or trade-offs. In this case, you conserve energy and gain increased battery life at the expense of transferring your data at a lower bandwidth.

Advantages of Low Energy Bluetooth Devices

In terms of connectivity, it is a critical requirement of any IoT system, especially in the field of medicine. Overall, there are five essential considerations in determining the connectivity option that best suits your needs. These factors include:

  • power consumption

  • transmission range

  • speed

  • compatibility

  • Security

 

In regards to low energy Bluetooth devices, the technology in use in these devices has one primary goal, the optimization of energy consumption. Furthermore, IoT manufacturers are currently designing their new technologies to meet the challenges and demands for better energy consumption. Overall, the primary advantage of Low Energy Bluetooth is its ability to provide significantly lower energy consumption than the classic version of Bluetooth.

Also, its specific design affords periodic transfer of small amounts of short-range data, and the technology lends itself to easy deployment. In general, Low Energy Bluetooth consumes approximately half the energy of the classic version, is cost-effective, and provides a substantial increase in battery life.

The Applications for Low Energy Bluetooth Devices

The following are some of the application profiles in use for Low Energy Bluetooth:

  1. Health Care Profiles: As I eluded to earlier, the healthcare industry is inundated with Bluetooth technology. Even more so with Low Energy Bluetooth devices such as:

  2. Blood Pressure Profiles in use for blood pressure measurement devices.

  3. Health Thermometer Profiles in use for medical temperature measurement devices.

  4. Glucose Profiles in use for blood glucose monitoring devices.

  5. Continuous Glucose Monitor Profiles in use in devices that require constant monitoring of glucose levels.

  6. Mesh Profiles (Bluetooth mesh profiles)

They use Low Energy Bluetooth to communicate with other Low Energy Bluetooth devices on the network. Also, every device can pass the information forward to other Low Energy Bluetooth devices, thus creating a mesh network. For example, being able to turn off every light in your home with your smartphone.

  1. Internet connectivity

  2. Internet Protocol Support Profiles

  3. Sports and Fitness Profiles

These particular profiles are becoming increasingly popular. More so in the form of smartwatches, but these profiles also include:

  1. Body Composition Service

  2. Cycling Speed and Cadence Profiles in use for sensors attached to exercise bikes to measure speed and crank revolutions per minute or a bicycle.

  3. Cycling Power Profiles

  4. Heart Rate Profiles in use for devices that measure heart rates (smartwatch or smart bracelet)

  5. Location and Navigation Profiles in use for joggers, hikers, runners, and cyclers to aid in location and distance.

  6. Running Speed and Cadence Profiles

  7. Weight Scale Profiles in use for scales to monitor body weight.

  8. Generic sensors

  9. Environmental Sensing Profiles are as the name implies, is in use to afford measurement functionality of environmental factors such as luminosity, ambient humidity, ambient temperature, and ambient pressure.

  10. User Data Service is in use by various companies to assist in improving the user experience and to assess the functionality of websites as well as user information.

  11. HID connectivity

HID over GATT Profile: HID, which stands for Human Interface Device, is in use in devices that allow human control over a PC, for example, Low Energy Bluetooth keyboards, mice, and wireless controllers, thus promoting enhanced battery life. Furthermore, GATT Profile, which stands for Generic Attribute Profile, defines the way that two Low Energy Bluetooth devices transfer data back and forth through the use of concepts like Characteristics and Services.

  1. Proximity sensing

These are application profiles many of us are using today, such as:

  1. Find Me Profiles, which affords you the capability to locate say your lost smartphone or keys.

  2. Proximity Profiles, it provides proximity monitoring to detect whether a proximity reporter is near. Also, Proximity Reporter is one of the two roles incorporated in a Bluetooth Proximity Profile, the other being Proximity Monitor. Moreover, the Proximity Reporter is a requirement to be a Generic Attribute Profile server, and it supports the following Generic Attribute Profile services.

    1. §  Immediate Alert Service (optional)

    2. §  Link Loss Service (mandatory)

    3. §  Tx Power Service (optional)

Furthermore, this particular profile also provides physical proximity detection, and typically, an alarm sounds when the space between the devices surpasses a predetermined threshold.

  1. Alerts and Time profiles

  2. Alerts profile is another profile commonly in use today, and it provides incoming call alert (notifications) functionality for your smartphone.

  3. Time profile provides the current time and time zone information through synchronization with a server device, for example, your smartphone and your cellular network.

 

Man on phone and computer at business desk

Bluetooth is improving everything from your everyday business interaction to sensor technology.

 

Low Energy Bluetooth devices and the technology they employ provides immense conservation advantages. Furthermore, devices utilizing this technology are steadily increasing as the demand for better efficiency continues to grow. With today’s world of always being connected, Low Energy Bluetooth devices are now and the future. Moreover, the need to conserve energy is vital and it is an essential step towards preserving our planet. 

The implementation of low energy Bluetooth devices in design processes can be difficult without Cadence’s suite of design and analysis tools. But whether you’re looking for a smart, integrative layout tool, or something to help manage simulations and production, OrCAD PCB Designer is the solution. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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