Three particular myths are encountered again and again when talking about Bluetooth: “Bluetooth has a short range. It requires a lot of power. Bluetooth is not suitable for professional use.” Yet, Bluetooth has long been more than just a technology that lets you connect your smartphone to wireless headphones. This article dispels the three myths about Bluetooth and explains the innovations introduced with Bluetooth 5.
Myth #1: Low range
❌ Wrong: “Bluetooth has a short range and is not suitable for smart home applications”.
Bluetooth was first introduced in the 1990s and yes, there were times when the range of Bluetooth was limited. However, those times are long gone. With the introduction of Bluetooth 5 at the latest, all worries regarding the low range of Bluetooth were put to rest.
While the Bluetooth 4.2 version introduced in 2014 still had a maximum range of 10 meters indoors and 50 meters outdoors, with the introduction of Bluetooth 5 in 2016 this range increased to up to 40 meters indoors and up to 200 meters outdoors. In fact, we were able to test over 300 meters in the open field with a Bluetooth 5 series product in our own tests.
While Bluetooth 5 already enables a significantly improved range, the mesh networking of Bluetooth 5 devices raises the range to a whole new and seemingly limitless level. Bluetooth Mesh allows all Bluetooth 5 devices to be networked together, with each device acting not only as an endpoint, but also as a repeater. With every device that is added to the Bluetooth Mesh network, the range of the entire network is improved.
In this article, we will go into greater detail about Bluetooth Mesh as well as the question “What is a mesh network?”.
✅ Correct: “Bluetooth 5 offers a range of up to 40 meters indoors and over 200 meters outdoors; the range is also improved by each additional device that is added to a Bluetooth mesh network. This makes Bluetooth an excellent technology for the smart home or even the smart building.”
Myth #2: High energy consumption
❌ Wrong: “Bluetooth consumes too much energy and is therefore not suitable for IoT devices”.
For smartphones and powered devices, energy consumption has not been the very biggest consideration. However, energy consumption is a major factor especially for smaller battery-powered devices like smartwatches, headphones, and especially networked IoT devices. With Bluetooth 5, this has also been improved, and Bluetooth no longer has to hide from comparisons with other wireless protocols.
With the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy (abbreviated as Bluetooth LE or BLE), Bluetooth became interesting for low-cost and battery-powered devices such as wearables or IoT sensors for the first time and all of a sudden. BLE consumes significantly less energy than classic Bluetooth.
Bluetooth 5 offers a long-range mode, with which the above-mentioned ranges of over 200 meters outdoors can be achieved. The special feature of the long-range mode is that the energy consumption does not increase despite the excellent range. Bluetooth 5 makes this possible by not increasing the transmitting power, but by improving the receiver sensitivity. This is achieved by using coded physical layers (PHYs), which improve receiver sensitivity at the same transmit (TX) and receive (RX) current.
✅ Correct: “Bluetooth also offers lower energy consumption in direct comparison with other low-power technology. In addition, Bluetooth 5 enables a range of over 200 meters outdoor without increasing power consumption.”
Myth #3: For consumers only
❌ Wrong: “Bluetooth is only suitable for B2C applications such as audio streaming”.
Consumer applications such as audio streaming have emerged as a major use of Bluetooth technology over the past 20 years, but at the same time are only part of many other commercial and industrial applications.
In addition to audio streaming and data transmission from wearables, Bluetooth SIG – the organization that licenses and promotes Bluetooth – is focusing on the application fields of location services and device networks. Location services enable, for example, indoor navigation or the opening of doors or car-sharing vehicles. Device networks are the fastest growing product category. This includes such things as electrical appliances, lighting, sensors, and more. For example, the Bluetooth SIG is working with the DALI Alliance to enable interoperability of professional DALI networks with Bluetooth mesh networks.
Bluetooth is already being used today to track the movement of goods, operate professional sensor networks, or network entire buildings.
From 2021 to 2025, annual shipments of these devices are expected to grow an estimated 4.4 times per year in the device networking space.
✅ Correct: “Bluetooth’s biggest growth market is in the professional device networking market. In the commercial and industrial sectors, Bluetooth supports existing installations or completely replaces wired systems.”