The new version of the Bluetooth standard is faster, can send more and occasionally saves more power. However, this only applies to the low-energy version. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) presented the fifth version of the Bluetooth radio standard on 6 December 2016. The changes mainly refer to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), no changes are made for the classic Bluetooth. Bluetooth Low Energy is now often used by small, energy-saving devices for data transmission, for example, between a fitness strap and a smartphone.
According to Chuck Sabin, director of business strategy for the Bluetooth SIG, the goal of these improvements it is to increase the quality of connections of the same, making the Bluetooth longer an option also in view of the Internet of Things . Despite this, one of the most anticipated additions in this area – the mesh networking will not be part of the new standard, but instead come during the next year as a separate technology, able to work with both systems using Bluetooth 4 or 5 devices .
The Bluetooth-5 standard was released almost two years after the introduction of the latest version 4.2.
With Bluetooth 5, the maximum permissible transmission power for BLE increases from 10 mW to 100 mW. BLE devices can be sent up to 200 meters. The maximum transmission power thus corresponds to the usual maximum transmission power of 2.4 GHz WLAN devices according to 802.11 b/g/n. The Bluetooth specification indicates that the transmission power of 100 mW is not allowed everywhere for BLE. Therefore, users may have to reckon with regionally different variants or configurations of a device with BLE in the future, as is sometimes already the case with WLAN devices.
For a better overview of the transmission power of a device, Bluetooth 5 defines performance classes.
BLE should be faster by doubling the possible data rate. With Bluetooth 5, data can also be transmitted via Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) at BLE. EDR offers a gross data rate of 2 Mbit/s for BLE. So far, the gross data rate was 1 Mbit/s. The EDR standard has been used for Bluetooth connections since Bluetooth V2.0.
At the same time, however, BLE can also slow down. In view of the higher range, transmitted data can be protected with an error correction. Depending on the correction mode used, the data rate drops to 500 Kbits/s or even 125 Kbits/s.
The announced increase in the volume of advertising messages is due to the possibility to pack several data packets into one message. Originally, Bluetooth devices sent out advertising messages so they could be recognized by others. Only after a coupling, the data exchange takes place. In the future, however, advertising messages are also to be used as a power-saving method for the sporadic transmission of user data for which a permanent connection is not required.
Another new technique for enabling Bluetooth-5 devices to save power is periodic advertising. A sending BLE device can specify how long it pauses between regularly broadcasting advertising messages. If the receiver knows this period, it can change to a power-saving sleep mode during pauses without missing a new transmission.
Parallel to the introduction of the new Bluetooth-5 standard, chip makers have begun to announce wireless chips for the new standard. Nordic Semiconductor presented the new nRF52840. It is part of the popular nRF52 family, which combines an ARM micro-controller and a Bluetooth controller in one chip. They are therefore found in many Bluetooth-enabled devices.