updated 01:05 pm EST, Thu December 17, 2009
Bluetooth LE promises very long battery life
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group this afternoon formally adopted the Bluetooth low energy standard. The technology is designed to let devices consume as little power as possible by using very short bursts of data and, when in the mode, running at a peak 1Mbps. While slow, the standard is efficient enough that a device with watch batteries could run its wireless signal for "years" before it needs a replacement.
The new Bluetooth implementation also has roughly as good or better performance than the current full-power technique. It still has low latency and can extend its range to as far as about 328 feet, or ten times what Bluetooth normally uses.
Uses for the technology are broad and can vary from devices that need simple short-range communication, such as a sports pedometer, to computers and wireless syncing with phones and other handhelds. Alerts and contacts could be quietly sent to a device, for example.
Low-energy Bluetooth is officially part of the as yet unfinished Bluetooth 4.0 specification but can be implemented on top of either Bluetooth 2.1 or upcoming 3.0 devices, which with Wi-Fi could use Bluetooth to discover other devices in the same range as the Wi-Fi link. Nokia is one of the key proponents but will be just one of many companies using the approach.