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Bluetooth Ecosystem Evolves for the Internet of Things

Wireless communication will adapt to meet the growing needs from the Internet of Things (IoT). Meanwhile, Bluetooth enabled device shipments will increase from 2.8 billion units in 2015 to more than 4.6 billion in 2020, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.

More than 19 billion devices to be equipped with Bluetooth technology over the next 5 years. Smartphones will continue to represent the bulk of the Bluetooth product market, accounting for more than 45 percent of shipments in 2020.

However, the shares of emerging IoT market segments -- including beacons, smart lighting, home automation and consumer robotics devices -- will increase within the next five years to collectively represent more than 20 percent of the total market by 2020.

"The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which added more than 2,800 new members this year alone, made significant enhancements to Bluetooth specifications in order to increase its viability for IoT applications," said Andrew Zignani, research analyst at ABI Research.

Building the Bluetooth Ecosystem for IoT Apps

ABI believes that the Bluetooth Developer Studio will also help the mature wireless technology gain adoption among the IoT applications developer community and thereby accelerate innovation time to market.

This is set to continue in 2016, as Bluetooth evolves toward becoming a key enabler of larger scale networks consisting of increasingly heterogeneous devices. Significant upcoming Bluetooth technological enhancements include a quadrupling of range capacity and doubling of throughput.

According to the ABI assessment, the range increase will better suit Bluetooth for full-home coverage and outdoor applications, which will enhance robustness and reliability. The increase in throughput from 1Mbps to 2Mbps will reduce latency and increase responsiveness. It will also provide Bluetooth with a 'performance to power' consumption ratio when compared with competing technologies, such as 802.15.4 (limited to 250Kbps) or Wi-Fi (higher power consumption).

The ubiquity of the smartphone will enable Bluetooth to take advantage of unique use cases and opportunities. Bluetooth is also adopting mesh networking within the standard, providing the scalability and range required for wireless sensor network applications.

Resolving Known Market Development Challenges

There will be considerable deployment challenges -- such as security, provisioning and interoperability -- that vendors must overcome during the next few years. Chipset suppliers are working toward integrating IPv6 over Bluetooth Smart, which will help provide the foundation for IP-based application layer level interoperability between different types of devices operating on different transport layers, such as 802.15.4 and Wi-Fi.

"As the IoT incorporates a more diverse range of device types, the adoption of a common language across various connectivity types will become increasingly critical in ensuring interoperability and helping to grow the overall market," concludes Zignani.

Moreover, ABI analysts say the development of Bluetooth and NFC combo ICs can assist with the secure provisioning of headless devices -- such as smart light bulbs, sensors and other IoT devices -- thereby simplifying the installation process while strengthening the overall security of the network.

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