Bluetooth low energy will save forgetful US business travellers $300 million per year

At the Bluetooth low energy preview day in Tokyo, a spokesman for Nokia reported an interesting statistic.  Every year, 300,000 laptops are lost or left behind by passengers at U.S. airports.  Apparently that’s greater than the number of mobile phones left at airports, suggesting that most travellers consider their phone to be more important than their laptop, but that’s another story.  At first sight the figure seems staggering, but it’s only around one laptop per airport per day.  What is staggering is the resulting cost of replacement, which equates to a third of a billion dollars every year.

The reason for raising this statistic is to point out one of the new applications which will be made possible by Bluetooth low energy.  Bluetooth low energy (previously known as Wibree) is the new Bluetooth standard that is coming out this year and which enables devices to be produced which include a wireless link to transmit small amounts of data, and support a battery life that can extend into years.  One of the first applications that will ship is access control or proximity detection.  Which is why it can save the US economy $300,000,000 every year.

As well as being the ideal wireless choice for low cost, battery powered products, such as sports and fitness sensors, home alarms and medical devices, Bluetooth low energy includes a proximity function which can be used for either indicating that one product is close to another, or that it has moved away.  It does this by controlling and measuring the strength of the radio signal between the two devices and issuing an appropriate alert.  Within the next year it will start to be built into mobile phones and shortly after that, into laptops.

That’s where it stands to save money for those forgetful travellers.  It will allow them to ask their phone and laptop to check that they’re near to each other when they’re travelling, and to send a message to the phone if the laptop moves out of range.  So as soon as the traveller moves away from their laptop, they’ll get a free alert on their mobile phone.  The same technology will also get used for applications as diverse as security access to PCs, removing the need for passwords, to tracking children in theme parks.

It’s just one of the applications of the new Bluetooth low energy standard.  IMS Research predicts a stunning future for Bluetooth low energy, which they believe will be the fastest growing wireless standard ever.  By 2013, they expect over 1 billion devices to have been shipped.  That’s excellent news for the chip vendors, but particularly welcome for 300,000 travellers in the US every year, who will no longer have to go through the stress and worry of losing their laptops.