At a packed conference hall in Tokyo today, the Bluetooth SIG hosted the first public demonstrations of the new Bluetooth low energy standard to an audience of press and consumer electronics companies. This new standard will enable a wide range of connected devices to communicate with and through mobile phones. Four new chips were announced at the all-day event – a sure sign of gathering momentum.
The exciting aspect of Bluetooth low energy is its ability to enable low cost devices to be made that can send their data all of the way to the web. It’s based on over ten years of experience and promises to have the fastest growing ecosystem of any wireless standard. Today’s meeting sent a clear message to developers that they need to start designing now to be ready for the first generation of Bluetooth low energy handsets.
Ten years ago, Bluetooth, 802.11 and HomeRF were engaged in an acrimonious battle for supremacy over leadership as the short range radio standard. HomeRF died, and in the following years Bluetooth and 802.11 found their areas of application and now coexist together, to the extent of joining forces in the new Bluetooth 3.0 specification. Today a new and ferocious fight is taking place for the role of ultra low power radio champion. This time, there is likely to be just one winner.
In the two main corners of the ring are ZigBee PRO and Bluetooth low energy (previously known as Wibree). Alongside them, throwing lighter punches, are an array of lesser contenders, including Z-Wave, ANT, Wavenis, and Wireless M-Bus. What is at stake is the prize of becoming the standard for connecting low power consumer products to the next generation of mobile phones and enabling smart energy devices within the home.
Apple’s App Store is the flavour of the month in the mobile world. Everyone in mobile wants to have their own. At the Mobile World Congress operators and manufacturers were all jumping on the bandwagon and announcing their individual flavour of App Store, coming soon to a phone near you.
What wasn’t mentioned is how the App Store is redefining the relationships between the customer, the handset manufacturer and the network operator. I believe that it has the potential to drastically change the balance, with the network operator being emasculated and facing a future of becoming the dreaded “dumb pipe”. There may be a way out for them, but it will involve their thinking along very different and radical lines.