Recently, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has updated its Bluetooth spec, version 4.2. Bluetooth 4.2 introduces a number of new features, whilst also improving speed and privacy.
Chief among these new features is a long rumoured feature that allows for Bluetooth over IPv6. This update will allow devices to directly connect to the Internet, and open up new possibilities for Bluetooth sensors, such as beacons, in addition to other accessories.
Let’s touch on this point. With the new version of Bluetooth, it could be theoretically possible to have a network of Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons that are connected to the Internet. This should make it much easier to manage large deployments of beacons and unlock new, innovative opportunities.
As the SIG explains, ‘Building on the capabilities released earlier with Bluetooth 4.1 and the new features released in 4.2, the Internet Protocol Support Profile (IPSP) will allow Bluetooth Smart sensors to access the Internet directly via IPv6/6LoWPAN. IP connectivity makes it possible to use existing IP infrastructure to manage Bluetooth Smart “edge” devices. This is ideal for connected home scenarios that need both personal and wide area control. This profile will be ratified by the end of the year.’
The new specification also improves privacy, making it harder for people to track users via Bluetooth devices. From a beacons perspective, this is something that we welcome and believe should be embraced. People should have full control on whether or not their location information can be tracked. It’s all about brand trust and what users get in return.
The SIG says that the increased privacy is important, precisely because of Bluetooth beacons and helping to protect users as iBeacon is used for iOS users and Placedge is used on Samsung devices:
The new privacy features put control back into the hands of the consumer by making it difficult for eavesdroppers to track a device through its Bluetooth connection without permission. For example, when shopping in a retail store with beacons, unless you’ve enabled permission for the beacon to engage with your device, you can’t be tracked.
Thankfully, Apple already has the users privacy in mind. When first opening an app, the user is asked whether they are happy for the app to listen in the background and engage with beacons.
As well as making it possible to create a network of beacons, connected to the Internet, Bluetooth 4.2 makes Bluetooth 2.5x faster, with a packet capacity increase of 10x previous versions. It’s able to do this whilst also consuming less power.
All of this is good for the future of beacons, our devices and our privacy.