Bluetooth 4.0 LE – The Bluetooth Renaissance

Bluetooth 4.0 LE LogoSometimes a technology comes along that seems like such a good idea you wonder why it was never created in the beginning. For me, Bluetooth was one of those technologies. It’s been around since the late nineties and was incredibly powerful, especially for PDAs and phones but has always been overshadowed by the complimentary WiFi standard and surprisingly inflexible Bluetooth profiles which define the protocol, format and intended use of the data being communicated such as a Modem profile or headset profile.

It’s strength lies in allowing devices to talk to each other over a short distance with low energy and relatively easy setup but while many developers, makers and designers hoped to make use of it as a “wireless USB cable”, the reality was that most uses didn’t fit within the defined “profiles” and so developers opted for the Serial Profile – a generic profile that shuffles bits to virtual serial ports. Serial ports are decades old and because there is no context of what the data is inside the Serial port it’s very easy to bind the wrong program to the wrong device. For example, a data logging program trying to read the serial data from a serial port joystick would probably work or worse still would most likely silently do nothing. This adds confusion and frustration for the user. Compare this experience to using a USB device – you plug it in and open up the program and it recognises the device and starts using it. You don’t see incompatible devices, you can’t connect it to the wrong thing, it just works which is probably why USB is so popular.
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