Bluetooth 4.0 spec gets finalized

Bluetooth Special Interest Group completes promised specification, designed to work with low-power devices and offer higher transfer speeds.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has completed its promising specification for Bluetooth 4.0, though we'll have to wait until the end of the year to buy devices that use the new technology.

Announcing the completion of Bluetooth 4.0 at its all-hands meeting in Seattle on Tuesday, the Bluetooth SIG is touting the spec for its ability to work with low-energy devices, such as watches and health sensors. But Bluetooth 4.0 will also provide higher speeds for peripherals to communicate with mobile phones, computers, and other gadgets.

First unveiled last December, Bluetooth 4.0 actually offers three specifications in one, all of which can work individually or in tandem, according to the Bluetooth SIG. Classic Bluetooth is the familiar standard that wirelessly connects peripherals with other devices at a speed of around 3 megabits per second (Mbps).

Low-energy Bluetooth technology will be used to connect low-power devices, such as watches and pedometers, that need to run for a year or more on the same small coin-cell battery. High-speed Bluetooth will use 802.11g Wi-Fi to carry its signal and could offer ranges as far as 200 feet and transfer rates comparable to those of current Wi-Fi standards. High-speed Bluetooth should deliver enough oomph to let us transfer our video, music, and photos between our phones, cameras, computers, and TVs.

The Bluetooth SIG seems especially keen on the new spec's ability to support medical, health, and fitness devices. For example, Bluetooth 4.0 could communicate with sensors used in pedometers or glucose monitors, explained the SIG, thereby saving power, cost, and space in those devices. Watches using Bluetooth 4.0 could collect information from fitness sensors connected to someone's body and send that data to a phone or PC.

"Bluetooth v4.0 throws open the doors to a host of new markets for Bluetooth manufacturers and products such as watches, remote controls, and a variety of medical and in-home sensors," said Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, in a statement. "Many of these products run on button-cell batteries that must last for years versus hours and will also benefit from the longer range enabled by this new version of the Bluetooth specification."

Manufacturers of Bluetooth products have until the end of June to test the new specification and start integrating it into their products. As a result, cool new devices running Bluetooth 4.0 won't be ready for us to buy until the end of the year or the beginning of 2011.