What is Bluetooth Low Energy?

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For those of you into your bluetooth, the new Bluetooth Smart is a must have. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, which is a wireless computer network technology. The difference between the old Bluetooth and the new Bluetooth Smart is that it has became more efficient. The new version has a much smaller power consumption rate and is cheaper than the original, all the while maintaining a similar communication range.

The BLE, as you might imagine, is being used in a number of innovative ways. There is currently a new tracking device called Guardian on that uses BLE technology to combine with a smart phone app, a small, wearable device that is light, effective, and compared to other GPS based trackers, is rather inexpensive. In the GPS tracker market one of the main things you have to know about is battery life. Normal GPS trackers have batteries that only last around 24 hours, which could become a hindrance by someone using one. The new Guardian battery lasts for 4 months. The tracker itself retails at $29.95, which is considerably cheaper than comparable GPS trackers. It is ironic as well that this GPS tracker has managed to target two separate markets and one which is, at first glance, a bit puzzling.

When most of us think about what we have seen GPS trackers being used for,it is hard not to think of a crime or action movie where some criminal was using or being tracked by one of these gadgets. This has given them a fairly negative connotation, so I was initially surprised to think that trackers could advertise towards the parental market. Then again, I can see why parents would love to keep track of their child’s every move, and it would be good in case of an attempted abduction, it seems like another step towards living in a futuristic world. Whatever it leads to, one thing is for sure: with such an inexpensive and highly efficient unit, the Guardian tracker is set to take their share of the market. For whatever their individual reasons, one thing every customer notices when choosing a product is price and Guardian’s price will be hard to beat.

I found this overall subject matter quite confusing at first due to the industry specific acronyms, so it is worth taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the BLE’s key terms and concepts:

  • Generic Attribute Profile (GATT) – The GATT profile is a general specification for sending and receiving short pieces of data called ‘attributes’ over a BLE link. Currently, all of the low energy application profiles are based on GATT.
  • Bluetooth SIG defines profiles for low energy devices. A profile is the specification for how a device works with any specific application. An interesting attraction in these is that you can run more than one profile on a device, effectively using it for two different things that need to work in combination, such as a heart rate monitor and a battery level detector.
  • Attribute Protocol (ATT) – The ATT protocol is the platform onto which the GATT was built. This is also sometimes referred to as GATT/ATT, and is optimized to run on BLE devices and uses hardly any bytes to operate.
  • Identifier (UUID) is a standardized 128-bit format for a string ID which is used to uniquely identify information. The attributes transported by ATT are formatted as characteristics and services.
  • Characteristic—A characteristic contains a single value and 0-n descriptors that describe the characteristic’s value. A characteristic can be thought of as a type, analogous to a class.
  • Descriptor—Descriptors are defined attributes that describe a characteristic value. For example, a descriptor might specify a human-readable description, an acceptable range for a characteristic’s value, or a unit of measure that is specific to a characteristic’s value.
  • Service—A service is a collection of characteristics.

To learn more about BLE you can read up on it at www.bluetooth.org





Michael Mulcreevy

Michael Mulcreevy is a writer and researcher and studied sustainability. He has special interests in technological advancements in the computer age and writes on all things current and future based such as systems for community resilience.

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