Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was incorporated into the Bluetooth 4.0 specification in 2010 and experienced rapid uptake, including all the major operating systems, many of the smartphones and tablets we use today, plus a new breed of devices like fitness bands and simple RF tags. BLE excels at sharing small packets of data, referred to as attributes, over a low energy link, and is frequently used for health monitoring, proximity detection, asset tracking, and in-store navigation.
Access points contain an integral Bluetooth radio and dedicated antenna, providing superior coverage and convenience to support these applications. In other words, no other hardware is required, it’s all built-in.
BLE, as its name suggests, is designed to sip power, enabling some dedicated beacons to run for years on a single battery, opening up new practical applications at low cost. Bluetooth is also an efficient standard when it comes to radio interference. Operating in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, it uses frequency hopping technology to circumvent interference problems often seen in this band. Cell sizes can be tuned to the application requirement, with potential range comparable to 2.4 GHz WiFi, even taking into account the low power requirements of the standard.
Support enables customers to begin developing practical applications for BLE devices. These can be broadly categorized into ‘push’ applications, where the AP informs an aware device that it is in a certain location, or ‘pull’ applications, where the AP listens for beacons and uses this information to assist with asset tracking and control through the dashboard. Location analytics based on BLE generally work on an opt-in basis, with the consumer enticed via an app which leverages location for mutual benefit.