From fancy cameras to “selfie-sticks,” third-party vendors are creating Bluetooth devices to enhance our usage of smartphones and tablets. We early adopters are certainly having fun with our devices, and the third party add-ons extend what we can do. But what does it all mean for the enterprise?
Let’s take a look at how business users are leveraging Bluetooth technology in the workplace.
Mobile Bluetooth in the Enterprise
- Headsets – This one’s been around for some time. The Bluetooth headset pairs with your smart phone to enable “hands-free” phone conversations.
- Bluetooth Input Devices – Bluetooth keyboards and mice designed for smartphones and tablets offer wireless communication and easy input for business use.
- Bluetooth Barcode Scanners – Bluetooth scanners pair with devices so UPC and ISBN barcodes can be scanned and referenced against data on a smart device or used in a search dialog on a mobile website.
- Bluetooth Printers – Printing directly from your mobile device is a critical feature for users who can already view and edit documents on their smartphone.
Origins of Bluetooth
Bluetooth technology got its name from Harald Bluetooth, King of Denmark who ruled from c. 958. Supposedly the name comes from the idea that Harald unified Denmark and Norway, much in the same way Bluetooth was initially designed to unify desktop PCs and mobile phones. Today Bluetooth unifies desktops, laptops, and mobile phones and devices with Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth transmission requires each device have a low-cost transceiver chip; now standard on nearly all mobile devices, Macs and PCs.
The cutting edge of Bluetooth — Bluetooth Smart™
Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a new technology that allows devices to disable the Bluetooth transmitter when not in use to save battery life and lets small/low-powered Bluetooth devices do more than ever before.
The future of Bluetooth/Bluetooth v4.0 will extend wireless capabilities to products that require low energy consumption. These include:
- Smart Watches – Due to limited battery power, these slim devices require a lower-energy Bluetooth transmission.
- In-Home Medical Devices – Heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, and even blood glucose meters are being offered with Bluetooth capabilities to sync with smart devices, particularly Apple iPhone.
- Energy-Efficiency Sensors – Products can be designed with simple button-cell batteries. Communication is minimized, and device uses no energy except when transmitting data.
- High-speed data transfer – Bluetooth is being expanded for increased power usage and bandwidth demands.
- Home automation – China is deploying smart meters @ 25 million a year. This allows utility companies to monitor usage more efficiently, and home users can monitor their energy consumption from a smart device.
Beacons & iBeacons
Businesses are already finding value using the new BLE beacon technology.
“iBeacon” is a feature of iOS 7 which works with both Apple branded beacons and third-party hardware and uses BLE sensors to allow devices to detect beacons. These beacons don’t require WiFi or a cellular connection to communicate with a smart device.
Facebook, Paypal, and Microsoft are just three notable companies currently testing this technology to improve customer experience and efficiency for businesses.
Some ways businesses currently use/envision using beacons:
- Marketing: Beacons allow retailers to interact with customers in new and targeted ways by creating an interactive shopping experience. Store departments might offer their own localized ads…or push payment options directly to the customer’s device after scanning items.
- Navigation: Beacons allow visitors lacking network connectivity the ability to know where they are in relation to a beacon (as long as it’s within fifty meters). They can be used at stadiums or large office complexes to help people easily find their way around.
- Energy efficiency: To conserve energy, beacons can control outlets/appliances based on a user’s preferences.
Interesting Bluetooth implementations
Designed by Parrot, Flower Power is a sensor you stick in the ground to measure sunlight, soil moisture, temperature, and nutrient levels. When commercialized, this type of device could have a huge impact on agriculture.
Texas Instruments’ Gas Sensor Platform with Bluetooth Low Energy Evaluation Module is available for wholesale buyers to monitor gases such as carbon monoxide, oxygen, ammonia, fluorine, chlorine dioxide and others. Businesses will use these sensors to reduce insurance costs and to help keep employees safe.
Bluetooth Advertising Beacons designed by Accent Systems are just one example of how highly configurable BLE beacons can send location-based content to mobile devices. Some retail stores are already experimenting with Beacons to add a “mobile companion” aspect to customers’ shopping experiences.
Lockitron Deadbolts connect to your smartphone using BLE, letting users unlock doors with a smart device. Email/SMS can even be used to unlock a door in the event of an emergency. Further, access can be scheduled. This new technology may eliminate the need for “key fobs” allowing employers to invest more in company-issued mobile devices.
iBeacons are generating a ton of buzz these days. Everyone’s talking about the potential value of proximity-based services and interactions. The challenge is to convert interest into action: cut through the market-hype and complexity, choose the right technologies, and draft-up a plan to implement them in the field.
The Propelics Emerging Technologies Kickstart is a 3-week program designed to help business and IT leaders realize first-hand the near-term benefits of adopting cutting-edge technology by developing a working proof-of-concept app and an actionable plan to start delivering value for your organization.