Thursday, August 30, 2012

iPhone 5 - enabling the Internet of Things?

When iPhone 4S was introduced approximately one year ago, not that many people realized what was perhaps the most crucial feature that differentiated the iPhone from the other mobile phones. It was not the easily breaking glass design, the dual core  ARM Cortex-A9 or even the Retina display. It was the Bluetooth 4.0 that really made the iPhone 4S to standout from the competition. Even though the general public did not really see the difference between Bluetooth version 4.0 and its predecessors, the 4.0 included a totally new technology under the Bluetooth specification which allowed the creation of extremely energy efficient wireless accessories and gadgets.

You might ask how this relates to the iPhone 5? Well, let me go though some facts and let you figure it out. Prior to releasing iPhone 4S, Apple joined the Executive Board of Bluetooth SIG. Coincidence, perhaps? Joining the board of the organization that controls the development of Bluetooth gives them capability of both monitoring the adaptation rate of the technology and to certain extent, steering the development of it. Apple has since released new iPad, MacBook Air, Mac Mini and MacBook Pro; all with Bluetooth 4.0 support. Now one year after the release of the iPhone 4S there are only couple of other mobile phones that support the latest Bluetooth version.

Why did Apple not underline Bluetooth 4.0 when it introduced the iPhone 4S, but instead was busy fussing about Siri which didn't do what it promised or HD video recording which is far from being a unique feature? The simple answer is that it was not the right time. The current rumor is that NFC will be left out of the iPhone 5 which supports the conclusion that Apple has indeed selected its side when it comes to short distance wireless communication. In order to benefit from the Bluetooth 4.0, Apple needs following things to happen:
  • Enough devices that support the Bluetooth 4.0. Having sold the iPhone 4S for almost 11 months and the latest iPad for 6 months market penetration is achieved.
  • Apps supporting the Bluetooth 4.0. iOS5 API exposed the Bluetooth 4.0 API to application developers. Applications already exist for finding your parked car, proximity tags, etc. Android does not currently expose APIs for Bluetooth 4.0 even though Samsung Galaxy S3 for example supports the technology, and motorola has released a motorola specific library for Bluetooth Smart.
  • Gadgets, accessories, sensors = Things. It has taken a while before the peripheral manufacturers have started to show interest in Bluetooth 4.0, mainly because of the chicken and egg situation with the ecosystem. Now it seems like everyone is either bringing out or have already introduced their first Bluetooth 4.0 supporting wireless accessories.
  • Story. This is perhaps the biggest question mark. How will Apple wrap the Bluetooth 4.0 into a packet that will give consumers the wow effect? Since the above obstacles are already bypassed, we expect that this bullet point is covered in the release of iPhone 5. Apple can do the same with Gadgets as what they did with the Apps couple of years ago; revolutionize the market as we know it.
Now, the question you may have: how to make wireless accessory with Bluetooth 4.0? Chipscoop is going to follow up with a roundup of the currently available Bluetooth 4.0 modules that one can use for rapid prototyping and mass production.

Update: Bluetooth 4.0 module roundup


  1. Now that the Lumia 920 is missing Bluetooth 4.0 this gives Apple the opportunity to show how great it is in the iPhone 5. All the new BLE accessories will only be supported by them!

  2. So the Lumia 920 have Bluetooth 3.1, what is Bluetooth 3.1?