Bluetooth, Beacons, and Beyond

April 14, 2017

Our final installment of the Bluetooth World series.

We recently sent three L4 Digital representatives to Bluetooth World, a two-day event in California billed as the definitive place to celebrate the successes of Bluetooth technology while defining what’s next. Many of L4 Digital’s projects include an element of Bluetooth tech so we sent reps from product management, development, and project management to scope out the scene. Each brings a unique perspective to this week’s three-part summary of Bluetooth World 2017.

Bluetooth Beacons


The most resounding message that came across during this year’s conference is that Bluetooth technology  is here to stay. Back in the day, “Bluetooth” had a very specific connotation: in the early 2000s any mention of “Bluetooth” conjured up images of techno-forward hipsters gulping down Starbucks coffees as they darted through traffic, chanting mantras into the ether while the rest of us looked on in bewilderment.

Fast-forward to present day and Bluetooth has taken on a pervasive presence in the modern world. Bluetooth-enabled products are peppered throughout the marketplace across different verticals that reach end users:

  • Wireless Audio: Headphones/Speakers
  • Wearables: Fitness bands, Medical Devices
  • Connected Devices:  Smartphones, PCs, and Accessories
  • Automotive:  Onboard Connected Systems
Bluetooth connected devices

Bluetooth Connected Devices

With the advent of Bluetooth version 5, key performance improvements such as 4X range increase and 2X speed increase will help ensure that these strong markets will continue to thrive in the near term.

It doesn’t stop here though. Over the last few years, the market has seen an uptick in beacon implementation, and this market continues to grow. Beacons are used currently in commercial settings such as retail outlets (for promotions), factories/warehouses (asset tracking), and entertainment venues (customer service). Usage in these contexts is growing, but the burgeoning beacon adoption is creating windows into new applications of the technology that could potentially raise some ethical questions.

Take for example the work that Google is doing around The Physical Web. The Physical Web is a simple but powerful concept that in essence allows any object to become a beacon that one can interact with, without the need for an application.  This approach to information transfer is a great tool that can be leveraged to solve a myriad of everyday tasks simply. For example, Google has demoed the ability to pay a parking meter when in close proximity to it without the need for an application. I applaud this innovation and am excited to see it mature and evolve.

At the same time, we need to be sure there is discourse regarding the application of this innovation. There is nothing to stop people from becoming beacons via wearable hardware.  When in close proximity to such a person, one would have the ability to get information about that person. For those of you who enjoy the Netflix sci-fi series “Black Mirror” — you will see the connection and why this could be concerning.

Series image for Black Mirror

In “Nosedive,” the first episode of season three, we are privy to a world where personal Facebook-esque data is shared when persons are in close proximity to each other. People are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, and social and professional advancement is predicated on such ratings.

Given where we are with the technology today, there is a real possibility that something similar could be implemented in the very near future in the private sector. As a society, we have to be cognizant of this possibility and be sure we are ready to understand its implications. While we should champion pushing the envelope, at the same time we should temper this drive with contemplation of potential privacy breaches.

Attending the 2017 Bluetooth World Conference was time well spent. We got an insightful glimpse into where Bluetooth was, where it is, and where it is heading. The future is very bright with many innovative advances yet to come that will enrich our lives.

 

Part 1: Making The Connection: The Bluetooth User Experience

Part 2: Fifty Shades of Bluetooth 

Marco D'Amico

Marco is a Senior Program Manager at L4 who enjoys collaborating with team members from different disciplines to create engaging and innovative products for L4 clients. He draws strength from a rich and varied career working in both enterprise and startup environments developing products for a wide range of markets including education, healthcare, gaming and developer tools. In his spare time, Marco enjoys nursing his 22-year-old Saab and collecting as many obscure Echo & The Bunnymen records as he can.

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