What Is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)?

BLE news stories often discuss how many different devices are gaining access to the internet. They’re also communicating with smartphones, with computers and with one another. It’s a system called the Internet of Things (IoT).

Smart machines often use a Bluetooth personal area network (PAN) to make those connections. A PAN provides private communications for a work area. That is, it links the computers, tablets and other devices within about 33 feet of one another. And Bluetooth utilizes a wireless system of frequency hopping — sending radio signals while quickly switching from one frequency to another.

For its part, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) uses less power than the original Bluetooth system, which is often referred to as Bluetooth Classic. In fact, BLE only needs about 0.01 to 0.5 watts of energy to operate. That’s about half the power used by Bluetooth Classic.

At the same time, BLE and Bluetooth Classic have comparable ranges, and the two technologies rely on the same frequencies. Therefore, a single device can support both BLE and Bluetooth Classic. Also note that Android, iOS and other major mobile operating systems are all compatible with BLE.

The Advantages of BLE

BLE has been around since 2004, but many organizations are just now learning about its benefits. It’s affordable and easy to use, and BLE devices are often compact. Plus, users can get phone notifications whenever they receive messages from BLE devices.

How long can a BLE battery last? It depends on the type of device as well as how often and how far it sends signals. However, BLE batteries are generally good for a minimum of one month and a maximum of more than three years.

The possible applications of BLE seem almost limitless. For example, in a healthcare facility, an internet-connected spirometer — the instrument with which doctors measure breathing — might use BLE to instantly send patients’ respiration data to computer databases. Or a smart exercise bike could shoot stats about a client’s speed, heart rate and so on to a personal trainer’s phone.

Be aware, too, that BLE and radio frequency identification (RFID) work well together. Business owners can use BLE and RFID readers to track their products and assets. That is, BLE tags can send messages to and receive messages from RFID readers in order to tabulate prices, locate items, organize consumer data and much more.

Clearly, the era of Bluetooth Low Energy is just dawning. It will be exciting for entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals to see how this technology develops.  Stay tuned to find out the new discoveries or submit your BLE story.