If there's something new, unique or worth talking about in the world of wireless and Bluetooth technology, you can usually find it here, on the official Bluetooth Blog.
Runners and cyclists who like to track their workouts and performances will soon get even more innovative new wireless devices soon to help them monitor every mile, step and pedal stroke. Some of the latest heart-rate monitors, athletic shoes, cycling computers and other sports and fitness devices already use Bluetooth technology to send data to smartphones, where it can be collected, displayed, analyzed and shared online.
New standards finalized this week by the Bluetooth SIG will make it even easier for companies to add Bluetooth technology to their sports and fitness devices, particularly Bluetooth sensors that measure speed and cadence for running and cycling.
Want to know your exact speed, distance and cadence when you cycle? A Bluetooth speed and cadence sensor can instantaneously send the data to a smartphone for use in cycling apps. New cycling speed and cadence standards (also called profiles) from the Bluetooth SIG will help companies use standard Bluetooth protocols to create cycling sensors that attach to your pedals and send data to smartphones and other Bluetooth enabled devices.
Likewise, new running speed and cadence standards will make it easier for manufacturers to create Bluetooth sensors for athletic shoes. The new running standards define protocols for Bluetooth sensors that can measure your stride length, speed, distance and other performance indicators.
There are already Bluetooth standards for heart-rate monitors. With a Bluetooth Smart heart-rate monitor like the Polar H7, for example, you can measure your heart rate while you work out and send it to a Bluetooth Smart Ready phone.
Analysts are predicting a sharp rise in the market for Bluetooth enabled sports and fitness devices like these. ABI Research forecasts shipments of such devices to grow ten-fold from 2011 to 2016, totaling 278 million products and representing over 60 percent of the total available market. According to ABI Research, the market is moving away from proprietary solutions and toward Bluetooth Smart devices with standard protocols.
We hear about a lot of new Bluetooth products here at the Bluetooth SIG. Every once in a while a new one comes along that stands out as totally unique. Such is the case with Pioneer’s Cyber Navi glasses, which the company claims is the world’s first heads-up display system for drivers.
The Cyber Navi “windscreen” is about the size of a rear-view mirror. It mounts on the inside of a car’s windshield, where a driver can peer through it to see an overlay of color maps and navigation information on top of real scenery.
Made possible by Bluetooth technology
The system couldn’t work without Bluetooth technology, which creates a wireless connection between the screen and the head unit, which is mounted in the car’s dash. Without wires to get in the way, the clear glass screen appears to float in front of the driver’s field of vision, without obstructing their view of the road.
Imagine driving down the road and seeing maps and driving directions without having to take your eyes off the road. We haven’t tried the system, which is available only in Japan, but Pioneer says it reduces eye movement and refocusing. The company suggests it can improve driving safety by eliminating the need for drivers to look away from the road at a navigation display in their dash.
For more information, see this YouTube video or PDF file from Pioneer.
Google and Olympus are using Bluetooth technology to create a fresh vision of computerized eyewear. Both companies recently revealed prototypes of augmented-reality glasses. By including Bluetooth connectivity, these innovative glasses will be able to connect to the vast ecosystem of billions of Bluetooth enabled phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, and other devices.
What good is that, you ask? Imagine a pair of lightweight, augmented-reality glasses capable of superimposing images in front of your eyes. Coupled with an accelerometer and a gyroscope such as Google’s glasses reportedly have, you could nod or shake your head to browse through new text messages, emails, or social networking feeds from your phone—without lifting a finger or even taking your phone out of your pocket or purse. That’s pretty cool.
There’s no telling how these glasses could evolve, but that’s just the point. You never know where Bluetooth technology will show up or what innovations it will make possible. Thanks to Bluetooth, you may soon be able to use your glasses as a hands-free connection to your smartphone.
Whatever you call these futuristic products—augmented-reality eyewear, computerized glasses, or something else—they promise to transform an ordinary object into a new high tech tool that improves your life in a way you wouldn’t have thought possible just a few years ago.
The glasses from both Google and Olympus contain a small lens and other technology that will also allow you to take photos or video without having to hold a camera in your hands.
Google showed stunt bicyclists, climbers and sky divers using its glasses to record their adventures and display them live on a big screen inside the building where Google was unveiling the glasses. Slipping on a lightweight pair of augmented-reality glasses should appeal to more active sports enthusiasts than strapping on today’s bulky, helmet-mounted cameras. People might even start recording everyday events, not just their extreme-sports adventures.
Google acknowledges that its glasses are most likely to appeal to techies – at least while its Project Glass team is still developing the technology. The company is opening up pre-orders for Glass Explorer Edition, a developer version of its glasses that will sell for $1,500.
Olympus has yet to reveal a price or release date for its MEG4.0 glasses. If you wonder why a Japanese camera manufacturer is getting into this market, CNET notes that Olympus has “a long line of far-out augmented reality attempts.”
It will be fascinating to watch these products develop in the coming year. There’s no telling where Bluetooth technology will turn up next!
When Nike tries something new in the sports world, people notice. The company is drawing widespread media attention for its new line of Nike+ shoes with embedded sensors in the soles, which can measure workouts in all sorts of interesting new ways and send the data to a smartphone app.
Not as much attention has focused on the technology behind these innovative shoes: Bluetooth 4.0. Nike’s new high-tech sneakers, which went on sale June 29, are the first shoes with Bluetooth Smart sensors in them.
This has big implications. With Bluetooth Smart sensors in their shoes, everyone from pro athletes to weekend warriors can learn a lot more about their workouts and athletic performances—information like vertical leap, quickness (“hustle”) and how many times they jumped during a game or workout. The information can be sent wirelessly to a Bluetooth hub device (in Nike’s case, an iPhone or iPod Touch) and shared with friends via the Nike+ Training app, online or through social media.
The first three models in the new Nike+ line are the Nike Hyperdunk+ basketball shoe, LunarTR1+ men’s training shoe and Lunar Hyperworkout+ women’s training shoe. Prices range from $220-250. For your money, you get a sophisticated measurement tool that can provide you with information to help you reach your goals, while adding a high-tech element of cool and fun to workouts.
The feedback is so precise that it can tell a basketball player how many times they jumped during a game, the hang time of each jump, and when they were jumping their highest and lowest during a game.
You won’t have to worry about having to change the batteries in your Nike+ shoes. Bluetooth Smart devices are ultra energy efficient, running on tiny batteries that can last a year or longer.
Shoes are just the beginning for Bluetooth Smart sensors, which can measure everything from your heart rate to a diabetic’s blood glucose levels. Many more innovative devices will use Bluetooth Smart sensors to track and monitor the world around us, collecting and sending wireless data securely and efficiently. These sensors will connect back to Bluetooth Smart Ready hubs (smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs), where the data will be collected, analyzed and turned into valuable information.
Nike says its goal is to evolve training into a fun, game-like challenge. The company’s promotional videos show people sharing their workout achievements with their friends via the Nike+ Training app and competing to see who gets the best score. The message is clear: With Nike+ technology, you can turn workouts into a game with your friends.
All made possible by Bluetooth Smart sensors.
With Apple’s announcement this week of its new line of MacBook Pro laptops, the company now offers the broadest range of Bluetooth Smart Ready devices on the market. The four new MacBook Pro models join the MacBook Air, Mac mini, iPhone 4S and new iPad in supporting Bluetooth 4.0.
Apple’s entire mobile device product line now supports and uses Bluetooth technology for connectivity. By building its products as Bluetooth Smart Ready, Apple is able to create an ecosystem of devices that can connect, share and distribute information with extremely limited battery consumption.
The new MacBook Pros are amazingly thin, light and powerful machines full of impressive features, such as the 2880 x 1,800 resolution packed onto a 15-inch Apple “retina display” – the highest resolution of any laptop. Here at the Bluetooth SIG, we’re most excited about the addition of Bluetooth 4.0 to the MacBook Pro line, of course.
We’re not the only ones calling attention to this feature. Apple itself touted the addition of Bluetooth 4.0 in its keynote presentation (photo below).
Every time Apple releases another new Bluetooth Smart Ready computer, phone or tablet, it expands the Bluetooth ecosystem and enables Apple products to work with more and more of the 7 billion Bluetooth devices already in market.
Because Apple has a massive pool of developers creating innovative software for its App Store, any new Apple Bluetooth Smart Ready device also opens the door for a wide array of useful new apps. Apps that can collect data from Bluetooth Smart devices and send them to the iPhone 4S, new iPad, and now all of Apple’s laptops, too. Apps that do everything from analyze and record your workouts to monitor and track your blood sugar. Apps that are often created on a MacBook Pro—the laptop of choice for many app developers.
All these Apple products are ready to connect with billions of Bluetooth enabled speakers, televisions, watches, sports and fitness devices, medical equipment and other devices. The list of Bluetooth product categories is always expanding, with new devices like the forthcoming smart energy thermostats for the home.
We look forward to seeing what happens when millions of MacBook Pro users are able to tap into this massive Bluetooth ecosystem of apps and devices.
The Kickstarter “crowd funding” site is quickly becoming one of the most popular places for startups to launch innovative new Bluetooth devices. The best known Kickstarter example is the Pebble smartwatch, which started off with a funding goal of $100,000 and wound up collecting more than $10 million, along with a lot of valuable publicity.
The Pebble is designed to connect to both the iPhone and Android smartphones, displaying messages, alerts and other information from the phone. Its funding rose even higher after its backers announced in early May that the Pebble would support Bluetooth 4.0.
The HiddenRadio was a hit on Kickstarter
The Pebble is just one example of a Bluetooth device on Kickstarter. Here are some of the other Bluetooth products that have exceeded their funding goals on Kickstarter this year:
On May 7, the NHTSA released its preliminary numbers for traffic fatalities in 2011 and it was the lowest number recorded by the agency in 60 years. The reasons behind the decline are a little fuzzy and explanations differ depending on whom you talk to (better roads, better child safety laws), but none of them have cited hands-free legislation and Bluetooth hands-free solutions as a possible factor. Yes, we do represent the technology, but even to us it seems like an obvious oversight.
Consider this: overall, traffic fatalities have nosedived 26 percent since 2005. In that same time period, from 2005 until now, hands-free legislation has increased by states, counties and municipalities, smartphone use has increased in staggering numbers, and sales of Bluetooth headsets, car kits, cars and mobile phones have taken off like a rocket.
No doubt there are multiple factors at work in these encouraging statistics. Modern cars do have more safety technology and updated roads incorporate safer designs. But, even as total miles traveled have increased in the last year, the fatality rate has continued to fall. We believe there’s a legitimate case to be made for the expanded use of handsfree devices in cars as one of the positive factors in this welcome trend.
There is precedent for this correlation. New York State was the first to institute its hands-free law in 2001. The state kept statistics on contributing factors to accidents. From 2001 through 2006, hand-held phones were a factor in 1,170 crashes versus 214 crashes involving handsfree phones, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Perhaps this was foreshadowing to what is now happening on a national level.
The Bluetooth SIG believes in smart driving – hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. We don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water, as a recently proposed total ban on all cell phones in the car would actually do. Mobile phones and the connectivity they allow enable innumerable safety measures and conveniences to drivers, such as accident alert, GPS mapping and vehicle recovery in instances of theft.
All drivers should assess their unique driving situation and use common sense when using a phone in the car. Don’t pick up the phone while driving and if you need to make a call, use a handsfree Bluetooth device and keep both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. If everyone drives this smart, we could continue to see a downward trend in the yearly U.S. traffic fatality statistics.
Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work. We at the Bluetooth SIG are no different. That’s why I was so happy to hear that the TechAmerica Foundation named the SIG one of four finalists in the annual American Technology Awards in the category of best health and medical technology, specifically for Bluetooth 4.0 and low energy technology.
This national organization will name the winner on June 13 at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Nominations for the American Technology Awards are vetted by industry experts and technology companies.
It’s fitting that we’re being recognized for health and medical technology. Bluetooth 4.0 will have an impact in many different markets, but health and medicine (which we usually call health and wellness) is one of the most promising new markets for Bluetooth technology.
Bluetooth 4.0 is in all Bluetooth Smart and Smart Ready devices. There are many new Bluetooth Smart devices coming to the health and wellness market, such as wireless heart-rate monitors, blood glucose monitors and weight scales. These Bluetooth Smart sensor devices will draw very little power and operate for months or years off tiny batteries, making them feasible for all sorts of health and medical uses where it would be impractical or impossible to use bulky batteries that need frequent recharging.
Many SIG members worked for years to make Bluetooth 4.0 and low energy technology a reality. I can hardly wait another month to find out if we’ll make it one step further when the winners are announced.
Signs of growth were all around at this year’s annual Bluetooth SIG All Hands Meeting recently in Vancouver, B.C. I’ve attended all these meetings since we started holding them nine years ago for our SIG members, and rarely have I seen so much optimism about the future of Bluetooth technology. It was the perfect way to wrap up my time as executive director before I step down June 1.
SIG membership is now well past 16,000, with 160 companies joining our organization in just the 30 days before our big annual meeting. Our membership is growing 40 percent faster per month than a year ago.
The rise in Bluetooth product shipments is even more dramatic. As our Chief Marketing Officer Suke Jawanda explained in Vancouver, Qualified Design Listings (a requirement for all new Bluetooth products) are expanding at their fastest rate in three years. Total Bluetooth device shipments expected to reach 2 billion in 2012 – 200 million more devices than shipped in 2011, according to ABI Research. Instead of seeding the second wave of Bluetooth technology as we were a year ago, we’re now beginning to ride the second wave.
I expect this growth to really take off in the second half of 2012, when many new Bluetooth Smart Ready phones, tablets and other hub devices will reach the market, creating demand for all sorts of Bluetooth Smart devices that can connect to them. These products validate the strategy we began years ago when we started working on Bluetooth low energy technology, culminating in Bluetooth 4.0. With dozens of Bluetooth 4.0 profiles and services now adopted, our members can start churning out Bluetooth Smart devices at a rapid pace.
To fulfill the needs of our new SIG members, we need to keep delivering on our open platform and allow our members to continue innovating. As I said in my keynote talk in Vancouver, a decade ago I never would have guessed that someday we’d see Bluetooth technology in basketball shoes, yet global sports giant Nike is doing just that. I could list many other surprising new uses of Bluetooth technology in healthcare, consumer electronics and other markets. There was a strong vibe in Vancouver of new members getting involved in the SIG and bringing their fresh new ideas.
Ten years from now, I’m sure there will be products I would never guess will use Bluetooth technology. Will we swallow pills someday that put Bluetooth technology inside our bodies? One of our members speculated about that and other far-out possibilities during an entertaining talk titled “What If?”
When you look at how far Bluetooth technology has come in the last decade, such speculation isn’t just science fiction.
Near Field Communication technology got a boost recently when Nokia announced its first phone with NFC, the Lumia 610 NFC. This new Windows smartphone will soon be available in Europe through mobile operator Orange.
Seeing this gave me deja vu. Five years ago, in the days before smartphones, I demonstrated NFC running on a prototype Nokia phone with Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, sending a photo to a Parrot picture frame. Engadget wrote about my demo in this 2007 article, calling NFC "the coolest new feature."
So it took awhile, but NFC is finally starting to make it into shipping phones.
This is interesting for Bluetooth technology because NFC could make it easier to pair some types of Bluetooth devices. To pair this phone with another NFC device such as stereo headphones or a headset, for example, the Lumia 610 NFC should allow you to simply tap the handset against the accessory and have them automatically pair.
Depending on the type of device you’re trying to pair with the phone, that could eliminate the need for you to scan for new Bluetooth devices and then punch in a PIN code.
Anything that makes it easier to pair devices is good for Bluetooth technology. I expect NFC to work great with some Bluetooth products such as phones, headsets and handsfree calling systems in the car, but not so great with others, like surround speakers and A/V receivers, where conventional pairing will still be needed.
It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers follow Nokia’s lead and start adding NFC to their smartphones. Nokia used to be able to drive the ecosystem to ensure there were peripherals to support an initiative such as this. These days the company doesn’t have quiet as much pull, so unless another big player in the mobile industry such as Google or Apple decide to add NFC support to their smartphone operating system, this technology may face a slow adoption.