If you could use three words to describe Bluetooth technology, what would they be?
Ubiquitous: The movie Jurassic Park has a line that goes, “Life finds a way.” I would say that Bluetooth® finds a way too. Bluetooth technology evolves, enveloping existing use cases with standardization and broadening reach through unlocking new use cases. In terms of versatility of function, pervasiveness of use, and diversity of data transmitted across 2.4 GHz, nothing comes close to what Bluetooth technology does.
Essential: Falling back on another paraphrase, “if we didn’t have Bluetooth, it would be necessary to invent it.” Bluetooth technology is a widespread protocol because it serves essential purposes. Think about all the cases where Bluetooth technology isn’t even the primary wireless protocol – in those cases, you need something to set up the network, to commission a device, and to interface with a phone. Bluetooth technology fills those functional gaps in a way that’s intuitive, straightforward, and reliably supported with years of standards-driven interoperability and reliability.
I’m hard pressed to think of a different wireless protocol that provides more help and support toward enabling such a broad array of use cases that permeate our lives than Bluetooth® technology.
In that respect, it’s essential. But I use essential in another, more personal use of the word as well. Particularly in personal health, Bluetooth technology has become an essential part of living a healthy life for millions of people. In my own family, Bluetooth technology has dramatically improved the quality of life and health of those with Type 1 diabetes through its interface with both CGMs and insulin pumps. For that reason, I take special pride in working at a company, like Silicon Labs, that plays a small but critical role in enabling these use cases.
Helpful: The goal of all the work a semiconductor company like Silicon Labs puts into product development, and all the work our customers and partners put into bringing end products to market, is to make some service, product, or activity work better than it worked before. In ways that might be big or small, we strive to make end customer’s lives more efficient, healthier, or hassle free…or even more delightful; in short, to help. To that end, I’m hard pressed to think of a different wireless protocol that provides more help and support toward enabling such a broad array of use cases that permeate our lives than Bluetooth technology.
What new Bluetooth trends do you anticipate seeing in 2024?
2024 will be an exciting time for Bluetooth® technology, driven in large part by the adoption of high-accuracy distance measurement. High-accuracy distance measurement promises to complement AoX to raise the profile of Bluetooth Location Services to a leading player in this space. One of the reasons I’m so excited about the addition of high-accuracy distance measurement is the diversity of use cases where we’re finding interest among our customers. Whether it’s passive entry applications, an HMI security enhancement, or a device-to-device ranging feature, high-accuracy distance measurement seems to be a sweet spot, balancing accuracy, security, design complexity, and cost. In my time as a product manager, I’ve never seen a Bluetooth feature that has this reach across so many market segments. Customers are getting creative with this feature, viewing it as a critical value add for upgrades to existing products as well as unlocking new applications in location awareness and user experiences.
Another trend we see is the accelerated adoption of Bluetooth® technology in personal health devices.
Another trend we see is the accelerated adoption of Bluetooth technology in personal health devices, such as continuous blood glucose monitors (CGM), insulin pumps, and other products. Again, the migration to Bluetooth technology in this space has been ongoing for years, but the ramp is rapidly accelerating. So many of these devices use smartphones for human interface, making Bluetooth technology an ideal wireless technology. Security is critically important for these use cases, and we see Bluetooth technology stepping up to the challenge with new features such as the Authentication Control Service (ACS) and Certificate Based Provisioning and Authentication (CBAP) to ensure privacy of medical information and minimized potential for hacks.
What was your customers’ biggest demand in 2023?
One big story for us in 2023 is in personal health, with announced partnerships in 2023 that are the result of years of development on hardware, software, and ecosystem management. ESL is another important business for us, and 2023 was a year where we saw skyrocketing demand for Bluetooth® enabled communication in that space. Finally, we continue to see demand for Bluetooth technology as a commissioning protocol in nearly every multiprotocol use case. Silicon Labs is a pure-play IOT company, and Bluetooth technology is an essential part of applications even when it’s not the center of focus.