Over the past two years, the Ambient IoT has been a growing topic of discussion. Standards bodies have begun to explore how best they can support this new class of device and have been active in driving the conversation around this topic. Still, one of the difficulties with understanding the opportunities in this market is the lack of a standard definition of the Ambient IoT, such that it can engage companies from across the ecosystem.

Recently, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) commissioned ABI Research – a global leader in analyzing, tracking, and forecasting the transformation of the smart device and IoT markets – to help define the Ambient IoT and examine the role of Bluetooth® technology plays in its evolution.

This research note – The Ambient IoT – The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth IoT Devices – establishes guidelines for comprehending the Ambient IoT, intending to align IoT ecosystem strategies to create Ambient IoT devices. It also evaluates the role of Bluetooth technology, notably Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE), in addressing Ambient IoT use cases. Bluetooth LE, as a low-power protocol, already has a central position in enabling this device class. It is the de facto choice for many IoT solution providers building applications based on ambient energy harvesting devices.

Where Bluetooth Technology Fits in the Ambient IoT

Bluetooth® technology…holds a central role in the evolution of the Ambient IoT.

Bluetooth® technology, and specifically Bluetooth LE, holds a central role in the evolution of the Ambient IoT. Reasons for this central role include the technology feature set of Bluetooth LE, which makes it a go-to technology for the Ambient IoT, and the Bluetooth SIG’s position within the ecosystem supporting the ongoing development of Bluetooth technology and creating a developer base for low-power IoT solutions.

For developers, Bluetooth LE offers the following benefits.

  • Leading Low-Power Technology: Bluetooth LE is one of the lowest-power IoT protocols available today. It is often the first port of call for solution providers building use cases based on ambient energy harvesting, and many of the first Ambient IoT use cases rely on Bluetooth LE technology. As a result, Bluetooth LE’s lead in low-power technology plays a central role in enabling the new class of Ambient IoT devices, which rely on gathering tiny amounts of energy from ambient sources.
  • Low Integrated Circuit (IC) Costs: Bluetooth chips are some of the most commoditized radios available for wireless markets, allowing developers to build low-cost devices. Unlike many other wireless protocols, system-on-chip (SoC) and system-in-package (SiP) development is very common with Bluetooth technology, allowing highly integrated, low-power, and low-cost solutions. The low cost of Bluetooth® chips, in relation to other connectivity technologies, gives Bluetooth technology an essential role in helping solution providers design and build Ambient IoT devices.
  • Supports Flexible Topologies: Bluetooth LE supports multiple implementation topologies, including point-to-point, mesh, and broadcast. In addition, use cases with Bluetooth technology can be internet based, via a gateway, or peer-to-peer. Ambient IoT use cases may be implemented in many ways based on the targeted user and the environment in which a solution is deployed. Bluetooth LE, through its flexible topologies, plays an important role in enabling solution providers to develop Ambient IoT solutions in any way that best suits the use case and environment. The image below shows different implementation architectures for the Ambient IoT. Bluetooth LE can be used in all network topologies. It can also be used for both data transmission and energy harvesting.
Ambient IoT MRN Fig 4
Ambient IoT Implementation Architectures (Source: ABI Research)

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NEW MARKET RESEARCH

The Ambient IoT – The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth® IoT Devices

This report defines the Ambient IoT, outlines targeted use cases, and highlights the next steps needed to capitalize on the Ambient IoT opportunity. It also explains the central role of Bluetooth® technology in addressing Ambient IoT use cases, characterized by its low power consumption, low cost, flexibility, interoperability, and scalability.

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Benefits of the Bluetooth Ecosystem

In addition to its technology strengths, Bluetooth® is a standard backed by the Bluetooth SIG with a large developer base. Advantages to developing within this ecosystem include:

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  • Long-Term Technology Support: Ambient IoT devices require long-life support in the field without maintenance or equipment replacement. With the sunsetting of 2G and 3G technologies, IoT adopters are increasingly forward thinking when selecting a technology that will permit longevity without replacing equipment. As an open and standard-backed technology, Bluetooth LE plays an important role in giving the confidence of long-term support to developers building Ambient IoT devices and customers adopting Ambient IoT use cases and devices.
  • Feature Development: Ambient IoT devices perform many of the same functions as existing IoT devices — sensing, location, ID, and control. Bluetooth LE already includes features to address several of these requirements, such as multiple approaches to device positioning. The Bluetooth SIG is playing a role in further developing features that can support Ambient IoT use cases based on ongoing interaction with stakeholders across the Bluetooth® value chain; these features could involve harvesting energy from Bluetooth radio waves, radio frequency (RF)-based sensing, or data formats for different ID applications.
  • Large Infrastructure Installed Base: For the Ambient IoT to be able to reach its full potential, it must be able to communicate with multiple types of infrastructure and equipment — such as dedicated or multi-use access points (APs) and gateways, user equipment (UE) like smartphones, or other forms of IoT devices. Bluetooth technology is widely accepted across multiple industries and has a large existing base of Bluetooth devices that creates a Bluetooth capable infrastructure. The ecosystem’s strength is an important reason why Bluetooth technology plays a central role in the Ambient IoT; it enables industrial, enterprise, and consumer markets to build use cases with minimal additional infrastructure, helping to lower the entry barriers of the Ambient IoT at scale.
  • Interoperability and Scalability: Ambient IoT devices need to be easily deployed and maintained by users, whether for consumers or for enterprises. Interoperability may take different forms; some examples include cross-vendor implementations, implementations requiring multiple Ambient IoT device suppliers, or interoperability and easy provisioning with different UE or APs. The large ecosystem of solution providers using Bluetooth technology and its acceptance across industries allows customers to choose solutions based on their unique requirements while knowing that devices will simply work together. Supporting the development of the Ambient IoT, the Bluetooth SIG plays a role in facilitating the interoperability of Ambient IoT devices by adopting standards that eliminate the need for solution vendors to focus on proprietary solutions and eliminate the need for adopters to rely on a single solution provider.

The features and ecosystem of Bluetooth® technology are well evolved. As a result, solution providers and adopters can focus on innovation, such as form-factor designs, data management, and use cases targeting specific pain points rather than developing an entire technology stack from scratch. By further supporting the development of the Ambient IoT, Bluetooth technology can bring these existing features and ecosystem advantages to a new class of IoT devices, thereby providing long-term support and reliability to solution providers and technology adopters.

The Future for the IoT Ecosystem

Bluetooth® LE will play a central role in the evolution of the Ambient IoT.

The emergence of Ambient IoT devices represents a significant leap in the evolution of IoT devices, offering a promising future for the IoT ecosystem. By relying on ambient energy sources, the Ambient IoT enables the development of lower-cost, smaller form factor, and maintenance-free devices, thus opening new possibilities for IoT applications across various industries.

The market potential is extensive with early adoption focused on short-range wireless connectivity, particularly Bluetooth® LE technology. Bluetooth LE will play a central role in the evolution of the Ambient IoT. From a technology perspective, it is a leading, very low-power protocol that supports a wide range of network topologies and is available on many low-cost ICs. From an ecosystem perspective, Bluetooth® LE is an open, standard-backed technology that promises long-term support and feature evolution. Consequently, it has built a large developer base and a ubiquitous installed base of dedicated or multi-use infrastructure, facilitating further solutions built with the technology.

To learn more, read the full report: The Ambient IoT – The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth IoT Devices. This report helps define the Ambient IoT and outlines the role Bluetooth technology plays in its evolution.

Read the full report.

Master Icon File Paper

NEW MARKET RESEARCH

The Ambient IoT – The Emergence of a New Class of Bluetooth® IoT Devices

This report defines the Ambient IoT, outlines targeted use cases, and highlights the next steps needed to capitalize on the Ambient IoT opportunity. It also explains the central role of Bluetooth® technology in addressing Ambient IoT use cases, characterized by its low power consumption, low cost, flexibility, interoperability, and scalability.

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