A global provider of silicon, software, and solutions for a smarter, more connected world, Silicon Labs recently completed divestiture of its infrastructure and automotive business. This makes it possible to focus efforts on extending its wireless development platform with the technology, products, and services that help keep customers on the cutting edge of IoT innovation. 

A few weeks ago, I met with Jayanth Krishna, senior product manager of IoT Wireless for Silicon Labs, and learned more about Bluetooth® trends they saw in 2022 and what they expect to see from Bluetooth technology in 2023.

Q&A With Jayanth Krishna From Silicon Labs

What Bluetooth technology trends from 2022 most stick out to you, and what impacts did these trends have on the market?

“The biggest technology trend in 2022 was the arrival of Bluetooth LE Audio.”

The pandemic for sure made the population at large more health conscious which has led to an increase in portable medical markets leveraging existing Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) features. To name a few, devices in this market include continuous glucose monitors, blood pressure monitors, and pulse oximeters. And the biggest expansion is being seen in the home use market. The geopolitical situation leading to energy conservation efforts has also accelerated many conversations on the use of Bluetooth mesh in commercial lighting as well as building automation. We’ve also seen increased popularity in the location services solution area. A case in point is when one of our customers used the Bluetooth angle of arrival (AoA) feature on Silicon Labs’ EFR32BG22 to implement a digital traceability solution capable of asset tracking as well as patient and personal tracking within a hospital. With all of these factors, we have seen a widespread impact on the asset tracking market as adoption increased dramatically in 2022.

The biggest technology trend in 2022 was the arrival of Bluetooth LE Audio. Most of the market limelight has been on audio-centric use cases – lower power, longer lasting headphones and music sharing, broadcast of audio in theaters/airports, and other consumer applications. However, we have also started seeing audio in IoT-centric devices. For example, a technician receiving audio prompts from their safety helmets or sensor hubs that send audio information to users who are busy. With the IoT slated to grow exponentially, we expect LE Audio to be a part of the IoT growth story.

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What Bluetooth technology trends do you anticipate seeing in 2023?

Electronic Shelf Label Web

We see a few very big trends positively impacting us. One will be in the electronic shelf label (ESL) space, which will leverage a forthcoming new Bluetooth feature, periodic advertisement with responses (PaWR), and the soon-to-be-released associated profiles. ESLs are battery operated and hence are very sensitive to power consumption while existing in a large network of thousands of nodes. Given that they display price information, they need to be protected against attacks. Bluetooth® technology is known for low-power wireless connectivity, and smart retail has been a focus area for us. Standardizing ESL through Bluetooth technology provides a power-efficient, secure, and scalable solution that converges nicely with existing Bluetooth smart retail offerings. This will tremendously impact our ability to provide more valuable solutions to our customers.

We also expect that location services – or, differently put, location awareness – will be a big one going into 2023. From the perspective of Bluetooth features, high-accuracy distance measurement (HADM) will be at the forefront of the technology evolution, but we do believe that this will be used with other existing Bluetooth LE features to address many new use cases or address existing use cases more efficiently – digital keys, generic access control with proximity-based authentication, and item finding are some examples.

We have been on the doorstep of the next version of Bluetooth mesh for a while now and the draft specifications have been published. We firmly believe that there are several features which will not only make Bluetooth mesh more useful but also enable the technology to go beyond the existing bastions of networked lighting control and building automation. There are several new use cases we are discussing with customers and hopefully will be able to make them public in 2023.

What has been the biggest demand from your customers, as it relates to Bluetooth technology, in 2022?

“Customers have continued to look to Bluetooth® technology to stretch the limits of their solutions.”

In general, customers have continued to look to Bluetooth® technology to stretch the limits of their solutions, and Silicon Labs met those demands. For example, Silicon Labs’ solutions can support 32 simultaneous connections. The stretch has been how long can you keep the connections alive and how much data can you pump. In the same vein, power optimization has been a key topic of discussion with customers. While there is a lot to talk about it, such as how a device like our ERF32BG22 has been optimized, there are a lot of protocol nuances that can be used to optimize the power consumption for specific use cases. The other vector of stretch is around security with the widespread increase in attacks. Our EFR32BG21 achieved PSA Certified Level 3 status, and that level of security on the silicon, combined with the inherent protocol security of Bluetooth technology, has won us several customers.

What has Silicon Labs focused on with Bluetooth technology in 2022, and what will you focus on in 2023?

Silicon Labs is a pure play IoT wireless company. Our general strategy is to leverage the connectivity technologies to best address the markets and segments we serve. When new features in Bluetooth Core Specification v5.3 were adopted, they addressed a wide variety of markets, and we were able to tune those features to be used for IoT devices as illustrated in one of the earlier blog posts. We will continue down this path for 2023 and explore new avenues to promote Bluetooth® technology in conjunction with the other complimentary technologies we are investing in, including AI/ML.

Every year continues to be more and more exciting. With the announcement of Bluetooth technology targeting higher throughput and higher bands, the envelope of market problems that the technology can solved will only expand. We will actively contribute towards developing these features and hope to make 2023 yet another landmark year.

What three words would you use to describe Bluetooth technology in 2023?

I would love to take this opportunity to attribute three words to Bluetooth® technology in general – pervasive, flexible, and dynamic.

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