Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart is a short range radio technology (2.4 GHz) which is used to acquire information about the surrounding environment. As opposed to RFID it only works with active tags (Beacons/smart tags), which are battery powered. They periodically broadcast very small amounts of data in order to possibly indicate some current state information of an object or a device. This information can then be captured by a reader device such as a smart phone in their proximity.

Typical BLE applications:

  • multiple BLE smart tags can be used to allow for indoor area navigation
  • keychain location
  • alarm for objects, moving outside of a predefined range
    (in order to not forget something when leaving a location or to be alarmed if something is getting stolen)
  • state indication of medical devices
    (i.e. blood pressure monitor, glucose measurement device)

Unlike its predecessor (Bluetooth), Bluetooth LE’s connection establishment is way quicker but still slower compared to NFC. Nevertheless this is fast enough for mobile payments. On the other hand once a connection is established its data transmission reaches up to 1 Mbit/s, which is more than twice the speed of a data transfer over NFC. The operating range is up to 10 meters but it can be optionally adjusted. This correlates directly with the device’s power consumption. The lower the range and the less often the signal broadcasting, the lower the power consumption which can cause a battery life of up to five years. For these reasons it is integrated in most iOS based smart phones (iPhone).

Other technologies

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
More information
Near Field Communication (NFC)
More information