Bluetooth Low Energy has two important features: this technology has been developed for low energy consumption and a chip (or module) is much smaller than the classical Bluetooth chipset. BLE reduces device’s cost, size, and weight. That is why you are not likely to find a wearable device without BLE.
However, the Classic Bluetooth is still needed for wearables. As of today there is still no way to transmit media data using low power consumption. But BLE and traditional Bluetooth protocols are complementary and could cover the major communication needs of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Why it is better to use Bluetooth for Wearables?
Because for today it is:
- Possibly the most energy efficient technology for data transmission in the world.
- The best known and the fastest-growing protocol.
The most well-established Bluetooth standards are ZigBee and Wi-Fi. Despite the improved efficiency of these protocols they still consume more energy than BLE.
Other alternatives are different proprietary protocols like Digimesh, ANT+ or Weightless which have been developed specially for IoT. Many original equipment manufacturers (OEM) have turned to proprietary protocols in order to achieve the necessary energy efficiency. The problem with proprietary protocols is that they limit the flexibility and market reach of wearables since they can only support devices that are using the same proprietary protocol.
Cases when BLE is fit for wearable…
The major advantages of Bluetooth Smart for wearable devices are:
- Low power usage,
- Smaller physical size,
- Lower cost.
Smartwatches, energy efficient fitness trackers, smart clothes, medical equipment, and smart jewelry are among the device classes that are designed to function for as long as possible on a charge. There are a number of smartwatches models which are able to work for several months autonomously. It’s a pity that there are many models of wearable devices that use Bluetooth Smart but can not function for more than three days without some sort of charging process; we will let this issue be on the manufacturers’ conscience for now.
Low Power Usage – Energy Efficient
Power consumption for BLE ranges between 0.01% and 0.5% relative to Bluetooth Classic power consumption. That is why the most of wearables are implemented using BLE modules. This solution is the best if a wearable device does not need to transmit any media data information. Today, for most wearables it’s OK since they transfer very little data infrequently. BLE consumes a minimal amount of energy and can be powered by a coin cell battery for months if the energy is not spent to anything else such as displaying information.
Smaller Physical Size
Another benefit of BLE comes in the case of wearables is the size of the module. Today 3.5mm x 3.5mm x 1.0mm is standard for BLE modules. Compare it with 11mm x 13mm x 2mm which is the normal form factor for Bluetooth Classic. The BLE chip is small and fits nicely into any wearable such as wristbands, watches, wearable clothing (SIC!), and smart jewelry.
Low Cost BLE hardware
The price range for BLE chips and modules is currently around $0.1‒4.00 per item depending upon your minimum order. When you compare it with $0.5‒6 for Bluetooth with non-low energy consumption you can see why it can be the better choice.
Bluetooth Classic makes Things Brighter
Devices that require high data transfer rates use Bluetooth Classic or Bluetooth High speed. The most common cases for which high data transfer rates are needed are earpieces (smart headsets), in-car multimedia systems, smart glasses, fitness trackers and smartwatches with audio streaming options.
The most useful profiles for today are: headset (HSP), object exchange (OBEX), audio distribution (A2DP), video distribution (VDP), and file transfer (FTP).
Today Bluetooth Classic is the de facto standard for audio streaming. Compared to BLE, Bluetooth Classic provides a much higher bandwidth and so it has the ability to transmit media data. Applications (and devices) that use normal Bluetooth consume much more current. But for some applications it is OK to recharge devices often and be able to get wireless audio or video streaming everywhere.
Many wearable devices use Bluetooth Classic technology; you will find it in such products as: Smartwatches Apple Watch Series 2, Samsung Gear S3 or Fitbit Surge, fitness trackers, and many different types of wireless audio devices such as vehicles speakerphones, etc.