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Bluetooth 4.2 offers improved privacy, speed and power usage

by Mark Tyson on 4 December 2014, 12:05

Tags: Bluetooth SIG

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The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced an updated Bluetooth specification, version 4.2. The new standard brings along several key updates said to improve privacy, increase the speed of data transfers, and will allow Bluetooth Smart sensors to directly access the Internet.

Bluetooth has always been an important feature in mobiles with thanks to the proliferation of accessories. Now thanks to the recent bloom of wearables and connected home gadgets, the tech is present in nearly every device which connects wirelessly. With Bluetooth 4.2, the Bluetooth SIG has specifically targeted the following aspects: Privacy and Security, Internet Connectivity and Speed.

"Bluetooth 4.2 is all about continuing to make Bluetooth Smart the best solution to connect all the technology in your life – from personal sensors to your connected home. In addition to the improvements to the specification itself, a new profile known as IPSP enables IPv6 for Bluetooth, opening entirely new doors for device connectivity," said Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. "Bluetooth Smart is the only technology that can scale with the market, provide developers the flexibility to innovate, and be the foundation for the IoT."

The widespread use of Bluetooth has previously been targeted as a vulnerability, where the act of secretly accessing a device via an unused Bluetooth connection has been given the term of "bluesnarfing" in the security community. The new standard ensures that eavesdropping Bluetooth connections will be prevented, whilst the system also makes it so connections cannot track you without your permission.

The improved privacy settings will lower power overall consumption in addition to putting control back into the hands of the consumer. With battery life on wearables being a hot topic lately, this feature in version 4.2 will no doubt be welcomed by wearable users and device developers.

Building on the capabilities of version 4.1, announced a year ago, the 4.2 Internet Protocol Support Profile (IPSP) will allow Bluetooth Smart sensors to access the Internet directly via IPv6/6LoWPAN.The update utilises the existing IP infrastructure and connects to Bluetooth Smart "edge" devices. The SIG puts emphasis on connected home scenarios being able to take the most advantage of the new specification's direct Internet access feature.

The new 4.2 spec also improves on the speed of data transfers between devices, which is said to be up to 2.5 times faster compared to previous versions and packet capacity will grow by nearly 10 times. For end users, this could potentially make an over-the-air firmware update, for example, faster by around 250 per cent.

There shouldn't be long to wait before you can start enjoying the benefits of Bluetooth 4.2, as the privacy controls could be added to older devices via software, if the manufacturers are willing to provide the firmware update. However, the speed and IPv6 features will need new hardware, and the next generation of Bluetooth devices will be coming as soon as Spring 2015. The Bluetooth 4.2 spec can be view on the organisation's website alongside further documentation.

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All hail king Bluetooth.
hail ;)