The Next Big Thing: Bluetooth Low Energy

December 21, 2014 | Event Technology

What is Bluetooth Low Energy?

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a more energy efficient extension of existing Bluetooth 4.1 technology. Both traditional Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE use a 2.4 GHz radio signal to communicate serial data between enabled devices over short distances. While traditional “classic” Bluetooth is more suitable for higher bandwidth applications like audio transfer, Bluetooth LE is ideal for “sensing functions” that need less information such as smart tags, smart watches, and telemetry devices such as Nike Fuel and Fitbit. Bluetooth LE devices are divided into two general categories: Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready. Smart devices are peripheral units like wristbands, watches, etc. Think of them as powered sensors that send data to Smart Ready devices like mobile phones, tablets, etc. that read and interpret the messaging to them.

Bluetooth LE (or Low Energy, or BLE) fixes some problems of standard Bluetooth for low-bandwidth applications. Namely, device-pairing abilities now are greatly improved and batteries on LE devices can last for extended time periods. Some up to one year on a single-button cell battery. As a result, event marketers are flocking to the technology and quickly upgrading RFID and NFC programs with BLE-anchored experiences.

How can you use it at your next event?

Because Bluetooth LE allows for stable, passive connectivity, it has a variety of event uses including using physical objects to trigger interactions passively—similar to NFC or RFID but with a wider range and increased functionality and compatibility. Consider someone walking past an exhibit or a product in a store or at an event and having messaging appear on their mobile device. Bluetooth LE allows devices a greater ability for communication with each other and for collaborative interactions by mobile users based on proximity. This can enable interactive possibilities such as chatting, gaming, etc.—but limited to users in an immediate vicinity. In addition, a new crop of devices— such as the newer Apple TV— can connect using BLE. (Android has added functionality for BLE on the latest versions of its OS.

3 Things to remember:

  1. Location is everything: place BLE beacons in strategic places, next to important items or in areas you want to use.

  2. Make your communication relevant: keep the length and frequency of messages to a reasonable level - don't create BLE spam.

  3. Fill the gap: not all devices support BLE so be sure to fill the tech gap by using traditional SMS and QR codes.

BLE is well positioned to replace RFID, NFC and QR codes as the dominant technology in mobile proximity sensing connectivity. In English, that means “jump on the BLE train and discover how you can implement it creatively at your next event.”

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Posted by Jamie Barlow | Request as a Speaker

Devoted creative servant and quiet sage of technology. Inspired by nature and motivated by mediocrity. Digital team lead @sparksmarketing.