Internet of things coming to Android with Bluetooth Smart support

June 5, 2013

Bluetooth Smart coming to Android API 18One of the important Android announcements made at Google’s recent developers conference was the upcoming support for Bluetooth Smart (or¬†Bluetooth low energy as it is sometimes known) in the next version of Android. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean supports Android API level 17. The commitment from Google is that Android API level 18 will support the ¬†Bluetooth Smart. Official API level support for Bluetooth Smart will finally allow the “Internet of things” to come to Android.

“Internet of things” refers to the world of interconnected smart devices, ranging from sensors in your shoe to smart doors that can open themselves. For this next generation of smart-devices to communicate a common protocol is needed. Bluetooth Classic was able to provide such comms, but it was a battery killer. The new¬†Bluetooth low energy (BLE) specification allows devices to consume only a fraction of the energy of a classic Bluetooth device. Where as classic Bluetooth devices measure their battery life in hours, Bluetooth Smart devices measure their battery in months or even years!

Although several devices including the¬†Samsung Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4, the HTC One X and the HTC One are Bluetooth Smart Ready, the lack of native API support in Android meant that manufactures had to provide their own Bluetooth Smart SDKs. This wasn’t very satisfactory as any apps designed to work with these smart-devices needed to be implemented on each Android device separately.

The native Android support for Bluetooth Smart Ready technology available in the coming months means Bluetooth Smart developers will have an easy way to connect their devices to and distribute their applications within the massive Android ecosystem.
Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG

Now that Android will support¬†Bluetooth Smart, developers have a chance to start creating some very exciting smart devices that can communicate with an Android device. There are of course some already on the market including the Pebble smart-watch and ¬†Fitbit’s range of personal fitness trackers. According to the official Bluetooth website there are already a whole range of gadgets in existence that rely on Bluetooth Smart including ¬†weight scales, proximity sensors, heart rate monitors, treadmills, GPS tracking devices,¬†glucose monitors, dimmer lamps and helicopters!

The potential for these Bluetooth Smart devices is enormous. Beyond the current range of heart sensors and GPS trackers there is a whole untapped market for sensors that can monitor everything from the speed of a golf ball to the temperature inside an oven.

The Bluetooth Smart specification defines certain profiles which give us a peek into what is possible. Aimed at ‘always-on’ devices with long battery lives, Bluetooth Smart allows a button to be pressed on one device and an alarm to sound on another. So it looks like the days of those missing keys which have slipped behind the sofa are gone.

There is also a profile for proximity detection. It allows one device to detect whether another device is close by. This allows an alarm to be sounded (or another action like opening a door automatically) when the devices are a certain distance apart. There is also provision for a device like a wristwatch to receive notifications from another device, such as a phone, to alert the wearer to something happening on the phone, like an incoming call, alarm or notification.

It isn’t clear yet if API level 18 will be Android 4.3 or Android 5.0. A couple of weeks ago the Nexus 4 received official Bluetooth 4.0¬†certification¬†and shortly after the¬†Nexus 7 with Android 4.3 was spotted going for its Bluetooth 4.0 exam. Also we here at AndroidAuthority.com have noticed¬†quite a few Android 4.3 builds not too long ago in our server logs.

When looking to get your next Android device the key phrase to look out for is¬†¬†“Bluetooth Smart Ready.” That means the device has a dual-mode Bluetooth chip that can use Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth Smart. A device with only¬†“Bluetooth Smart” certification can only talk to smart-devices and can’t use “normal” Bluetooth devices.

What smart-devices would you like to see and how would they interact with your Android device?

Comments

  • End in sight

    Wow. This could be the biggest news of the day. No joke.

  • Hothfox

    I’m ready for it! The Galaxy Nexus has BLE support, but it just needs the software update.

    • Karthikeyan Venkatraman

      thank you for answering the question in my mind (does my galaxy nexus support bluetooth smart?) :)

  • Preetham D. Phirangi

    Man this article is soo interesting. I think not many people read this judging on the number of comments..

  • Amadeus Klein

    Yay! BLE support is a huge deal… Everything from biometrics to AR devices, even to appliances… For me using it to connect to devices that will augment and give me information about the word around me is really a huge win. With my vision issues I already rely on my phone to assist me in my daily life, being able to add smart devices without power consumption issues of having classic bluetooth always on will be awesome.

  • huafei741
  • Andrew Rena

    I would like to see it on the Nexus 4 as I already own a FitBit device and did not want to get a S3 or S4, I prefer the vanilla android version

  • scb1898

    It is about damn time!

  • Anthony J. Alfidi

    Advanced IT offers rewards. Social media, Big Data, IOT, and cloud solve real-time problems without high-level public policy. http://alfidicapitalblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-rewards-of-advanced-information.html

  • av3ng3r85

    It’s about f*king time! D*mn, what the h*ll they been waiting for. Now I can use all my BLE-aware fitness devices. In my opinion, a dual-mode Bluetooth device should be called “Bluetooth Smart Plus” meaning it supports Bluetooth Classic as well as Bluetooth Smart. “Smart Ready” sounds like some kind of demotion in comparison to regular “Bluetooth Smart”. Historically, whenever you put “ready” after something that means it’s capable of doing that function but only after you purchase some additional item or otherwise unlock the functionality. But that’s not what BLE SR means. It’s already capable of connecting out of the box AND it can also connect to legacy devices. I think that deserves BLE S+ (Smart Plus).

  • Kristjan

    Polar Wearlink H7 (Smart Bluetooth) integration with HTC phones, using Endomono App – > would be big.

  • Lmbrg

    Bad news is BLE is supported by a small number of smartphone devices at this point, good news is Nexus will support it: http://blog.lemberg.co.uk/getting-bottom-android-bluetooth-low-energy-api