Bluetooth already knows how to find phones, and location accuracy is fairly decent. A planned update to Bluetooth, however, will give the short-range radio tech the power to pinpoint devices’ direction and location down to the centimeter.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group today announced a direction-finding feature that allows Bluetooth to determine the direction a Bluetooth device is headed. The capability is being added to the core of Bluetooth v5.1. The Bluetooth SIG believes the improvement will benefit a range of industries.
As it works now, Bluetooth location features fall into one of two camps: proximity or positioning. Proximity helps Bluetooth devices recognize when they are near one another. Common uses are personal property tags and marketing beacons that deliver information regarding nearby points of interest. Positioning takes advantage of real-time locating systems to pinpoint the exact whereabouts of specific items. Think asset tracking and indoor positioning. Accuracy is good down to the meter. The new direction-finding feature merges these two functions and dramatically improves both.
Combining proximity and positioning lets Bluetooth devices determine where devices are, and where they are headed. The result is centimeter-level accuracy — or a hundred-fold improvement.
Location services are one of the fastest growing aspects of Bluetooth, according to the Bluetooth SIG, and is expected to reach some 440 million devices this year. This represents a growing opportunity for retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and much more.
For consumers it means better indoor navigation, such as when wandering through your local shopping center. Your phone will know better where you are and can more accurately guide you from one place to another. It also means those tracking tags you use to find your car keys will tell you not only that the keys are under the couch, but on which side you’ll see them.
Direction finding is officially part of Bluetooth 5.1 starting today. The Bluetooth SIG also updated the corresponding Launch Studio for developers, giving them the ability to begin adopting fine-tined location tracking immediately. The SIG didn’t provide a timeline suggesting when this new technology will reach actual businesses and consumers.