📚 General BLE facts
⚙️ BLE Technical Facts
🤖 BLE FAQ: Beacons and iBeacons
🗂 Our Expertise in BLE Integrations
To start with, Bluetooth was initiated as a short-range technology to replace cables and wires as a connection method. According to Statista the current number of shipped Bluetooth devices is not only presented in billions but is also growing continuously from year to year. Thus proving that the relevance of this technology is not going to leave global markets in near future.
BLE Ultimate Guide (image by Andrew Rosek)
Bluetooth as technology exists in two types:
In this article, we will take a deeper look specifically at the basics of Bluetooth Low Energy, determine its technical characteristics, notice both advantages and limitations of BLE products, and provide the answers to the most frequently asked questions before integrating it into your project.
Bluetooth Low Energy is a wireless technology introduced in Bluetooth version 4.0, with the purpose of creating connections that compared to the Classic Bluetooth:
Wibree is a technology with extremely low power consumption and a 10-meter range which is known as the first version of modern Bluetooth Low Energy. In 2009 it was rebranded as Bluetooth Low Energy and still functions under this name.
Bluetooth of any type plays a crucial role in developing and connecting IoT applications (image by Josh Warren)
An example of BLE application to control heat level of the infra-heated vest (image by Ten Times Better)
Despite sharing the brand and specifications, Bluetooth Low Energy and Classic Bluetooth in fact are incompatible. It means that it’s impossible to set up direct communication between such two devices.
To avoid compatibility issues many smartphone-like gadgets tend to implement both of these technologies thus enabling communication with every side. Smartphones with such Bluetooth chipsets are called **Dual Mode Bluetooth devices **and are able to work with both Bluetooth Low Energy and Bluetooth Classic.
Technically it’s impossible to say which of the technologies is “better” or “worse” in general. The answer depends on your needs: whether you need to have a continuous connection, transmit large amounts of data, have the possibility to frequently recharge your device, etc.
Let’s see some examples of goals and determine the technology that fits better in distinct cases:
📱 Task examples
📳 Suitable technology
Wearable pedometers, heart rate monitors
Baby monitors, small walkie-talkies
Smart House sensors
Smart sensors for cars
Applications with a file-transferring feature
Applications with a quality audio streaming feature
Wireless PC peripherals
Printer-like peripheral machines
Just like any other technology in today’s vast tech world, there will always be competitors. A competitive factor not only opens up a wider set of options to choose from but also lets the technologies prosper and evolve more among the analogues.
Minimal time to send data
Maximum radio data rate
2 Mbps (Bluetooth 5)
Depends on environmental conditions, selected range mode, and used features. The regular range is 10-30 meters, however, under ideal conditions Bluetooth version 5 LE products may connect through about 400 meters
In CCM mode - 128-bit AES
Peak current consumption
less than 15 mA
Latency (non-connected -> connected state)
Yes, Bluetooth Low Energy versions are backward compatible with each other. However, the features that were released in the newest versions won’t be supported by the older ones.
As an example, a BLE device with a Bluetooth version 4.1 can easily be connected to a BLE device with Bluetooth version 5, yet without access to the newest features of the 5-th version.
BLE devices weren’t able to transmit audio before the release of the Bluetooth 5.2 update. With the use of custom implementations, there was a way to make audio streaming possible, however, it was never about achieving a good quality sound. After Bluetooth 5.2, audio transmitting finally became possible with many upgrades and specifications awaiting in the future.
Bluetooth Low Energy is a technology for maintaining connections with low power consumption, thus there are enough various sources to power such products. The most common power sources for BLE’s battery life are:
Considering that Bluetooth Low Energy radios in fact are Radio Frequency (RF) transceivers — the needed certifications depend on the country where the device is going to be used. Besides the certifications, it is also required to get an End Product Listing with the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG). Some examples:
Communicating and managing Bluetooth Low Energy products most of the time is maintained via the specialized Android or iPhone app. Thus, an app is the most common way for managing BLE connections, however, connecting devices directly is also practically possible. We at Stormotion experienced the development of a heart-rate sensor with a direct connection to an exercise machine.
What to Consider when Integrating BLE in your React Native App
As Bluetooth Low Energy based on a Master (Central) and Slave topology, a Master can create a connection with multiple peripherals simultaneously as well as be the Slave and the Master at the same time. A practical limit for the Central device — is supporting up to 20 peripherals connected.
An example of how a BLE device is connected to IoT applications (image by Adam Kalin)
However, the practical number stated before only shows the BLE capabilities in general, but this limit may be different for some cases. It depends on the application-specific aspects that define the number of simultaneous connections in particular cases. Such aspects are primarily:
Experimentally it was determined that a Samsung Galaxy S9 as a BLE Central can support up to 8 simultaneously connected devices. While the iPhone 8, for example, managed to connect up to 10 such products.
According to [Microsoft Q&A, when it comes to connecting Bluetooth Low Energy to Windows it works as follows:
Bluetooth beacons are a type of Bluetooth Low Energy device that is presented as a hardware transmitter. The main point of such beacons is to broadcast their identifier to various smartphone-like devices within a close range to take control of them and perform actions like launching an app, opening an information page, or sending a notification.
An appearance of beacons presented by Estimote (image by Estimote)
iBeacon is an Apple protocol based on BLE proximity sensing that possesses a set of features similar to a Bluetooth-labeled brother.
Practically, to send information about the distance between connected products to a device, iOS delivers the actual calculated distance, while Bluetooth Low Energy relies on the RSSI signal strength. Thus, in an iOS case, the estimated distance won’t depend on the device manufacturer and will be equal regardless of the device version.
The “inner world” of the beacons presented by Estimote (image by Estimote)
Let’s introduce ourselves to a Beacon world step-by-step:
Beacons are quite useful things that can serve as an informational source or even attract potential customers. Here are some examples of how beacons are used in the modern world:
Notifications created by beacons’ continuous signal transmissions (image by Asha Rajput)
We at Stormotion have already worked on BLE projects from different industries and fields: fitness, transportation, equipment management and others. We help startups and businesses develop mobile & web apps to manage smart BLE devices from fitness trackers to engines. Also, we create M2M systems where one device is directly connected to another — for example, when you need to connect a heart rate sensor directly to an exercise machine.
Fitness is one of the industries where BLE devices are used the most. Thus, we’d like to highlight our two relevant cases in this section — PlatoonFit and SportPlus. Both of them required connecting different exercise equipment, sensors and monitors.
Platoon Fit is a platform where any user may find various progressive exercises for managing indoor workouts. Along with providing exercise guides, the company pays special attention to video content.
Case Study: Platoon Fit
Talking about BLE, our task was to build an MVP that would support fitness tracking devices integration.More specifically, we needed to set up a convenient data transfer between connected heart rate sensors with the Platoon Fit application.
Platoon Fit focuses on health monitoring gadgets as a special part of online workouts (shot by Stormotion)
With the integration of BLE compatibility protocols to the project, we managed to achieve the high-level data transaction system only in 4 weeks of testing and prototyping.
SportPlus is another great specimen on Stormotion’s project showcase. The company produces and sells various unique sports equipment for making their customers’ fitness experience effective. Our task was to build an application that would support every type of exercise machinery they offer.
However, the solution for this case was a challenging one to develop. The point is that almost every sports machine the company offers requires different protocols for data exchange which takes us to the main problem. To build a proper communication between an application and the equipment we need to take every possible protocol into account.
With the strategy we created, we managed to access the data flow between another functioning app and the specific machine they offer. Thanks to this decision, we determined the order and format required to send and receive different bytes of information in each particular case. After the experimental part, we succeeded in supporting every possible connection for a complete data exchange system, regardless of the required machinery protocol.
IoT in the Fitness Industry: Devices, Use Cases & Tips
As the topic of BLE products is getting more relevant throughout the years, with the rise of interest there also rises the urge to answer all the frequently asked questions regarding the technology again and again. We at Stormotion tried our best to provide answers to the most common questions in terms of Bluetooth Low Energy and products supported by this technology.
If you have any questions or need any help with integrating Bluetooth Low Energy into your project, let us know. We will be happy to help you meet your business needs with a stunning BLE product!
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