As rich as the BLE landscape already is, there’s a number of emerging applications that should be exciting to watch. The automotive space, for instance, offers great potential. With the rise of decentralized zonal architectures in cars, BLE can be used as cable replacements, reducing weight and improving reliability. Electric vehicle battery monitoring systems is a rapidly growing BLE application. Again replacing cables, BLE can enable charging as well as control of individual battery cells for maximum performance, safety, and cell lifetime management. In tire monitoring systems, BLE could become the standard, replacing proprietary wireless protocols. With the addition of MEMS sensors, tire monitoring systems can potentially provide not only tire pressure data but also monitoring of temperature and vibration as well as predictions on tire tread. BLE is starting to support applications for engine and system diagnostics and maintenance and be used in production assembly facilities.
Hearables—including over-the-ear, on-ear, and in-ear devices—are another market segment that benefits from the low power consumption of audio over BLE, also referred to as LE Audio. Bluetooth SIG’s Auracast is anticipated to spark a major inflection point for hearables. Currently, wireless speakers and over-the-ear devices primarily use dual-mode Bluetooth. However, considering the limited battery life of smaller in-ear devices—think hearing aids and ear buds—BLE-only audio solutions are expected to take hold here before migrating over time to larger devices like over-the-ear headphones.
Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) present a very interesting and growing application for BLE. Somewhat driven by supply chain issues seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and compounded by recent inflation, price changes on products can be an almost daily exercise. Compared to the manual process to change prices on paper labels, ESLs make fast and easy work of these updates. Powered by coin-cell batteries, ESL devices are expected to last several years before the batteries need to be changed. This can only happen if the electronic labels are mostly off, waking to check for periodic pricing changes. BLE, with its new “Periodic Advertising with Responses” (PAwR) feature, supports this mode of operation, allowing bi-directional, energy-efficient communication to thousands of end nodes.