What Bluetooth 5.2 means for the world
If you have owned even a single mobile phone over the last couple of decades, you have inevitably used the Bluetooth feature on it at some point or another. For a technology standard that was first unveiled in the mid-90s, Bluetooth has continued to stay relevant for a remarkable period of time, and it has aged like fine wine, steadily improving with each new iteration. To this day, Bluetooth remains the world’s foremost technology of choice for inter-device connectivity for short ranges. Whether it is for streaming audio to wireless earphones, or for quickly sending photos to a friend’s phone without having to fiddle with cables or computers, Bluetooth does it all. And now, with the arrival of Bluetooth 5.2, the latest version of this beloved protocol, things are about to get even better.
Bluetooth 5.2 has also implemented a new technology called LEPC (Low Energy Power Control) that ensures and maintains the signal quality while actively reducing background interference caused by signal streams from any nearby devices.
Every new iteration of Bluetooth gets stamped with a new version number, and Bluetooth 5.2, the latest of the litter, is no exception to this. Compared to the last generation of Bluetooth, version 4.x, Bluetooth 5 already sports significant updates, such as twice the speed, four times the range (Bluetooth 5.2 has a maximum operating range of a stunning 240 meters or 800 feet), and a data bandwidth that is over eight times wider, making glorious use of the 2.4GHz signal band, which is already a popular choice for various other wireless protocols, such as most versions of Wi-Fi, because of the wide coverage it can provide. For version 5.2, which is more of an incremental update, the Bluetooth technology has nevertheless undergone several deep revisions for this particular round, and thanks to its new EATT (Enhanced Attribute Protocol), it is expected to vastly improve the quality of Bluetooth connections between all upcoming devices that would support its latest version. EATT minimizes latency of application operations, and opens up new ways to perform concurrent exchanges of information between Bluetooth 5.2 devices. Pairings are substantially quicker and less confusing, and even the devices themselves are more likely to show up in searches because of their higher signal strength, reducing hassle and frustration by a great deal on the part of the user.
Bluetooth 5.2 has also implemented a new technology called LEPC (Low Energy Power Control) that ensures and maintains the signal quality while actively reducing background interference caused by signal streams from any nearby devices. And indeed, in a world where we are essentially swimming in wireless signals being emitted from every device under the sun, it can get quite difficult for a device to punch through the ether and make itself heard, which is where LEPC really shines. By enabling Bluetooth 5.2-supported devices to efficiently monitor their proximity to each other in real time and use that as a steady identifier, even interference from powerful signal sources like Wi-Fi routers can be safely overcome. The relative position of devices in a Bluetooth 5.2 link can also be used by features like ‘Find My Phone’ to quickly locate where a device is at the moment in physical space, allowing misplaced devices to be quickly found. Such technologies can also boost the use of device identifier tags to pinpoint the position of particular objects to which said tags are attached, and its uses are only limited by the users’ imagination.
The new standard involves the use of a new and highly efficient audio codec called LC3 that boasts vastly superior sound quality because of its improved compression and decompression techniques, while keeping power consumption and battery drain at a minimum.
Bluetooth 5.2 is also the first iteration of the protocol to introduce Broadcast Audio – a really nifty feature that allows multiple devices to simultaneously connect to a single source over Bluetooth, something that was not previously possible. For example, while past versions of Bluetooth allowed the pairing of any number of wireless headphones with a phone, it only allowed one pair of wireless headphones to remain connected with the device at a time. On the other hand, Broadcast Audio opens up a myriad of avenues for connection streams to be maintained simultaneously across multiple devices from the same source, allowing the same media to be enjoyed by individual users at the same time. For instance, viewers can now enjoy a film on separate Bluetooth headphones that are receiving audio streams from the same source that is playing the film, with no latency or synchronization problems. This even gives viewers the option to switch between audio streams in different languages for the same film, should such options exist. The same source can also be used to broadcast the same music across separate Bluetooth speakers within a household in a hassle-free way.
Previously, pairs of wireless earbuds required the pairing of one specific earbud from a pair, which was used as a master relay for the other unit. However, with the introduction of a new feature called isochronous channels that has been introduced in Bluetooth 5.2, it is now possible for individual earbuds from a pair to be paired simultaneously, eliminating the need for their interdependence, something that can be a boon for voice assistance prospects in the future. The data streams used for isochronous channels are called Connected Isochronous Streams (CIS), and they are capable of bidirectional data transfer, not just unidirectional, allowing control data to be sent back to the source device from the connected Bluetooth peripherals. A pair of earbuds can work as a single cohesive unit over Bluetooth 5.2, with separate lines of transmission for left and right channels of audio, which can massively improve the overall listening experience.
Alongside the Low Energy Power Control feature, Bluetooth 5.2 has also introduced Low Energy Audio, an entirely new standard for audio transmission that is replacing Classic Audio, the legacy audio transmission protocol used by prior versions of Bluetooth. The new standard involves the use of a new and highly efficient audio codec called LC3 that boasts vastly superior sound quality because of its improved compression and decompression techniques, while keeping power consumption and battery drain at a minimum. Since Bluetooth is a protocol that sees the most action in portable battery-powered devices, such efficiency is more than welcome. It would also enable the option for simultaneous audio streams from multiple apps, and enable efficient streaming of audio to multiple devices from one source.
If all these updates and upgrades were not enough, thanks to the innovations brought along by Bluetooth 5.2, hearing-impaired individuals can look forward to experiencing miniaturized wireless hearing aids that would boast stellar battery life.
Bluetooth 5.2’s main innovations and improvements are centered around the streaming of audio data, and it remains to be seen in what new exciting ways it is going to be put to use in the upcoming days, but with Bluetooth 5.2 yet to be adopted by much of the market, it will take some time for the protocol to become mainstream. Thankfully, Bluetooth 5.2 is fully backward-compatible, so no existing gear would need to be tossed out to make room for new ones. However, in order to take full advantage of its entire feature set, all the devices involved in a particular scenario would require to support the Bluetooth 5.2 standard, and it remains a fact that with so many existing devices in the market that makes use of older iterations of the Bluetooth technology, by the time Bluetooth 5.2 goes mainstream, a new iteration of the protocol may very well show up. However, that’s how the world of technology has always worked, and the adoption of newer technology has always been determined by the test of time.