Update on Bluetooth 5 and Beacons

It’s nearly a year since we wrote about Bluetooth 5 Beacon Implementation Tradeoffs.

Since then, the Samsung S8, iPhone 8/X, and Google Pixel 2 have been released that support Bluetooth 5. However, while these support the LE 2M high speed PHY they don’t support the longer range PHYs. There are currently no smartphones that can take advantage of Bluetooth 5’s longer range.

There are few true Bluetooth 5 beacons. Most that say they are Bluetooth 5 ‘ready’ or ‘compatible’ are only compatible to the extent that their firmware can be upgraded in the future.

An exception is SNCF, the French train company, who are manufacturing their own beacons in order to start experimenting with Bluetooth 5. As mentioned in the Mr Beacon video, SNCF are looking to Bluetooth 5 to provide for (up to x4) better beacon battery life. How is this possible, especially as the SoC chips themselves (usually nRF52 or TI CC2640) are the same whether they run Bluetooth 4 or 5? The battery current is actually the same. Bluetooth LE devices consume most power when actually transmitting and negligible power inbetween transmissions. The faster data rate allows the Bluetooth device to transmit the same data over less time thus using less battery power.