Every smartphone owner has used Bluetooth at one point or the other. It helps to transfer files from one device to the other. Bu we can bet that only a few smartphone users have heard or used Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
This article aims to differences between the traditional Bluetooth and the BLE.
What is Bluetooth?
A Bluetooth is a short-range technology standard primarily used for the transmission and or exchange of data between fixed mobile devices and Personal Area Networks (PANs). Whether you are looking to transfer documents or such files; be sure that using a Bluetooth can ease the task.
What is BLE Bluetooth?
It stands for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). As the name suggests, it is primarily optimized for use with the low-energy applications. It also offers a similar short-term communication and enables data transfer between the smart devices.
How Does Bluetooth Work?
The classic or traditional Bluetooth connection requires two points – the master and the slave. Whereas the master denotes the sender or the device from whence data originates; the slave refers to the recipient. For example, if you are pairing a smartphone to a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, the phone is the master, while the speaker, which receives the signal, is the slave.
Classic Bluetooth typically establishes connection with the slave via enquiring, synchronizing to the access point and creating a channel with the discovered access point. The final processes include pairing the two smart devices with a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and using the network.
How Does Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Work?
Also called Bluetooth Version 4.0, BLE uses both low-power sleep modes and lower power consumption for the operation.
It also uses a wide range of layers to establish communication and data exchange. Examples are:
- Link Layer (LL)
- Generic Access Profile (GAP)
- Generic Attribute Protocol (GAAT)
These varieties of protocols help to bolster the discovery of devices, as well as expediting connections between the same.
It is worth noting that the most important communication protocol is the Generic Access Profile (GAP) layer that helps to publicize the BLE devices. The protocol also aids mode of interaction between these devices.
The following are the different roles:
- The broadcaster serves as the server and aids the transmission of data to the clients – the other devices.
- The scanner or observer has the role of interpreting the data received from the broadcaster. It also acts on the data.
- There is the central, which supports the “connected” mode. Among many other things, it helps to connect the master to the slave, as well as transferring data back to the same.
- Finally, there is the peripheral, which does not only support the “connected” mode, but also accepts coming from the central, as well as making a periodic transmission of data back to the same.
Differences between BLE and Classic Bluetooth
Classic and BLE Bluetooth protocols are both managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which was formed in 1998.
The following are some of the clear differences between the two:
1. Power Consumption is a Major Difference
The first difference you would pick out of classic and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the extent of the power consumption.
While the classic Bluetooth has a low power consumption of about 30 mA or less; that of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is very low – typically, less than 15 mA.
Here are some of the differences, based on the battery consumption:
2. Operational Capacity
The capacity at which the communication protocol transfers data is also a difference. For example, the classic Bluetooth is commonly used with the smart devices that require exchange of larger amounts of data, unlike the BLE that is relevant for devices requiring less of such.
3. In-between State Capacity
The capacity of the protocol to be standby when needed also helps to define the power consumption. An in-between state is not always obtainable with the classic Bluetooth, due to the always on or off. This tends to consumer more battery when compared to the ability of the BLE to place itself in a sleep mode, pending when it is required to initiate a connection between smart devices.
4. Latency Rates Differ between Classic Bluetooth & BLE
Latency rates are the timeframe, during which a signal is picked up and the connected device responds to the user input.
Naturally, one would expect that the faster transmission speed/rate of classic Bluetooth can influence the latency rate to be speedy, as well. On the contrary, classic Bluetooth protocol thrives on making a slower response to inputs, but a faster response to data transmission.
If you are looking for a higher latency rate, then using the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the sure bet. It responds faster to inputs at the expense of slower data transmission rate.
5. Data Transfer Rates: How Speedy is Data Transmission between Classic Bluetooth & BLE?
You might not be fully concerned about the lowered latency rate of a Bluetooth connection, because the major concentration is the speed of moving data from one smart device to the other. This brings us to the data transfer rates.
While the BLE has a lower data transfer rate; that of the classic Bluetooth is higher. For emphasis, the former can transfer data at the rate of 1 Megabyte per second (Mbps), while the latter has a data transfer rate of up to 2.1 Mbps.
6. What is the Communication Range?
The communication range is as important as the data transfer rate. Why? If the range is limited, then, there is a chance that the estimated speed of transferring data might not be sustained.
Now, what is the Bluetooth Low Energy range? It has a shorter range, which is anywhere between 50 meters and 150 meters, when it is used in open field. The shorter-range communication protocol of the Bluetooth Low Energy makes it ideal for the following applications:
- Fitness trackers
- Smart home/IoT devices.
- Industrial monitoring
- Consumer health monitoring.
The goal is to use BLE to connect low-power applications, as well as devices that require a lower or shorter coverage area.
On the other hand, classic Bluetooth is ideal for applications that require more power, as well as higher coverage areas. The communication range is between 10 and 30 meters. The protocol can be counted on to foster connection between devices required for indoor and outdoor usages.
Other applications are:
- Internet hotspots
- Wireless printers
- Handsfree car calling devices and;
- Wireless speakers
7. The Protocols & Functions Differ
Both classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) use different protocols and for several reasons. The functions of these protocols also differ.
The protocols supported by BLE include:
- Generic Access Profile (GAP), used for discovering smart devices and connecting the same.
- Generic Attribute Profile (GATT), used for exchanging data.
On the other hand, the protocols supported by classic Bluetooth are:
- Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), used for remotely-controlling both video and audio devices.
- Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), primarily used for streaming audio files.
8. The Security Architecture is Different
Security is of the utmost importance, when transferring data over a Bluetooth connection, whether it is based on the classic Bluetooth or BLE protocols.
While the two use a similar security architecture, comprising authentication and encryption; the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) offers improved security features. An example is the establishment of a secure connection between smart devices, via the usage of a secure key exchange protocol.
Advantages of Classic Bluetooth
When using this type of Bluetooth, you can be sure of the following benefits:
a. Large File Transfer
Classic Bluetooth supports the transfer of larger amounts of data, including photos, videos, audio files and documents.
b. Data Streaming
You can also use classic Bluetooth for streaming data, especially for streaming and playing audios over the connection.
Downsides to Classic Bluetooth
The traditional Bluetooth connection comes with a lot of flaws, including:
- Having a shorter emission range, which is between 10 and 15 meters.
- You will also expend a lot of batteries or energy in the process.
Benefits of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
While the use of lesser battery cell is the main selling point, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) does have other unique advantages, such as:
- Improved tracking capabilities
- Competitive acquisition costs
- Less power consumption
- Open access to the documentations
- Longer standby time
- A longer emission range, which could be up to 100s of meters.
- Higher autonomy for the supported devices.
Disadvantages to BLE
On the flipside, you may not entirely rely on the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) due to these reasons:
- The connection is susceptible to impacts, especially by the human body and walls.
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices only cover a limited or smaller area.
- The connection is not always continuous.
- The data transfer rate is limited, usually under 2 Mbps.
- Finally, the BLE is often marred by the non-support for long-distance communications.
The differences between the classic Bluetooth and the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are energy consumption, the acquisition cost, the areas covered and the reliability of the connection.
While you can use classic Bluetooth to connect smart devices for longer distances, as well as transfer larger amounts of data; the BLE helps to keep the battery consumption lower, make the development and acquisition cost lower, as well as make the inventory more accurate.
To wrap it up, the future of Bluetooth connections is highly-dependent on cutting out the intermediaries and enabling faster data transfer to the cloud. This is where the likes of Near Field Communication (NFC) and Wi-Fi Direct play a huge role.