Growth in Bluetooth-enabled device shipments not hinging entirely on the success of the smartphone

Outside the mobile handset, we’re now seeing some interesting use cases for Bluetooth.


IMS Research (acquired by IHS, Inc.)The market for Bluetooth-enabled devices has been dominated by its success in mobile handsets, particularly in smartphones. In fact, the inclusion of Bluetooth in other devices was often a ‘box-ticking’ exercise, with the primary use of Bluetooth - hands-free calling - through the connection of a mobile handset to a device such as a Bluetooth headset. Outside the mobile handset, we’re now seeing some interesting use cases for Bluetooth; interestingly, they aren’t all centered on “Bluetooth Smart”.

For example, Bluetooth had never seen a great deal of success in televisions. First, audio streaming via Bluetooth was fraught with problems in earlier iterations of the specification, and the inherent latency made it difficult to synchronize sound and vision. Secondly, an adequate link between remote control and television set was made by infra-red technology. Active 3D televisions and the trend towards “smart” television sets are projected to help change this.

Television manufacturers, including Samsung and Panasonic,  are making use of Bluetooth to provide the wireless communication link between the active 3D television set and active 3D glasses, rather than use infra-red technology. There are a few benefits of doing so, such as operation out of the line of sight, wider viewing angles, wider interoperability, and the ability to provide two-way communication. Moreover, the use of an RF technology for this link eliminates any interference from lighting in retail stores or at tradeshows when using infra-red.

“Smart” TVs with more advanced functionality now require a more complicated remote control in order to improve interaction with the television set. In providing interfaces that are more “mouse-like” via motion sensors or touchpads, infra-red technology is not suitable because of its latency. Further to this, many of the features highlighted above, such as operation out of the line of sight are also beneficial in remote controls. In particular, two-way communication is useful, as it can help facilitate the “second screen”, with features such as the electronic program guide displayed on a remote rather than obstructing the display on the television itself.

The result of this is that whilst Bluetooth-enabled device shipments are projected to continue to grow, surpassing three billion units in 2017, mobile handsets are forecast to make up a decreasing proportion of them, as Bluetooth’s success in devices such as televisions improves.

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