Stands for "Bluetooth Low Energy." BLE (also "Bluetooth LE") is a variation of the Bluetooth wireless standard designed for low power consumption. It was introduced by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) in December 2009 as part of the Bluetooth 4.0 specification.

Some Bluetooth applications, such as audio streaming and data transfers, require a strong consistent signal and large bandwidth. Other applications do not need a strong signal and require less electrical power. BLE is was developed for these types of applications. Examples include:

  • wearable devices, such as fitness trackers
  • smart home appliances
  • proximity sensors

A proximity sensor, such as a Google Beacon or Apple iBeacon, only needs to transmit a small signal every second or so to detect nearby Bluetooth devices. This requires significantly less power than streaming high-fidelity stereo audio to a Bluetooth speaker or headset. Developers can use BLE-specific communication in their apps to significantly reduce the electrical power used by a smartphone, smartwatch, or other device.

BLE Advantages

The primary advantage of BLE compared to "Classic Bluetooth" is lower power consumption, which translates to longer battery life. For example, BLE can run for multiple years on a single coin-cell battery, such as a CR2032 battery used in wristwatches. Bluetooth LE can also communicate over a longer range than the 100-meter distance Classic Bluetooth supports. It also supports fast connection setup with a latency of 3 ms compared to the 100 ms latency of Classic Bluetooth.

NOTE: BLE is supported by all Bluetooth 4.0 devices as long as the device software also supports it.

Updated March 8, 2019 by Per C.

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