What trends in Bluetooth technology do you expect to see in 2023?
We see some very big trends that are positively impacting us. One is in the ESL (Electronic Shelf Label) space, which will make use of an upcoming new Bluetooth feature, periodic ads with comments (PaWR), and the soon-to-be-released associated profiles. ESLs are battery powered and therefore very sensitive to power consumption while on a large network of thousands of nodes. Since they display pricing information, they must be protected from attacks. bluetooth® technology is known for its energy-efficient wireless connectivity, and smart retail has been an area of focus for us. Standardizing ESL over Bluetooth technology provides an energy efficient, secure and scalable solution that complements existing Bluetooth smart retail offerings. This will have a huge impact on our ability to provide more valuable solutions to our customers.
We also expect location services – or, in other words, location awareness – to play a major role in 2023. From the perspective of Bluetooth features, high-precision distance measurement (HADM) will be at the forefront of technology evolution, but we believe it will be used with other existing Bluetooth LE features to address many new use cases or more efficiently address existing use cases – digital keys, generic access control with proximity-based authentication and item finding are a few examples.
We’ve been on the cusp of the next version of Bluetooth mesh for a while now and the draft specs have been published. We firmly believe that there are several features that will not only make Bluetooth mesh more useful, but also enable the technology to move beyond the existing bastions of networked lighting control and building automation. There are several new use cases that we are discussing with customers that we can hopefully make public in 2023.
What was the biggest question from your customers regarding Bluetooth technology in 2022?
“Customers continue to look at Bluetooth® technology to push the boundaries of their solutions.”
In general, customers continue to look at Bluetooth® technology to push the boundaries of their solutions, and Silicon Labs met those demands. For example, Silicon Labs solutions can support 32 simultaneous connections. The question was how long you can keep the connections alive and how much data you can pump. In the same vein, wealth optimization has been a major talking point with clients. While there is a lot to be said about it, such as how a device like our ERF32BG22 is optimized, there are many protocol nuances that can be used to optimize power consumption for specific use cases. The other vector of stretch is around security with the widespread increase in attacks. Our EFR32BG21 achieved PSA Certified Level 3 status, and that level of security on the silicon, combined with the inherent protocol security of Bluetooth technology, has won us several customers.
What has Silicon Labs focused on in 2022 with Bluetooth technology, and what will you focus on in 2023?
Silicon Labs is a pure wireless IoT company. Our overall strategy is to leverage connectivity technologies to best address the markets and segments we serve. As new features in Bluetooth Core Specification v5.3 were applied, they targeted a wide variety of markets, and we were able to tailor those features to use for IoT devices, as illustrated in one of the previous blog posts. We will continue on this path for 2023 and explore new avenues to promote Bluetooth® technology in combination with the other complementary technologies we invest in, including AI/ML.
Every year it gets more and more exciting. With the announcement of Bluetooth technology aimed at higher throughput and higher bands, the amount of market problems the technology can solve will only grow. We will actively contribute to the development of these features and hope to make 2023 another milestone.
What three words would you use to describe Bluetooth technology in 2023?
I would like to take this opportunity to attribute three words to Bluetooth® technology in general – ubiquitous, flexible and dynamic.