In the first 10 years of its life (up to 2010) cumulative shipments of Bluetooth enabled devices reached 5 billion. Growth has been largely driven by its use in mobile phones and accessories. This market is still growing overall but it will start to plateau out over the next five years. So, will Bluetooth become obsolete before the end of its second decade?

The Bluetooth SIG has regularly introduced updates to the technology to increase its use cases and continue growth of the market, for example v2.1 with enhanced data rate was introduced in 2007 and v3.0 with “high speed” was introduced in 2009. These have both helped to push the envelope for Bluetooth technology but it’s v4.0 – low energy Bluetooth – (introduced in 2010) that is set to revolutionize the technology and drive expansion into new markets.

“The introduction of Bluetooth v4.0, with low energy as its pivotal enabler, will drive a second wave of Bluetooth enabled device shipment growth” said Peter Cooney practice director, of semiconductors, “the market is expected to achieve cumulative shipments over 20 billion by 2017.”

There are essentially two separate implementations for Bluetooth v4.0; one is single-mode Bluetooth v4.0 or Bluetooth Smart and dual-mode Bluetooth v4.0 or Bluetooth Smart Ready. Bluetooth Smart Ready devices are already available e.g. Apple iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy SIII. These are the hub devices that enable Bluetooth Smart devices such as sports and fitness sensors to communicate with the wider world.

The first markets to embrace Bluetooth Smart Ready are smartphones, media tablets and laptops but growth in TVs, games consoles, and in-car infotainment systems will follow. Bluetooth Smart watches, heart rate monitors, and even shoes are already available; initial growth will be driven by sports and fitness devices with future growth markets including healthcare, PC peripherals, remote controls, and many more.

“IC vendors have been quick to embrace Bluetooth version 4.0 with many adding the technology to their product portfolios,” added Cooney. “Wireless connectivity combo ICs such as Broadcom’s BCM4334, Texas Instrument’s WiLink 8 or Marvell’s Avastar 88W8797 are enabling OEM’s to add version 4.0 to devices such as smartphones or laptops. The availability of Bluetooth Smart Ready hubs is encouraging equipment vendors to develop and bring to market compelling Bluetooth Smart node devices.”

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Bluetooth Research Service, which includes Research Reports, Market Data, Insights, and Competitive Assessments.