When it comes to integrating wireless connectivity into a project, there are many options. One option is to use a Wi-Fi SoC (such as the ESP82366), which provides internet capabilities to a project at the cost of complexity and power consumption. Another option is to use 433MHz transceivers; however, these are not integrated into mobile devices and suffer from a lack of security. Bluetooth, on the other hand, can be a valuable wireless technology... but is it right for your project?
When first deciding whether or not Bluetooth is right for your project, it’s important to look at its characteristics and break each one down to see if Bluetooth is compatible with what you’re working on. Bluetooth is typically characterized by:
Taking these characteristics into account can help you better understand if Bluetooth is an appropriate addition to your project.
The wireless range of Bluetooth is somewhat small, with ranges reaching up to only 30 feet. This makes Bluetooth a poor choice during situations when devices are far away from each other. However, projects that do not need long ranges, such as smart bulbs and volume controls, can use Bluetooth without issue. Smaller ranges can also be beneficial in environments which need to reduce interference, as radio signals emitted by Bluetooth devices will be significantly smaller in magnitude than those released by Wi-Fi and other long-range technologies.
When it comes to wireless technologies, energy consumption can make or break a product. Since Bluetooth provides low speed, low range wireless communication, it consumes far less energy when compared to Wi-Fi. Therefore, products that are powered by batteries that require wireless communication should seriously consider using Bluetooth, as the energy savings can be dramatic. Because Bluetooth does not provide internet connectivity, a device requiring internet connection may have to use Wi-Fi.
Integrating wireless communication into a project is not always the easiest task, but with the rise of platforms (such as the Arduino IDE), this is becoming easier. Due to its simplicity, Bluetooth is arguably easier to incorporate into a project. Because it does not have internet capabilities, the data that is transferred between devices is more likely to be simple sensor readings and commands. Bluetooth also has an additional bonus -- most mobile devices include Bluetooth, meaning that your project can be controlled via a smartphone app. Wi-Fi, however, would rely on a middleman router between a device and app which can make things complex.
Security can be a very important aspect of a project and depends on what devices are being controlled, as well as the nature of the data being sent. For example, a Bluetooth-controlled lamp may not be as much of a security threat as a Bluetooth-controlled window or lock. While Bluetooth does include security features, they are not as strong as Wi-Fi security. This is why you should avoid Bluetooth when creating a project with potentially sensitive information and control. However, this can be counteracted if the Bluetooth devices are far away from public spaces where attackers cannot get in range of the devices.
The type of data being incorporated into your project can also be a big factor when deciding if Bluetooth is the right choice. Bluetooth is designed for low speed, low data size applications, such as sensor readings and simple commands. File and video streaming are something better left for Wi-Fi, as Bluetooth has speeds up to 1Mbps, while Wi-Fi can be in the Gbps range, or nearly a thousand times faster.
When considering the benefits of Bluetooth, look for projects that gather simple sensory data, don’t require a frequent internet connection, and control simple devices (such as lamps and curtains.) Projects dealing with passwords, door locks, or sensitive information would be better off using Wi-Fi technology because it’s more secure than Bluetooth. We’ll be sure to keep that in mind as we’re working with Bluetooth in our upcoming projects!