Bluetooth announces new direction finding feature to improve location services

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced today a new direction finding feature with the hope of it significantly improving the performance of Bluetooth’s location services.

The new feature allows devices to determine the direction of a Bluetooth signal, thereby enabling the development of Bluetooth proximity solutions that can understand device direction as well as Bluetooth positioning systems that can achieve down to centimetre-level location accuracy.

This news could open a wealth of opportunities for smart home providers. For example, if a smartphone vendor chooses to include Bluetooth direction finding with this support in their products, item finding solutions could be enhanced to provide directional information within the home. To improve the user experience, the smartphone might have an app to determine the misplaced item’s direction and how close it is, using direction finding support. 

Bluetooth location services solutions fall into two categories: proximity solutions and positioning systems. Proximity solutions use Bluetooth to understand when two devices are near each other and approximately how far apart. 

Device direction capability can be added using the new direction finding feature, for example an item finding solution could not only let a user know when a personal property tag is nearby but also in what direction it is, enhancing user experience.

Positioning systems use Bluetooth to find the physical location of devices and include real-time locating systems (RLTS). This can be used in asset tracking as well as indoor positioning systems (IPS) like those for indoor wayfinding. Bluetooth positioning systems can currently achieve metre-level accuracy when determining the physical location of a device but with the new direction finding feature, these positioning systems could improve location accuracy down to the centimetre-level. 

Mark Powell, Bluetooth SIG executive director said: “Location services is one of the fastest growing solution areas for Bluetooth technology, and is forecasted to reach over 400 million products per year by 2022. This is great traction and the Bluetooth community continues to seek ways to further grow this market with technology enhancements that better address market needs, demonstrating the community’s commitment to driving innovation and enriching the technology experience of users worldwide.”

The direction finding feature is included in version 5.1 of the Bluetooth Core specification which is available to developers from today. Launch Studio, the Bluetooth SIG tool used to qualify new Bluetooth products, is being updated to support this feature and will also be available to developers from today. 

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