ABI Research Predicts Wireless Connectivity Gap to Widen as Bluetooth Enabled Device Shipments Reach 19 Billion over the Next Five Years

16 Dec 2015

In its latest report on wireless connectivity ICs, ABI Research, a leader in technology market intelligence, anticipates annual Bluetooth enabled device shipments to increase from 2.8 billion units in 2015 to more than 4.6 billion in 2020, with a total of 19 billion devices to be equipped with Bluetooth technology over the next 5 years. Smartphones will continue to represent the bulk of the Bluetooth product market, accounting for more than 45% of shipments in 2020. However, the shares of emerging market segments, including beacons, smart lighting, home automation and consumer robotics devices, will increase significantly within the next five years to collectively represent more than 20% of the total market by 2020.

Read ABI Research’s Wireless Connectivity ICs report.

“The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which added more than 2,800 new members this year alone, made significant enhancements to Bluetooth specifications in order to increase its viability for IoT applications,” says Andrew Zignani, Research Analyst at ABI Research. “The recently announced Bluetooth Developer Studio (BDS) will also help Bluetooth technology gain more traction among the developer community and accelerate innovation time to market, most notably in nascent IoT applications.”

This is set to continue in 2016, as Bluetooth evolves toward becoming a key enabler of larger scale networks consisting of increasingly heterogeneous devices. Significant upcoming Bluetooth technological enhancements include a quadrupling of range capacity and doubling of throughput. The range increase will better suit Bluetooth for full-home coverage and outdoor applications, which will enhance robustness and reliability. The increase in throughput from 1Mbps to 2Mbps will not only reduce latency and increase responsiveness, but it will also provide Bluetooth with a very compelling performance to power consumption ratio when compared with competing technologies, such as 802.15.4 (limited to 250Kbps) or Wi-Fi (higher power consumption).

The ubiquity of smartphone devices will also play a factor, allowing Bluetooth to take advantage of unique use cases and opportunities when compared with competing low-power technologies not present in this space. Bluetooth is also working toward adopting mesh networking within the standard, providing the scalability and range required for wireless sensor network applications. However, it remains to be seen how fast Bluetooth mesh will hit the market and which use cases will take advantage of the technology in the short to medium term.  

Yet, according to the report, there will be considerable challenges in terms of security, provisioning and interoperability that suppliers will need to target over the next few years. Chipset suppliers, such as Nordic Semiconductor, are working toward integrating IPv6 over Bluetooth Smart, which will help provide the foundation for IP-based application layer level interoperability between different types of devices operating on different transport layers, such as 802.15.4 and Wi-Fi.

“As the IoT incorporates a more diverse range of device types, the adoption of a common language across various connectivity types will become increasingly critical in ensuring interoperability and helping to grow the overall market,” concludes Zignani. “In addition, the development of Bluetooth and NFC combo ICs can assist with the secure provisioning of headless devices, such as smart light bulbs, sensors, and other IoT devices, simplifying the installation process while strengthening the overall security of the network.”

Ultimately, ABI Research finds there to be enormous opportunities for companies such as Broadcom, Qualcomm, NXP and Nordic Semiconductor, among others, in the coming years, as Bluetooth continues to evolve and enable new and unique use cases and applications.

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Wireless Connectivity Service, which includes research reports, market data, insights and competitive assessments.

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