What’s The Difference Between Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, and Bluetooth Smart Ready?

Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, and Bluetooth Ready – What’s the difference?? Today I thought we would tackle the question of the differences between the Bluetooth protocols, and what it means to you.

We will get started with a little recent history. Up until the fall of 2011, there was just plain old Bluetooth. This is the Bluetooth protocol that you would find in cell phones, wireless Bluetooth headsets, and Bluetooth connections found in laptop computers.So what is the definition of Bluetooth? Well, Wikipedia says this:

Bluetooth is a proprietary open wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short-wavelength radio transmissions in the ISM band from 2400–2480 MHz) from fixed and mobile devices, creating personal area networks (PANs) with high levels of security. Created by telecoms vendor Ericsson in 1994, it was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables. It can connect several devices, overcoming problems of synchronization.

Bluetooth is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which has more than 16,000 member companies in the areas of telecommunication, computing, networking, and consumer electronics. The SIG oversees the development of the specification, manages the qualification program, and protects the trademarks. To be marketed as a Bluetooth device, it must be qualified to standards defined by the SIG. A network of patents is required to implement the technology and are licensed only for those qualifying devices; thus the protocol, whilst open, may be regarded as proprietary.”

OK, so Bluetooth is a wireless connection that uses the same frequency as home WiFi. The protocol is different than WiFi, and it is not compatible with WiFi. The working connection distance is not as great, with a typical connection distance of 10 feet, although connection distances of 30 feet can be obtained.

Easy enough! So life is good, and we can go on with our business. Well, not so fast. As I said, last fall, new Bluetooth protocols were introduced. The protocols that were released are called Bluetooth Smart, and Bluetooth Smart Ready. So what is the difference between Smart and Smart Ready, and how are they different from the standard Bluetooth protocol? This is where we can get into a lengthy discussion. The really short answer is that standard Bluetooth is considered version 2.1+EDR, which stands for Enhanced Data Rate. In June of 2010, a new spec was approved, called Bluetooth 4.0. A subset of Bluetooth 4.0 is a protocol called Bluetooth Low Energy. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is aimed at very low power applications that can run off of a coin cell. In the fall of 2011, heart rate monitor sensors were introduced, and given the  “Bluetooth Smart” logo. Also, the logo “Bluetooth Smart Ready” was given to hosts. Hosts can be considered a computer, smart phone, or data watch that talks to a sensor.

Here are the descriptions taken directly from the Bluetooth Special Interest group website:

So where does this leave us? Still confused? Maybe a few practical details can help. Let’s start with heart rate monitor straps. Here are the three most popular Bluetooth and Bluetooth Smart HRM straps:

Polar WearLink+

The Polar WearLink®+ transmitter with Bluetooth® (2.1+EDR) wireless technology picks up your heart’s signals and transfers that data into a compatible mobile training application. The soft fabric chest strap seamlessly adapts to your body shape, bringing full freedom of movement to your training. With its hook mechanism, the transmitter is just as quick to put on as it is to take off.

  • Provides heart rate information to compatible mobile training applications
  • Uses Bluetooth transmission, ensuring that the mobile device (Android and Windows 7) finds your heart rate signal
  • Washable fabric strap
  • Water-resistant connector
  • User replaceable battery
  • Anti bacterial
  • Size: M-XXL
  • Retail price $79.95

 

  • Polar H7

    The Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensor is designed to be used with the iPhone 4s, or connected to one of the Polar training computers. Check out our review HERE. The features are shown below:

  • Compatible with iPhone 4S
  • Bluetooth Smart
  • Compatible with Polar training computers, including the FT series, RS100, RS200, RS300, RS400, CS100, CS200, CS300, and RCX5
  • Also compatible with Polar compatible gym equipment using the 5 Khz coded protocol
  • Can transmit up to 30 feet
  • Battery life up to 350 hours
  • User replaceable battery CR2025
  • Soft, washable strap
  • Retail price $79.95 (Get it HERE on Amazon for $39.95)
 

Wahoo Fitness BlueHR

  • The Wahoo Fitness BlueHR Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensor is designed to be used with the iPhone 4s. The features are shown below:

  •  Compatible with iPhone 4S
  •    Bluetooth Smart
  •    Can transmit up to 10 feet
  •    Battery life up to 350 hours
  •    User replaceable battery CR2032
  •    Soft, washable strap
  •    Waterproof to 5 feet
  •    Retail price $79.95

As Always,

Enjoy the outdoors!

John