Bluetooth low-energy spec to help shipments reach 2B in 2013

Growth of the short-distance wireless technology shrank slightly during the recession but will surge again, In-Stat says

The recession in 2009 led to a small reduction in Bluetooth devices shipped globally, but upcoming low-energy Bluetooth devices will trigger renewed growth in those short-distance wireless devices, especially for phones and industrial and medical gear.

Analysis from In-Stat released Wednesday predicts that more than 2 billion Bluetooth-ready devices will ship in 2013 owing partly to the low-energy standard known as Bluetooth 4.0, which was approved in July .

In addition to Bluetooth used in billions of phones, Bluetooth will begin appearing more often in automobiles and in industrial and medical settings, said Brian O'Rourke, an In-Stat analyst. He said Bluetooth growth long term remains "very positive."

About 984 million Bluetooth devices shipped in 2009, down by 20 million devices from 2008, due to the impact of the recession, O'Rourke said. In 2010, about 1.2 billion Bluetooth devices will be shipped.

Bluetooth will primarily compete with Zigbee, another short-distance wireless technology, but Bluetooth has an enormous headstart because it is already incorporated into billions of cell phones and millions of laptops, tablets and netbooks , O'Rourke said.

"There's nothing really holding Bluetooth back," he said in an interview. Bluetooth will make its presence in medical devices and industrial applications partly because of the low-energy specification. It will be used in medical devices connected to patients in hospital beds or in home care settings, eliminating the need for wired connections. Thermostats and motion detectors will also deploy the technology.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group and others have talked about low-energy Bluetooth coming in watches and exercise equipment in 2011, but O'Rourke said such consumer categories will be relatively small uses compared to phones.

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