Integrating WiFi and Bluetooth LE to drive rapid IoT growth

7 August 2018

Backed by industry leading hardware, WiFi and Bluetooth LE are working together to drive mass adoption of IoT enterprise solutions.

When it comes to the future of wireless communication protocols, like WiFi and Bluetooth LE, the list of articles written on the topic appear in every major consumer tech site on the net. But for a CTO or CIO investing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade an IT infrastructure, product roadmaps aren’t telling of the real-world obstacles involved in deploying location-based services and deciding which technologies should be used.
This article will focus on the relationship between WiFi and Bluetooth LE at present and how they’re being used in cooperation, rather than competition, to simplify enterprise IoT solutions.

WiFi and Bluetooth LE are allies not enemies

There was a time when it was useful to compare WiFi and Bluetooth LE for similar use cases, like asset tracking. Both technologies offer tags and access points. Similar installation. But where the difference between them became ever more visible was in two critical factors: cost and performance. At this stage, the industry has spoken and the future of asset tracking and condition monitoring is Bluetooth LE.
In this future scenario, it is useful to remember that WiFi and Bluetooth LE are not enemies but allies, playing distinct and important roles in the rollout of enterprise-grade solutions across industries. As the IoT matures, these protocols will be working closer than ever to enable more efficient, cost-effective, and interoperable location-based services at scale.

Every CTO should know the key ways WiFi and Bluetooth LE are simplifying the IoT before beginning their next location-based project.

Uniting Bluetooth LE Tags and WiFi Access Points

The rate of technological progress has created substantial cause for concern across industries, communities and everyday life. CTOs and business models are no exception. If we narrow in on the growing market of location-based services for a moment, like asset tracking, condition monitoring or personal safety, there are two general hardware components required for sending data and calculating location: transmitters and receivers.
The relationship between transmitters and receivers, often referred to as tags and access points, has naturally evolved overtime. I won’t delve into how we got where we are today in this article, but understand that WiFi and Bluetooth LE tags and access points have operated independent and often exclusive from one another until quite recently.
The trouble with this is that WiFi access points are ubiquitous. BLE access points are not. In order to deploy a BLE solution using BLE tags, it’s been necessary to install and maintain BLE access points alongside an existing WiFi infrastructure in a somewhat painful and redundant way. 
To put it in perspective, the transmitter becomes the only piece of hardware required to deploy an asset tracking solution. That’s pretty sweet!

The Great Expanse of location-based services

WiFi and BLE scanning access points will soon become the norm, creating an enormous market for location-based services powered by Bluetooth LE. I’ll discuss this further in an upcoming post, but this means that the race to digitalize your business model has become easier and your industry more competitive.
So when you consider an update or expansion to your IT infrastructure, ensure your access points are capable of scanning for WiFi and BLE devices. This is an easy way to future-proof your organization for the coming of a more modern and connected world. Location data is and will continue to be an extremely valuable source of information in this world as it helps organizations improve processes and save money.

Agnostic platforms are the future of IoT

Open, device agnostic platforms are what the IoT is being built on. With the potential for billions of devices being brought online in the coming years, it’s only reasonable that access points and the software supporting them are dynamic and capable of supporting a range of wireless protocols in the process. WiFi and BLE in particular. That time is finally here.

Anthony Richardson

Content writer interested in how technology is changing the way we work, live and relate to the world. Anthony will be living around the world for the next year and writing about it.

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