Techsplained@FE: Low on energy, high on performance

By: |
May 4, 2020 8:22 AM

While the technology will not be as effective as a GSPS tracing, it would undoubtedly save battery as the power consumption of GPS is much higher than Bluetooth.

Google, Apple, contact tracing, anonymous contact tracing, GPS, Bluetooth, Bluetooth ID, how does anonymous contact tracing work?The new Bluetooth technology is called Bluetooth low energy.

The two technology behemoths, Google and Apple last month announced that they would soon be rolling out an update that will allow anonymous contact tracing. Instead of using both GPS and Bluetooth, the companies said that they would only be relying on Bluetooth to trace if a person has come in contact with an infected person. The Bluetooth would have an ID of its own. Apple and Google had to come together for this initiative as right now, Apple does not allow interoperability of its Bluetooth devices. Initially, the service will be rolled out as an app, but eventually, it would form a part of the phone’s user interface. While the technology will not be as effective as a GSPS tracing, but it would undoubtedly save battery as the power consumption of GPS is much higher than Bluetooth. But a few years ago even this would not have been possible, as Bluetooth also led to high battery drain. The new Bluetooth technology called Bluetooth low energy consumes much less.

What is Bluetooth LE?

Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth Smart is the newer version of Bluetooth available in almost all devices of today. While the Bluetooth technology was developed to transfer infinite packets of data over a long period and in a close range, it would use a lot of battery to do this. So, researchers came up with an easy solution that would not use so much battery and could lie dormant when not in use. This technology has been incorporated in devices since 2011 and is called Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth LE. Apple and Google will be using this technology for contact tracing.

What is the difference between Bluetooth LE and Bluetooth?

One of the significant difference is power consumption, but another one is the latency. The newer version has a lower latency than the older technology. The actual connection time is only a few milliseconds as compared to 100 ms in the older version.

How can Bluetooth LE be used for contact-tracing?

As explained above, Bluetooth requires a person to be within range for a connection, and once within range, it will ping another Bluetooth device, recording all the pings in the memory. As the newer version of Bluetooth has low latency and has high data rates, it will be able to do this much faster while also preserving battery life.

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