New Bluetooth spec beefs up security, data speeds

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New Bluetooth spec beefs up security, data speeds

Features IPv6 addressing for Internet of Things and wearables.

Users of the next generation of Bluetooth devices can expect new privacy and security features and faster connectivity after the release of the Bluetooth 4.2 personal area networking specification earlier today.

Bluetooth is the wireless communications protocol increasingly used to connect mobile devices, home entertainment systems or driver-initiated functions in cars.

Version 4.2 of the Bluetooth specification keeps the Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) at 2-3 megabits per second; however, the use of large Bluetooth Smart Packets and improved transmission error correction promises to double the throughput.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which drives and develops the standard, laid the foundation for IPv6 support in the current BT 4.1 specification, offering dedicated logical link control and adaptation layer protocol (L2CAP) channels.

New features in 4.2 includes IPSP profile, a means of connecting 'the internet of things' - the next generation of networked devices and wearable computers.

"The Internet Protocol Support Profile (IPSP) will allow Bluetooth Smart sensors to access the Internet directly via IPv6/6LoWPAN. IP connectivity makes it possible to use existing IP infrastructure to manage Bluetooth Smart “edge” devices. This is ideal for connected home scenarios that need both personal and wide area control."

- Bluetooth Special Interest group

Security has been improved with new encryption algorithms approved by the United States government National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Version 4.2 also addresses some privacy concerns around the use of Low-Energy Beacons, or small transmitters, that are used by for instance retailers to recognise customers and serve them special offers and advertising on their devices.

Users will now have to give express permission to allow beacons in retail stores to wake up their devices.

Privacy is further boosted in version 4.2 of the Bluetooth specification with the Media Access Control (MAC) address unique identifier for the wireless interface now dynamic (constantly changing), making it harder to track specific devices. 

The specification for version 4.2 spans 2,772 pages and can be found at the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) industry forum site.

Some of the privacy and security features may be back ported to devices running earlier versions of Bluetooth, and made available via vendor-supplied firmware updates, the SIG said.

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