One of the last ‘smart sectors’ still not largely based on IP is wearables.
This is because previously, wide area network connectivity for wearables was not considered particularly important. Today the situation is completely different: The majority of wearable sensors are Internet connected and use smartphones as gateways. Even modern heart pacemakers have wireless connectivity options for device configuring. End-to-end IP connectivity would further simplify the sensor data exchange and improve security.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the dominant technology for low-power short-range wireless communication.
Unfortunately, with some proprietary exceptions, BLE did not support IP communication and multi-hop networking until last year. This also meant the IP networking of wearables wasn’t possible. However, the new BLE version 5.0 will be standardized in 2017. Besides faster communication and longer distance, it will support IP-based addressing, enabling IP-compliant networking of wearables.
Low-power BLE communication is perfectly suitable for prompt ad-hoc connectivity – it is present in every smartphone, iBeacon and Eddystone localization device. IP networking, on the other hand, enables smooth cloud connectivity and seamless data exchange with “thick” computers and other Internet enabled devices that have any kind of physical interface.
It is, therefore, highly likely that IP-addressing combined with BLE 5.0 low-power radio connectivity will be the industry standard for the next generation of wearable devices.