HEAR THIS: 2011 will be the year of Bluetooth. Or rather the other year of Bluetooth, the first one being, like, 1995. Anyway, here's why you should care about the 'Tooth again: It's called BLE. It's like Bluetooth Light.
BLE is a new version of Bluetooth...
Announced over two years ago and finally codified as part of the official Bluetooth 4.0 spec just a few months ago, BLE, or Bluetooth Low Energy, is pretty much like regular Bluetooth, in that it's a simple system for making wireless connections over short distances. It is different in a few hugely important ways, however.
...that uses a small fraction of the power that its older brother does...
The spec sheet on BLE is a little disheartening at first. It's slower than regular BT by quite a bit, to the point that voice and other audio connections aren't possible. But, well, this:
Bluetooth low energy single-mode chips consume less power than dual-mode chips and are
optimized to run off a coin cell battery for a year or more.
I usually turn off Bluetooth on my phone and laptop because it drains a noticeable amount of power. With BLE, I wouldn't have to.
...and requires new hardware...
BLE hardware will come in two flavors: single mode and dual mode. Dual mode hardware is a hybrid of traditional and BLE, and can operate in both high-power and low-power modes. (In the case of a phone, one for typical Bluetooth duties, like audio streaming, and the other for something like connecting to a heartrate monitor, or forwarding text messages to a watch or tablet.)
Single mode BLE hardware only connects to other BLE devices, but sips power.
The watch seen here is one of the first single-mode BLE devices, and it's an impressive concept: