Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – A Short History of the BLE standard and GATT

June 01, 2016 // By EDN Europe
Joe Tillison Senior Manager, Field Marketing, Silicon Labs
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (The SIG) governs the Bluetooth standards including what they do, how they work technically, certification and interoperability, branding, and standard evolution. They have been in business for almost twenty years.

In 2009, the SIG announced its version 4.0, including Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It was later re-branded as Bluetooth Smart, and has just been rebranded again in 2016. (See for more details.) As a result of all this branding, the terms Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE, and now Bluetooth low energy technology are used interchangeably.

The SIG’s goal with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was to enter the emerging low-energy IoT market, creating a standard that would allow devices to run for years on very low power. BLE was a radical departure from what is known as Bluetooth Basic Rate / Enhanced Data Rate (Bluetooth BR/EDR), or Classic Bluetooth, introduced in the late 1990s and used in handsets, speakers, earphones, car kits, etc.

Bluetooth Low Energy and Classic Bluetooth both utilize the 2.4 GHz ISM band. They also both use frequency hopping to spread their RF energy. But they are not compatible. Bluetooth Low Energy uses 40 2MHz-wide channels instead of Classic Bluetooth’s 79 1MHz-wide channels.

Bluetooth BR/EDR, Bluetooth Smart Ready, and Bluetooth Smart (BLE) (see comment above about branding)

Bluetooth Generic Attribute (GATT) Profile

The SIG also abandoned its existing “Bluetooth profiles” system and adopted GATT (Generic Attribute) profiles for BLE. GATT provides a structured list that defines the services, characteristics and attributes of a given node.

A beacon node might include multiple services. When a service needs to be advertised, the GATT includes the relevant information, and Bluetooth scanners register the node’s capabilities and take relevant actions.


Whitepaper on Developing with Bluetooth BLE Beacons

Our experts have put some very relevant information in a whitepaper on developing with Bluetooth beacons, which can be downloaded here. The goal is to help you get to market quickly with the right, stable solution.

It covers a lot of territory:

-        We examine beacon applications to help you brainstorm some of your own.

-        We provide a short history of Bluetooth and its derivatives, including Bluetooth low energy and beacons.

-        We cover the leading beacon pseudo-standards at a high level, and in detail in the Appendix.

-        We provide references to field-hardened example code and tools to develop and deploy it.

-        And we provide information on end-to-end solutions to get you started.

See also:  Bluetooth BLE Beacon Pseudo-Standards (Apple iBeacon, Google’s Eddystone, AltBeacon) Top Five Considerations for Designing a BLE Beacon Quickly, Securely, and Effectively

Joe Tillison

Senior Manager, Field Marketing, Silicon Labs

Joe Tillison joined Silicon Labs in February 2015 with the company’s acquisition of Bluegiga Technologies, a leading provider of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules and software. Previously he worked at Bluegiga as a director of business development for the Americas West region. Before joining Bluegiga in 2012, Joe managed the wireless portfolio strategy as technology director at Avnet Electronics Marketing. Prior to Avnet, he was a technical marketing manager and FAE at Memec. Joe spent his early career as a hardware designer on a number of electronics platforms for NASA and military spacecraft at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Joe has a BSEE from the University of