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Bluetooth Developer Studio Focuses on Internet of Things

The burgeoning Internet of Things has breathed new life into Bluetooth development, led by a new free developer studio specifically targeting simple, fast and consistent IoT coding.

After a seven-month beta program, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group that drives the short-range wireless technology last week released the first Bluetooth Developer Studio 1.0, with the aim of shortening time-to-market cycles.

The studio features a drag-and-drop UI, sample projects and tutorials and built-in testing on physical and virtual devices, along with collaboration functionality that lets developers easily share their reference designs or borrow from successful implementations created by other coders.

"The Bluetooth Developer Studio arms developers with an all-in-one, cost-efficient and easy-to-use tool to turn their ideas into reality," said Bluetooth SIG exec Steve Hegenderfer. "With it, they can create products and applications that make our lives easier, better, smarter. With Bluetooth Developer Studio, not only will we see more smart gadgets enter the market, we will see quality products that 'just work,' delivering the IoT experience consumers actually want."

Hegenderfer explained in a blog post how the idea for the developer studio arose out of the complexity of Bluetooth development that he and other developers faced when getting started with the technology, understanding the terminology and how to work with chips, modules and so on.

The Bluetooth Developer Studio Dashboard
[Click on image for larger view.] The Bluetooth Developer Studio Dashboard (source: Bluetooth SIG)

"I talked to partners who wished there was a better, more uniform way to create custom services," Hegenderfer said. "I talked to developers who wished there was some type of easy-to-use code generation that would help them stub out the code for the Bluetooth modules. I talked to module makers who wanted an easy way to distribute reference designs to developers. All of these ideas became the impetus for the Bluetooth Developer Studio."

Hegenderfer said the three core tenets backing the studio are: to lower the barrier to entry through easy access to core components and the lessening of technical distractions to reduce the learning curve; speed time-to-market by reducing documentation and providing a more intuitive development process without introducing an entirely new tool chain, instead allowing for easy integration with other tools; and increasing consistency and collaboration by easy sharing of innovative ideas with the community.

"Bluetooth Developer Studio addresses all three of these issues by providing a graphical working space to use existing, adopted specifications, or you can create your own custom services to suit the needs of your particular product," Hegenderfer said. "It also has a flexible plugin layer (think of this as the SDK for the Bluetooth Developer Studio) that allows OEMs, module makers, chip providers, or anyone who wants to extend Developer Studio programmatically to get the information stored within Developer Studio into another toolset."

That plugin layer is a core component of the studio, using small JavaScript files to easily integrate projects with specific chipsets, modules or OEM solutions. They generate the code needed to implement projects onto target platforms.

The Bluetooth SIG launched a beta program for the studio in April, promising that the developer kit would shorten Bluetooth development by up to 70 percent. The group said the beta program helped refine the studio while confirming the need for such a tool to advance IoT development.

"The Bluetooth Developer Studio, amazingly, did most of the work for us and got our developers on the playing field, fast," said Bill Johnson, an exec at Frontline. "This is the easiest and most reliable way I have seen to get started working with Bluetooth on new products, and the interactive view of your custom use case in the designer is phenomenal."

Although invented in 1994 as a short-range (usually less than 10 meters) wireless technology to connect devices such as PC peripherals without the use of physical cables -- and then turning to connect mobile phone components, gaming consoles and more -- the exploding IoT phenomenon has imbued the technology with a new direction. Research firm Gartner Inc. expected 4.9 billion connected "things" -- devices, sensors, systems and so on -- to be in use this year, with that number projected to grow to 26 billion by 2020.

With that huge market opportunity looming to help connect all those devices, the Bluetooth SIG introduced key features for the IoT in its Bluetooth 4.2 specification last December and has been emphasizing IoT applications for the technology.

"The overwhelming popularity of the IoT has brought consumers interconnected toothbrushes, glucometers, heart-rate monitors, door locks, light bulbs and even forks -- all of which rely on Bluetooth wireless technology," the group said in announcing the beta program in April. "The Bluetooth Developer Studio makes building with Bluetooth technology for the IoT dead simple for developers from the novice to the experienced."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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