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Bluetooth advances herald sleeker wearables that charge wirelessly

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Sony SmartWatch 2
Sony SmartWatch 2

Imagine a Pebble without the need for a proprietary charging connector. Or how about a Galaxy Gear that doesn't lose connection to your phone every time you walk away for a quick errand? Both are evolutionary steps on the way to a truly desirable smartwatch and this week sees a pair of new announcements that will bring them closer to reality.

First up is the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which is announcing version 4.1 of its wireless communication standard. With 4.1, Bluetooth devices will be able to "remember" a lost connection for longer, allowing them to automatically re-establish a connection when they're within range of one another. There's also the addition of bulk data transfers, which will come in especially handy when collecting information away from your main device — such as on a run — allowing you to dump it all off at once at the end.

The future's bright, the future's Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.1 devices will be able to act as both a peripheral and a hub, with the cited example being a smartwatch gathering information from Bluetooth Smart sensors during exercise, performing the hub role, and then passing it on to a smartphone in its capacity as a peripheral. There's also improvement to the way Bluetooth and LTE radios coexist on the same device, with interference between the two being minimized. The best news about Bluetooth 4.1 is that it's an update that can be rolled out over the air to existing Bluetooth chips, meaning you won't require a brand new device to get the benefit.

Broadcom adds to the intriguing new possibilities for wearables with its newly introduced BCM20736 system-on-chip. It's a single slice of silicon that combines Bluetooth, an ARM processor, and wireless charging into one efficient whole. Its advantages are greater efficiency in terms of both power and space, plus one less excuse for smartwatch makers not offering wireless charging on their next device.