Aided by Apple, Bluetooth ready for health monitoring

Bluetooth inside? You betcha!

Apple (s aapl) is joining the board of the Bluetooth standards organization as the group focuses the latest iteration of Bluetooth on the burgeoning market for fitness and health sensor data from mobile devices. The Bluetooth SIG said Tuesday that Apple and Nordic Semiconductor were joining the organization, and also announced its goals of moving into the mobile sensor market with its latest version of the Bluetooth standard.

Bluetooth, which gained ubiquity in the form of headsets, is a wireless data transfer protocol that delivers chunks of data in close proximity, making it good for voice and even as a runaround to official mobile broadband tethering. But it has long sucked batteries like I gulp my coffee on a Monday morning, which made it less-than-ideal for sensors. This became more of an issue as companies experimented with devices like connected pedometers and other sensors that attach to a person’s clothing or accessories to monitor things like heart rate or temperature.

As smartphones and connected devices proliferated, the idea of real-time health and fitness tracking from a smartphone became cheaper, easier and more available to the casual consumer, which has spawned a few personal area networking technologies that want to become for bioinformatics what Bluetooth became for headsets. But Bluetooth wants to be the Bluetooth of bioinformatics too, and hopes its new low energy standard and recently added profiles to support medical sensors are the key to the sensor market. With Apple on the board, it may have a better chance.

I covered the rise of bioinformatics and the standards vying to become the protocol of choice for the market in a GigaOM Pro report in January (subscription required), and in an interview with the Bluetooth SIG’s Executive Director Mike Foley, learned about Bluetooth,s bioinformatics goals. At the time, Apple used a proprietary version of the Bluetooth standard for delivering sensor data from the pedometers in Nike (s nke) shoes, which used less power than the previous version of Bluetooth (as opposed to the new Low Energy standard). Perhaps its move to become a board member means we’ll see a more ubiquitous standard for sensor data make its way into Apple’s popular iPhone and iPod touch products, and thus to the rest of the consumer device markets.