Sales of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices are forecast to triple by 2023 to 1.6 billon annual shipments, according to market advisory firm ABI Research.

That growth is due to continued advances in BLE technology, which are opening up more opportunities to use BLE in Internet of Things applications, such as smart homes, beacons and asset tracking, ABI Research reports.

Those advances include radio direction finding (RDF), which enables proximity systems to determine the direction of a BLE device. This enables Bluetooth positioning systems with “centimeter-level” accuracy.

This is useful for indoor positioning, wayfinding, asset tracking, object finding and directional discovery, according to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

Nordic Semiconductor suggests improved location capabilities could be useful for device positioning in a stadium, finding keys in a home or workplace, or finding people in a shopping centre or office complex during an emergency.

BLE’s beacon functionality, its compatibility with many mobile devices and its ability to work with mesh networks are other reasons for its success, claims ABI Research.

The power consumption of BLE chipsets are also improving. For example, a BLE chip that uses less than one Milliwatt has been demonstrated by engineers at the University of Michigan. The chip could potentially broadcast for 11 years using a 5.8mm battery, according to IEEE Spectrum.

“Energy Harvesting” Bluetooth chips that don’t need batteries are also a reality.

That’s all good news for Australian companies that develop, distribute, sell and implement Bluetooth-based IT solutions. They include Melbourne company Leash It, which makes BLE-based tracking solutions for tracking everything from bicycles to business assets. It recently made a distribution deal to expand its reach in Australia.