Apple will be playing a larger role in the development of Bluetooth as the company pushes into wearable technology, home automation, and more.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which oversees the development of the wireless communication standard, announced Tuesday that Apple has become a “promoter member” of the group, giving the company new power to guide Bluetooth’s development. Promoter members are given a continual seat on the group’s board of directors, and are also the only membership class that can vote on its corporate matters.
Apple has been an associate board member of the group since 2011, and the company’s senior wireless architect, Joakim Linde, currently serves as the board’s secretary. In the past, Apple’s board membership was term limited. The current promoter members—Ericsson, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nokia, and Toshiba—voted unanimously to have Apple join their ranks.
The company’s upgraded membership makes sense given how important Bluetooth is to so many of its products. The Apple Watch relies on Bluetooth to exchange information with the iPhone it’s paired to, and many of the Continuity features introduced to iOS and OS X last year use Bluetooth to exchange information between Apple devices so users can transfer their work back and forth.
Apple first introduced Bluetooth support in Mac OS X at the 2002 Macworld Expo in Tokyo, along with a $49 Bluetooth adapter that allowed users to begin testing the wireless communication technology. Starting in 2003, users were able to purchase new Macs with Bluetooth built in. Since then, Bluetooth use has exploded, fueled by the popularity of mobile devices and wearable tech.
Those markets represent one of the tech industry’s new frontiers going forward, and today’s decision means that Apple will have a front seat to help guide the Bluetooth standard going forward. Interestingly, Google isn’t currently one of the interest group’s board members, even though it’s building technology like Android Wear that also relies on Bluetooth.