Communicating with Bluetooth devices using the Chrome Web Bluetooth API
In general, most of us think of Bluetooth as a simple device-to-device connection used to do things like play music or other audio (speakers / headsets), offer quick access (smartwatches), or perform other tasks. But there is a another Bluetooth standard and it allows our browser to control Bluetooth devices nearby.
This standard, simply called Web Bluetooth, is already part of the Chrome browser. It’s designed to fit into the “Internet of Things” and makes it easy for web designers to interact with users’ peripherals in their homes — if the user would of course allow them.
Understandably, many users will have security issues here, so let’s talk about them before we go into some of the things that make Web Bluetooth super cool.
Right outside the gate, there is a concern that our browser may connect to nearby Bluetooth devices — wondering what kind of information the site can access is a question that needs to be asked. The good news is that, as with all other APIs built into browsers like Chrome, every website has to request access. The browser gives us a pop-up asking for permission to access the site in question, just as it does for messaging, site access or the webcam. If we do not respond, the request will be denied automatically. We can also change this permit decision at any time.
So what would we use web Bluetooth for? In fact, the possibilities are endless. How about light bulbs that change color depending on the weather, all linked to an API from the browser, Or a website for a new movie that provides an immersive experience by connecting to things like speakers (or again, even light bulbs) in our home? They are both great ideas.
But there is also a more practical application here. Many states already allow people to access doctors via the internet with just a webcam, but what if the site can also detect our heart rate via a Bluetooth HR band (or even smartwatch!) And blood pressure with a Bluetooth screen? Or can a Bluetooth thermometer automatically send our temperature information to the doctor in real time? For people with health problems, this type of tool can really improve their quality of life. Access to the best doctors in the country can be a little more than a few clicks away.