Millions of wireless headsets, speakers, fitness bands, and earpieces may get a little smarter this holiday season, thanks to an update to the Bluetooth standard.

The industry group that manages the popular short-range wireless technology Tuesday released an update for developers and manufacturers that increases the usefulness of current and future wireless gadgets. The update builds on the 2010 release of Bluetooth 4.0, or “Bluetooth Smart.”

Version 4.1 includes better communication with other cellular wireless standards like LTE, lets you walk in and out of a room without having to manually reconnect, and moves large batches of data on and off of connected devices.

Using these new capabilities, sensors that gathered data during a run, bike ride or swim could, for instance, transfer that data more efficiently when the consumer returns home.

New Opportunities For Developers

The updated standard also lays the groundwork to allow Bluetooth devices to connect directly to the Internet. Current Bluetooth standards require an additional device such as a smartphone or laptop to transfer information to and from websites or other Internet-connected things.

The improvements will allow future devices to act simultaneously as both “Bluetooth Smart” gadgets and “Bluetooth Smart Ready” hubs.

“For example, a smart watch could act as a hub gathering information from a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor while simultaneously acting as a peripheral to a smartphone—displaying new message notifications from the phone,” the Bluetooth group said in its announcement.

The update is software based, so existing Bluetooth devices will be able to upgrade to the new standard over the air. 

Software developers and semiconductor makers may start creating new devices based on the Bluetooth 4.1 standard as early as next week. The Bluetooth group estimates more than 4.5 billion Bluetooth-enabled devices will ship in the next five years.

Image by Flickr user Dirk Haun, CC 2.0