New Bluetooth Standard Extends Reach

Bluetooth connectivity may no longer be limited to two devices, thanks to a new capability.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) just updated its connectivity standard to include support for creating mesh networks.

Essentially this means that devices and sensors that are connected to each other can use that connection to extend to additional devices, which then can do the same. This in turn creates a larger network of individual devices and sensors.

“In the same way the connected device market experienced rapid growth after the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy, we believe Bluetooth mesh networking can play a vital role in helping early stage markets, such as building automation and wireless sensor networks, experience more rapid growth,” Mark Powell, executive director of SIG, said in a statement.

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The mesh networking capability is based on the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) specification, which is used in beacons.

However, whereas the communication between devices in beacons is designed for a broadcasting type behavior, communicating from a single beacon to many devices, the mesh communication is multidirectional between many devices.

One of the use cases is tracking devices within the mesh network, which can scale to thousands of devices and sensors, according to SIG. Other uses include smart home and building automation.

“Within the building automation market, there is a growing focus on connected lighting and the role it can play as a platform for providing automation services throughout a facility,” stated Szymon Slupik, chairman of the mesh working group at SIG.

“A smart lighting platform built on top of Bluetooth mesh networking can also support asset tracking, point of interest and way-finding services.”

Mesh networking also seems to be an area of focus for other companies and industry groups.

For example, the Wi-Fi Alliance recently launched a program centered around designing whole-home Wi-Fi systems in new homes, as the AI & IoT Daily recently reported (Wi-Fi Alliance Targets New Homes For Total Connectivity).

That program brings enterprise-level Wi-Fi systems into the design phase of building new homes. The systems are tailored to individual home layouts, but generally comprise multiple Wi-Fi access points placed throughout the home that create a single network.

For current homeowners, Samsung recently launched a mesh network and smart home device managing system, as the AI & IoT Daily reported at the time (Samsung Launches Smart Home Wi-Fi System).

Samsung’s Connect Home system creates a mesh Wi-Fi network that can scale with additional units placed throughout a house. A companion smartphone app guides consumers through placing each unit in the most effective location, according to Samsung.

Qualcomm Technologies plans to integrate Bluetooth mesh support in all future products with Bluetooth and is already offering engineering samples of its products. Commercial versions are expected in September, according to Qualcomm Technologies.

Qualcomm Technologies has been working with SIG on a previous version of mesh networking called CSRMesh, which hit the market last year and evolved into the current Bluetooth version, according to Qualcomm Technologies.

“The arrival of the Bluetooth SIG’s mesh technology is a significant step towards industry standardization and adoption and will help bring interoperability to Bluetooth devices and new use cases like lighting, indoor positioning and asset tracking for the Internet of Things,” stated Joseph Bousaba, VP of product management at Qualcomm Technologies.
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