Bluetooth mesh solution cuts time-to-market

July 18, 2017

Max The Magnificent-July 18, 2017

Many people think of the short-link radio technology called Bluetooth as being a relatively recent. In fact, it was first conceived as far back as 1989. The name Bluetooth itself is an Anglicized version of the Scandinavian epithet of the tenth-century king Harold Bluetooth who united dissonant Danish tribes into a single kingdom.

The original ("classic") Bluetooth was targeted at continuous audio and voice streaming applications, such as wireless headsets and loudspeakers. More recently, Bluetooth Low Energy (also known as Bluetooth LE, BLE, and Bluetooth Smart) was developed for use with bursts of data for applications like device-to-device transfer and beacons.

Today, Bluetooth is ubiquitous. According to ABI research, Bluetooth currently connects 8.2 billion devices and it is expected to be used in 60% of wireless devices by 2021. Early incarnations of Bluetooth supported only simple one-to-one (1:1) device pairing and one-to-many (1:m) broadcasting. By comparison, the recently introduced Bluetooth mesh now enables many-to-many (m:m) communications.


(Source: Silicon Labs)

Bluetooth mesh offers many benefits over one-to-many (star) configurations. These benefits include the following:

  • Increase system scale with hundreds of devices in a subnet.
  • Extend range from gateways or mobile devices with multi-hop communication.
  • Enable cloud connectivity via smartphones.
  • Improve system reliability with self-healing networks.
  • Reduce power consumption with shorter transmission distances between devices.
  • Enable Bluetooth beaconing and beacon discovery capabilities in mesh nodes.

Obvious examples of Bluetooth mesh applications include home automation, asset tracking, and smart lighting. A mesh network enables devices, such as connected lights, to be deployed at greater distances from a hub or gateway. As each light is deployed, the communication range increases, allowing a single gateway to cover an area larger than one that is simply covered by a star network topology. In retail marketing and asset tracking applications, Bluetooth mesh technology simplifies the deployment and management of beacons. By combining Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) with mesh networking, new capabilities and value can be introduced into devices such as connected lights which can also serve as beacons or beacon scanners.


(Source: Silicon Labs)

Of course, as many of us learned to our cost with ZigBee, it's one thing to have a wireless mesh technology, but it's another thing to successfully deploy it in a timely manner. All of which leads us to today's announcement from Silicon Labs, which has more than 15 years experience in developing standards-based mesh networking solutions, and which has shipped more than 100 million mesh networking SoCs and modules to date.

The guys and gals at Silicon Labs have introduced a comprehensive suite of software and hardware that supports the new Bluetooth mesh specification. This Bluetooth mesh solution benefits from the company’s mesh networking expertise and includes development tools, a software stack, and mobile apps supporting Silicon Labs’ wireless system-on-chip (SoC) devices and certified modules.


(Source: Silicon Labs)

The folks at Silicon Labs say that the combination of their patented network analysis tools and Bluetooth mesh stack for smartphones enables IoT developers to cut time to market by up to six months when compared to existing wireless development tools and techniques.

When I come to think about it, I realize that I use Bluetooth all the time, from playing music on my wireless Boombox when I'm working in the garage, to my Fitbit health-tracking watch, to controlling my Cunning Chronograph, BADASS Display, and Caveman Diorama using my smartphone. Hmmm, maybe a Bluetooth mesh solution is in my not-too-distant future...

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