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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bluetooth finally launches mesh capability

By Nick Flaherty

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has finally announced its mesh networking to connect multiple systems together as a part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The new mesh capability for Bluetooth 4 and 5 enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is optimised for creating large-scale device networks. It is aimed at building automation, sensor networks and other IoT solutions where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to reliably and securely communicate with one another.

“By adding support for mesh networking, the Bluetooth member community is continuing a long history of focused innovation to help new, up-and-coming markets flourish,” said Mark Powell, executive director for Bluetooth SIG. “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.”

The specification includes self-healing so that a failing node can be avoided in networks with thousands of sensors and actuaors. It also provides industrial-grade security for protection against all known attacks.

The spec provides a full stack implementation that defines the low-level radio up to the high-level application layer, ensuring all aspects of the technology are fully specified and can be tested for interoperability.

Time and time again it has been shown that markets flourish when multi-vendor interoperability exists, says the SIG. A key reason why the SIG spec if important is the proven, global interoperability that assures products from different vendors work together. Comprehensive, multi-vendor interoperability testing is conducted during the specification development process, not after specification release, which is why this has taken longer than expected.

“Multi-vendor interoperability is a major factor in determining how fast markets develop,” said Russ Sharer, VP Global Marketing and Business Development, Fulham. “Fulham is excited to finally see a wireless, multi-vendor, interoperable standard for lighting controls and we believe Bluetooth mesh networking will greatly expand the size and functionality of the market.”

A mesh network built using Bluetooth technology can support additional services, such as asset tracking and way finding

“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,” said Szymon Slupik, president and CTO of Silvair and chairman of the mesh working group within the Bluetooth SIG. “A smart lighting platform built on top of Bluetooth mesh networking can also support asset tracking, point of interest, and way-finding services. These value-added capabilities are part of why we believe Bluetooth is an ideal technology for enabling a mesh network.”

The Bluetooth mesh networking specifications, as well as the tools required to qualify Bluetooth products with mesh networking support, are now available at the Bluetooth website. Bluetooth mesh networking operates on Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) and is compatible with core specification version 4.0 and higher.

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