Bluetooth SIG unveiled an upgrade today that brings it one step closer to being the go-to choice for connecting smart buildings and further enabling the Internet of Things (IoT).
The company has long been pioneers in how consumers connect devices, whether it be point-to-point or broadcast. Now they are joining the next wave of connectivity with the launch of Bluetooth Mesh.
Mesh networking helps data travel faster and further than using a single point-to-point connection. Communications can hop between devices, so if your original transmission fails because the destination is out of reach, it can hop somewhere closer first then re-transmit, repeating until it is received by the correct network.
Bluetooth Mesh may function best in smart homes or companies, where there will be several devices connected to the internet and able to access Bluetooth. For example, it could mean your fridge can send a signal through each lightswitch on your wall, getting closer and closer until it reaches your room and sets your alarm for work the next morning.
This kind of networking can also conserve energy, as the difference between sending signals the full length of a building and sending that same signal halfway across a room is vast—especially if you send thousands of signals a day. This may not be a big deal for plugged in devices, but when running on battery power, conservation is key.
Bluetooth SIG (the company that oversees Bluetooth networks) expects mesh to make the largest initial impact in commercial lighting and industrial applications, with stronger forays into the general IoT ecosystem later on.
“Bluetooth mesh networking is poised to further catalyze beacons, robotics, industrial automation, energy management, smart city applications, and other industrial IoT and advanced manufacturing solutions,” reads a statement from the Bluetooth site.
“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 executive director for Bluetooth SIG Mark Powell. “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.”
Bluetooth SIG usually expects new Bluetooth standards to roll out after about six months, but Mesh may be even quicker. This is because you will not need new hardware for Mesh, as it will be added to any device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or 5.0. Still though, current devices must release their own updates to support Mesh, meaning if your smart thermostat refuses to update for the new functionality, you might be left out in the cold.
Bluetooth SIG realized this and is allowing for some devices to act as proxies, allowing specific products to connect and operate through an existing network.
Research indicates that 48 billion internet-enabled devices will be installed by 2021, with nearly one third of them including Bluetooth.
Bluetooth Mesh has a lot going for it—recognizable name, tons of devices and simple connectivity, so expect Mesh to have a large impact right out of the gate. Still though, the battle for standardized wireless networking is far from over.