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TradeSparky Technologies #1: What is Bluetooth Mesh?

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TradeSparky Technologies #1: What is Bluetooth Mesh?
08 Feb 2019 2:21 PM
TradeSparky Technologies #1: What is Bluetooth Mesh?

Introducing Bluetooth Mesh

There’s a new technology utilising one existing low-power wireless tech to change the way we transmit information and control our surroundings: it’s called Bluetooth Mesh. In a change to conventional two-way device communication, Bluetooth Mesh is an exciting new mechanic which opts for using a ‘flood network’ topology to relay data between nodes. Here at TradeSparky, we thought we would provide a quick run-down of what everyone is saying about what all this means while taking a look at some of the benefits of Bluetooth Mesh and giving answers to some inevitable concerns.

For a while now, smart LED lighting controls have been a highly anticipated and invested in idea. The benefits of smart lighting are vast, and something we will get into shortly. Unfortunately, strategies to bring forward smart LED lighting have been complicated due to an uncertainty around the technologies that could support it. Bluetooth Mesh appears to be a product that, utilising pre-existing and trusted tech (it’s pre-installed on every mobile device!), could be the technology that gives life to a surely valuable concept.

How does it work?

Bluetooth Mesh uses a ‘flood network’ which, alternative to two-way device communication, operates many-to-many communications between all devices integrated into a network in proximity. This, being combined with Bluetooth’s low-power requirements, offers advantages already to a typical Wi-Fi connection, which operates on a system of two-way device communication and requires relatively high power. Mesh removes the unreliability of point-to-point network topologies as the liabilities that exist between a device and a hub are replaced with each node in a network being a possible communication link and/or hub. Additionally, Bluetooth Mesh is self-healing, new devices can be added and problematic devices can be removed without any reprogramming necessary and with no disruption.

Hence, Bluetooth Mesh is a promising answer to the question of how smart home applications might be interconnected, and how the home automation process might be enabled. According to LEDs Magazine, Bluetooth Mesh’s flood network infrastructure “can be used to commission smart lighting solutions and monitor luminaire performance … once the luminaire sensors are in place, the same infrastructure can be used to monitor other building conditions, like occupancy or temperature, and send back information to a control system”.

What are the benefits?

Well, as already mentioned, Bluetooth Mesh’s low-power and low-bandwidth operation offers a superior alternative to WiFi’s existing connectivity, but that’s only the beginning. Bluetooth Mesh being able to offer direct control of LED luminaires means direct control over power usage, lighting characteristics and levels and even heating. In essence, this is a big step towards home automation: a mesh topology that allows for the creation of a large-scale device network for systems to communicate reliably and securely. What home automation means is an intelligent system where energy can be programmed effectively and responsively; as digitaltrends.com puts it, Bluetooth Mesh and home automation can lead us to a world where “you unlock your front door, the lights in the foyer come on, the motion sensors on your alarm system turn off … all before you put your keys down!”. This has undoubtedly exciting consequences when energy reductions and savings are concerned!

What about security?

One of the main concerns regarding a new data sharing network is, unsurprisingly, security. Bluetooth Mesh ensures encryption for all its communications – network keys are set to a specific network and application keys are related to a specific function. According to the official Bluetooth blog, “Bluetooth mesh networking was designed with security as its number one priority and from the ground up”. Unlike Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) GATT devices, where it’s the responsibility of the product designer to decide on the specific product’s security measures, Bluetooth mesh networking security is absolutely mandatory. For more specific information on Bluetooth mesh security, visit the official Bluetooth blog at https://blog.bluetooth.com/bluetooth-mesh-security....

How reliable is Bluetooth Mesh?

Bluetooth Mesh is not only self-healing, as previously mentioned, but nodes can be added on a necessary basis. The more coverage needed, the more additional nodes can be added to the technology’s flood network. This means a much more reliable service than point-to-point typologies, where a fault with a single hub could cause a communication link to collapse. In the flood network, a communication can be sent from one node and received by the end recipient through various routes. Bluetooth Mesh, then, is helpful for industries interested in upscaling their internet operation as part of the Internet of Things insurgence. As www.eetimes.com puts it, “many applications that previously relied on hard-line reliability but suffered from hard-line scalability issues are beginning to adopt wireless solutions. These applications benefit from low-power mesh technology, as the scalability of such systems is unprecedented compared to hard-line and traditional point-to-point wireless systems”.

Where are we now?

ABI research indicates 48 billion internet-enabled devices are expected to be installed by 2021, with nearly one third of these being Bluetooth-enabled. Bluetooth is hoping that Mesh technology will make a large initial splash in the lighting and industrial applications industries, eventually growing to become a familiar technology in the Internet of Things “ecosystem”.

Bluetooth Mesh evidently has a lot of potential to change the way we interact with energy and electronics. Here at TradeSparky we will be closely following its new developments, and other similar technologies. Make sure to keep an eye on our blog for more updates, and posts on similar new technology!

TradeSparky currently sell a number of products with Bluetooth Mesh technology, including products from the Ansell OCTO range, the BELL 10550 LED Downlight 2200-6300K and associated wall plate.

Image Credit: http://octouk.com/inspiration/.

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