Last week Bluetooth SIG announced a major new update to the Bluetooth wireless standard – the specification for Bluetooth mesh networking. This update has potential to transform the world of the Internet of Things (IoT), because it means that Bluetooth can now be used for connected networks at tremendous scale. No longer do Bluetooth devices simply work point-to-point as we are all familiar with (such as when connecting your smartphone to your Bluetooth speakers), or broadcasting (a “one-to-many scenario, such as a beacon), but can now also be used for broadcast or mesh networks (many-to-many).
This new standard means new opportunities to generate innovation in almost every sector you can think of, from smart homes, to factories and hospitals, to smart cities. Bluetooth technology is mature and stable, and you can already find it in many devices throughout your home – from smartphones, to music speaker systems, to your car infotainment system, to new devices such as Amazon’s Alexa. It’s this variety of devices and huge installed base where Bluetooth is already found, that makes the impact of mesh networking so exciting – and puts it ahead of other wireless standards such as Zigbee. The mesh networking capability also means the traditional weakness of Bluetooth, which was its short range, can now be overcome. In addition, another key aspect is that it requires very low power, so batteries need to be replaced infrequently.
To think of the potential impact of Bluetooth Mesh, it’s worth thinking about some potential use cases. For example, Belatrix has worked with one organization to use machine learning to make sense of the data it collects from thousands of IoT devices in buildings, with the aim to reduce maintenance costs and improve the overall running of the building. In this scenario of a “smart building”, mesh networking means different devices throughout the building will be able to communicate with each other, and respond appropriately. Imagine being able to control any light in an entire office block via your smartphone. Particularly for industrial scenarios, Bluetooth represents a strong option, because the technology is reliable, secure and scalable.
In the blog post announcing the new specification, Bluetooth SIG revealed that out of the 48 billion internet-enabled devices to be installed by 2021, research indicates that nearly one-third will include Bluetooth. What this means is that chief technology officer’s now have a powerful new technology at their disposal to integrate into their products and create new functionality, services, and innovation.