According to the Bluetooth SIG, Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) enables short-burst wireless connections and supports multiple network topologies, now including a mesh topology for establishing many-to-many (m:m) device communications. This is an important evolution for Bluetooth technology, and one of the most anticipated features envisaged by the Bluetooth SIG promoters, anticipating Bluetooth 5 practical implementations.
With this update the typical point-to-point, star-based network topology evolves directly to a true mesh networking topology, paving the way for a wide range of applications that span from personal area network solutions all the way to an expanded range of connected devices, theoretically without physical limits.
One of the main benefits will be precisely in the area where until now only standard 802.11 Wi-Fi solutions were available, which is the smart home and smart buildings. With the combination of Bluetooth 5 and mesh networking technology, manufacturers will be able to surpass worries about coverage range, without compromising on the low-power requirements that are mandatory in battery operated devices. This enables the creation of "blanket" Bluetooth networking coverage, with devices connecting between themselves without the need for a central router. This allows effectively the creation of autonomous Bluetooth Wireless Local Area Networks, allowing devices to communicate locally. For example, sensors will be able to send messages to main devices, allowing the music to start playing in the living room, as soon as the user moves out of the room.
As the Bluetooth SIG highlights, mesh networking doesn't require any special controllers or hub equipment, there is no single point of failure, and any Bluetooth control device will be able to remote control any point of the network. All this, with assured interoperability and without complexity, allowing users to acquire and add devices from any vendor that adopted the standard.
The potential of mesh networking also allows more complex commercial and industrial scenarios. Bluetooth mesh is optimized for creating large-scale device networks and is ideally suited for building automation, sensor network, asset tracking solutions. New control and automation systems, from lighting to heating/cooling to security, wireless sensor networks (WSN) for industrial applications, are some obvious candidates for Bluetooth mesh networking technology.
Capable of supporting broadcast topology, Bluetooth LE became an attractive alternative for asset tracking over active RFID. The addition of mesh networking lifs Bluetooth LE range limitations and establishes the adoption of Bluetooth asset tracking solutions for use in larger and more complex building environments.
“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,” says Mark Powell, executive director for Bluetooth SIG, Inc. “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.”
"Time and time again it has been shown that markets flourish when multi-vendor interoperability exists. Bluetooth mesh delivers proven, global interoperability that assures products from different vendors work together," Powell adds.
A unique full-stack approach that defines the low-level radio up to the high-level application layer, ensuring all aspects of the technology are fully specified for the updated specification. Comprehensive, multi-vendor interoperability testing is conducted during the specification development process, not after specification release, and Bluetooth SIG members can benefit of all the qualification tools and processes needed to ensure global, multi-vendor interoperability.
The Bluetooth mesh specification is now available to all members, allowing manufacturers to start prototyping products. 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.