I couldn’t be more excited in my 4 years here at the Bluetooth SIG than I am right now! We are on the cusp of releasing Bluetooth 5, which is great, but Bluetooth mesh is right on its heels. In fact, Bluetooth SIG members can start prototyping with mesh today, as the working group just released the 0.9 version of the specification. This is HUGE! While there are a LOT of great things to LOVE about Bluetooth 5 (especially the bigger payload size for advertisements), I am REALLY excited about mesh…let me tell you why.
Mesh changes Bluetooth from your typical point-to-point, star-based network topology to a true mesh networking topology. This will fundamentally open up a TON of great use cases for developers, and that means great innovation happening in the industry.
First off, mesh will allow you to reach beyond the typical personal area network solutions that most people associate with Bluetooth. If you have a device within range of another device on a Bluetooth mesh network, you have just extended the range of both devices. Now, keep adding mesh nodes to the network, and you can keep expanding the range of the solution.
Smart home might be a great solution to think about initially for the consumer market. You no longer have to worry about range with Bluetooth; you can simply add another mesh node, and voila! Range extended. So, think about this solution. In your typical home, you have about 35-40 lights. If these lights were Bluetooth mesh-enabled, they could all talk to each other via the mesh network. You now have an entire blanket of Bluetooth networking coverage in your home without having a go to a central controller, or router. If your friendly internet provider goes down (as seems to be the case at least once every few weeks at my house), if won’t affect your Bluetooth mesh network. You can still communicate with your network using Bluetooth on your phone, your tablet, or your PC.
Now, add some other Bluetooth mesh devices to this mesh network. A door lock perhaps, and maybe some sensors around the house for things like motion or temperature control (in your thermostat). Heck, even add your Bluetooth music player to the mix. You come home and unlock the door. The door can then send a message to the lights in your entry way to turn on, turn your thermostat to a nice 70 degree Fahrenheit, and start playing the music you really like. These things are called ‘scenes’ in Bluetooth mesh parlance, and they will start to make a home truly smart.
But one of the coolest things about all of this is that you don’t need any special controller or hub equipment. There is no single point of failure that will bring your whole house down. And you can run it all from your phone (or any other Bluetooth device, like a tablet or PC). If you did want to connect this to the web, you could do that as well. In fact, you’ll see plenty of gateways that will connect your Bluetooth mesh network to the larger web outside of your house if that is something you want to do.
And, since it will be an adopted Bluetooth standard, devices built using the Bluetooth mesh technologies will work together; you’ll have choices about what vendors you want to use. Also, since it’s the familiar Bluetooth technology that consumers are used to, you can do it yourself…you won’t need a professional installer to set up your smart home!
Now these are all very interesting scenarios, but in my opinion, where Bluetooth mesh technology will really shine is in the commercial and industrial scenarios where you have sensors all OVER the place. Let’s take that whole area/building/plant floor Bluetooth network coverage to the next level. We can now facilitate machine health and machine to machine communication via the mesh. We can track assets in buildings and materials through a manufacturing process via the mesh. We can create truly smart facilities. You have an umbrella of mesh networking coverage in your facility. This is where I really think that Bluetooth mesh will shine.
The mesh working group has just released the 0.9 version of the Bluetooth mesh specification that is available to all members. This is the spec that you can start prototyping with for your products. If you aren’t a member of the Bluetooth SIG, click here to create a membership…the Adopter level is free, so what do you have to lose?
So, get ready…all of these scenarios and more are just around the corner. This will give all developers a whole new canvas upon which to paint awesome solutions, and I can’t wait!
About Steve Hegenderfer
Steve has worked in and out of the mobile space since about 2000 (remember the old Palm V? Yup, he used to develop on THAT thing) and he has seen a lot of great things over his time in the industry. But nothing excites him more than seeing what crazy things developers will do next with a technology, and that is what drove him to Bluetooth. Steve Hegenderfer is Director of Developer Programs for the Bluetooth SIG.