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A year in the life of Bluetooth Mesh

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Over two decades, Bluetooth technology has revolutionised the IoT market, adding new capabilities, aiding innovation and establishing new markets – from wireless audio to connected devices.

In 2018, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) celebrates its 20th anniversary. Formed in 1998, the group started with just a handful of companies, looking to replace the tangle of cables commonly used to communicate between devices with a wireless alternative. Today, the membership counts over 34,000 companies.

Part of that continuing expansion is due to Bluetooth mesh networking, a major enhancement to the Bluetooth standard, introduced in July 2017. This technology enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is optimised for creating large-scale device networks.

Designed to meet the scaleability, reliability and security requirements of commercial and industrial environments, Bluetooth mesh powers smart building and smart industry implementations where up to tens of thousands of devices must communicate effectively.

Today, many buildings are not that well integrated – lacking a networking system that allows organisations to monitor and control their lights and other systems, using sensors that inform them in real time what they should and shouldn’t be doing. With a mesh network in place, a building becomes self-optimising environment that reduces costs and improves conditions for its users.

From factories to hospitals, airports, retail stores and the home, Bluetooth mesh supports building services that bring real value to owners, operators and occupants, and is already playing a pivotal role in the development of emerging markets such as smart buildings, smart industry, smart cities and smart homes.

The Bluetooth Qualification Process ensures that all Bluetooth products achieve global interoperability. It also gives the Bluetooth SIG visibility into the types of products being developed, offering insights into market trends, and affording a unique perspective on the adoption of Bluetooth technologies.

There are now 65 qualified Bluetooth products with mesh networking capability, with this number growing fast.

Upon its release, it was widely believed that the technology’s first adopter would be the smart-building market and, specifically, connected lighting solutions designed for commercial building automation. The forecasts have called it right, and lighting control systems have been a key example in driving the adoption of Bluetooth mesh.

A building’s lighting system provides a natural grid through which all devices in a Bluetooth mesh network can pass messages and establish in-building control, monitoring and automation systems. This wireless lighting solution could also function as a platform to enable indoor positioning and location services – including point-of-interest solutions, indoor navigation, asset tracking and improved space utilisation.

In a single year, Bluetooth mesh has paved the way for wireless lighting control solutions and has been a driving force in realising the concept of lighting as a platform. Though designed to meet the high demands of commercial and industrial markets, Bluetooth mesh easily scales down to meet the requirements of the smart-home market. So, it’s no surprise that it has gained early traction in the smart home.

Lijuan Chen, Head of Alibaba A.I. Labs, which leads consumer AI product development at the Alibaba Group, said: “The strategic decision to adopt Bluetooth as the communications platform for our smart home strategy was an obvious choice for us. Bluetooth mesh is a wireless protocol that enables us to meet our customers’ scale, performance and reliability requirements in the home.”

ABI research predicts a 7x growth in annual shipments of Bluetooth smart industry devices by 2022, while annual volume of Bluetooth smart-home enabling devices are expected to increase by 5x over the same period.

As developments in the connected device market continue to lay the groundwork for the smart infrastructures of the future, chances are they will be connected by Bluetooth mesh.

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