Bluetooth SIG targeting mesh networks

Francesco Radicati/Ovum
12 May 2015
00:00

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is targeting mesh networking as it looks to improve its offering and take its place as a key technology enabling the Internet of Things, as delegates heard at the Bluetooth World conference, held April 14–15 in Silicon Valley.

To this end, the SIG started a mesh networking group in February 2015 and has launched a beta version of its Developer Studio, to help Bluetooth developers get their products to customers faster.

The SIG is open about how Bluetooth is designed to fit into a smart-home ecosystem with technologies such as Wi-Fi, and is working to address weaknesses in its offering: It launched its Bluetooth 4.2 update in December, which increased the size of data packets and speed of data transfer, and it is pushing forward with mesh networking.

Getting mesh right will be crucial to wider adoption, as it should help Bluetooth avoid the “hub and spoke” model, whereby every device on a Bluetooth network connects to same device (for instance, a user’s smartphone). While that model works fine for personal area networks incorporating wearable devices, in a smart-home environment it suffers from Bluetooth’s lack of range and from the fact that if the hub device goes down it takes the rest of the network with it.

Mesh networking, by contrast, enables each node in a network to relay data. This makes the network more robust, since the failure of one device wouldn’t necessarily knock out every other device. Just as important, it extends the network’s range beyond the 10 meters that is the traditional area covered by Bluetooth. Wider range would enable Bluetooth’s use in industrial and enterprise applications, including asset tracking and smart buildings, and has applications in safety and law enforcement, such as tracking first responders entering a building.

The SIG announced the formation of its smart mesh-networking group in February 2015, which has grown to over 100 members, making it one of the SIG’s biggest working groups. It aims to have prototyping available by the end of 2015, and release a specification in the first half of 2016. Getting mesh to work, and transmit more data faster, will be crucial in cementing Bluetooth’s place in the smart-home ecosystem.

Francesco Radicati is a senior analyst for digital services at Ovum. For more information visit www.ovum.com/

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