Understand Bluetooth®Mesh: Innovating Wireless Connectivity

Minew May 31, 2024

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this article is to diffuse knowledge, share insights, and provoke inspiration. By reading this, you will have better and more thorough understanding of Bluetooth Mesh technologies, as well as its working principles, key advantages, and benefits perceived from real-cases of usage.

Bluetooth Low-energy, also known as BLE and Bluetooth 5.0, is a short- range technology widely used in people locating and item tracking in various in-door scenarios. It has the benefits of robust wireless communication but at lower energy consumption and cost of installation & maintenance (Hernandez-Solana et al., 2020). However, there is no such thing as perfect technology. Originally, mesh network characteristics were absent and not well supported by BLE. A BLE product previously could only support a very limited number of peripheral devices connected to a central device, unable to cope with increasingly complex IoT systems that comprise more and more IoT devices and thus requires seamless coordination. Thus, it is imperative for IoT innovators to embrace Bluetooth Mesh, a technology advancement that combines best of the two.

Bluetooth Low-energy Mesh

BLUETOOTH MESH TECHNOLOGY

As its name suggests, Bluetooth Mesh is a combination of two excellent technologies and allows each technology’s benefit to offset and compensate for the limitations of the other. More from the definitive side, Bluetooth Mesh is a mesh network that allows IoT devices to connect with each other and upload information through BLE wireless communication at lower costs (Bluetooth Mesh Networking, 2024).

If Bluetooth mesh is the solution, what is it and how does it differ from a typical BLE or Mesh network? To answer such questions, we need to go back to 2014 when BLE Mesh was conceived (Bluetooth Mesh Networking, 2024). Shortly after 3 years and in 2017, the Bluetooth Mesh specification was adopted and released by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), enabling IoT devices in various applied occasions to move beyond simply connected to truly smart (Marcel, 2023). Since it was invented and its specifications were adopted, Bluetooth Mesh is designated to make more IoT devices connected and better coordinated without the extra cost of adding new supporting infrastructure and increasing energy consumption.

WORKING PRINCIPLE OF BLUETOOTH MESH

As mentioned previously, Bluetooth Mesh creates a network, an operating floor for peripheral IoT devices to communicate with each other directly. Each IoT device, which used to serve as a node, now becomes a router, transmitting data collected and navigating other nodes to the gateway. Within the radio range supported by BLE Mesh, mesh devices now can have a “many-to-many” interaction (Bluetooth Mesh Networking FAQs | Bluetooth® Technology Website, n.d.). If one route is temporarily disrupted or permanently removed, other nodes can detect new routes for the “lost node” to ensure data integrity and normal transmission. In this way, each nodes can replay information to other nodes and other nodes can function as a gateway or router.

In a mesh network, a node, both provisioned and unprovisioned, can be any IoT devices such as Bluetooth beacons, asset tags, trackers, or temperature-humidity sensors, for instance. However, only provisioned nodes can send and receive mesh messages. Once the mesh network is built with the right protocols and topology designs, the provisioner will automatically detect and invite unprovisioned devices into the mesh network after configuration, verification and authentication.

KEY BENEFITS OF BLUETOOTH MESH

Versatility: Easy to Scale Up

Bluetooth Mesh is particularly useful and applicable for large-scale industrial operation or IoT systems that require a huge amount of nodes. Expanding the network simply requires putting new devices into the field where the existing mesh network is covered (Liu et al., 2017). Given the nature of mesh networks, every IoT device connected to the same hub can communicate directly with each other as long as the node is falling under the same Bluetooth range. Therefore, the best way to expand the IoT mesh network is to add new devices, and make ensure it is configured properly to be detected by other nodes. And other existing nodes can automatically and intelligently take care of the rest. Then, the newly added node will become an integral part of the mesh network, expanding the coverage and capability of the existing network without building new infrastructure.

Cost Efficiency: Easy to Install

Such mesh network features turn out to be very cost-effective because it largely reduces the incremental installation cost of new infrastructure, such as gateways, wires, and base stations. Owing to the low energy consumption of BLE, the new IoT system can support high performance of wireless communication at economical deployment and maintenance. Moreover, the mesh network enables nodes to relay information to nearby routers, avoiding data transmission and energy cost due to long-range communication.

Data Integrity & Reliability: Easy to Install

The decentralized approach in IoT control systems tend to be more reliable because there are no central controllers. Intelligence is distributed to all IoT devices (Distributed Intelligence in the Internet of Things (IoT) Using Edge Computing – Stockholm University, 2023). If one route between the node and hub is broken, the node can automatically detect new routes with other nodes to ensure normal transmission without interruption and data loss. Such data relaying feature offers multiple pathways for message delivery and information transmission. In the digital era, it not only reduce the maintenance cost (e.g. repairing expense & labor) and better protects data security & integrity especially for large and complex IoT networks.

CONCLUSION & LIMITATIONS

Bluetooth Mesh network is critical to the IoT ecosystem. It absorbs key advantages derived from two best technologies, Bluetooth Low – energy and Mesh networks. On the one side, the mesh network makes it way much simpler to install and add new IoT devices to expand the network without needs to bear extra financial burdens of new infrastructure. On the other, Bluetooth wireless communication assists nodes to relay information at lower energy consumption without the need for long-range communication and cost of wires. However, there is always room for improvement. Issues such as incompatibility among IoT devices may cause extra critical fail points and blind time during actual operation. To offer more complete solutions powered by starter kits and integrate the right devices to the Bluetooth Mesh network and ensure seamless coordination is the key, leading IoT innovators to explore and discuss further.

WORKS CITED

Hernandez-Solana, A., Perez-Diaz-De-Cerio, D., Garcia-Lozano, M., Bardaji, A. V., & Valenzuela, J. L. (2020). Bluetooth Mesh Analysis, Issues, and Challenges. IEEE Access, 8, 53784–53800. https://doi.org/10.1109/access.2020.2980795

Bluetooth mesh networking. (2024, May 15). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth_mesh_networking

Bluetooth Mesh Networking FAQs | Bluetooth® Technology Website. (n.d.). Bluetooth® Technology Website.

https://www.bluetooth.com/learn-about-bluetooth/feature-enhancements/mesh/mesh-faq/

Distributed Intelligence in the Internet of Things (IoT) Using Edge Computing – Stockholm University. (2023, November 24). https://www.su.se/english/research/research-projects/distributed-intelligence-in-the-internet-of-things-iot-using-edge-computing

Marcel, J. (2023, November 27). Bluetooth Mesh isDisrupting the IoT | Bluetooth® Technology Website. Bluetooth® Technology Website. https://www.bluetooth.com/blog/bluetooth-mesh-is-disrupting-the-iot/

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