Dave Hollander, Director of Marketing at Bluetooth SIG
Over the past two decades, Bluetooth technology has continuously added new technical capabilities that have enabled innovation and established new markets, from wireless audio to connected devices. The addition of mesh networking support continues that trend and ensures that Bluetooth will continue to play a pivotal role in revolutionizing the Internet of Things (IoT) and advancing the development of emerging technologies that power smart building, smart industry, smart city, and smart home solutions.
Bluetooth mesh networking enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is optimized for creating large-scale device networks. Designed to meet the scalability, reliability, and security requirements of commercial and industrial environments, Bluetooth mesh networking is powering smart building and smart industry implementations where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to communicate with one another effectively. From factories to hospitals, airports, retail stores, and the home, this new Bluetooth mesh networking capability enables the development of building automation systems that bring real value to owners, operators, and occupants.
With one full year since the release of the Bluetooth mesh networking now behind us, it’s a fitting time to examine key signs of product momentum over the past year.
Bluetooth Mesh Product Qualifications
The Bluetooth Qualification Process ensures that all Bluetooth products achieve the global interoperability synonymous with the technology. It also gives the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) visibility into the types of Bluetooth products being developed, which offers insights into various market trends and provides a unique perspective on the adoption rate of Bluetooth technologies.
In the last year, more than 65 products with mesh networking capability have been qualified from leading silicon, stack, component, and end-product vendors. Every month, new Bluetooth mesh products are being introduced that support a wide range of smart solutions for the IoT — everything from lighting control to full building automation.
By comparison, there are alternative mesh technologies which were released years before Bluetooth mesh that have only a fraction of the number of qualified products available. In one short year, Bluetooth mesh has emerged as a leading mesh networking technology with a bright future.
Types of Bluetooth Mesh products
Focusing on the list of Bluetooth mesh product qualifications over the last twelve months and the types of Bluetooth mesh products being qualified, it’s apparent that the upward qualification trend follows a pattern that is common when new Bluetooth capabilities are released.
Lower-level enabling products, such as Bluetooth software stacks and modules that include mesh networking capability, were amongst the first to be qualified. These were initiated by major Bluetooth stack and module vendors, including Amiccom, Cypress, Jingxun, Iton, Marvell, MindTree, Nordic Semiconductor, Silicon Labs, Silvair, Telink, Toshiba, Xiaomi, and Qualcomm.
Over the last six months, end products began to be qualified, from companies such as Airoha, Alibaba, Danlers, Delta Electronics, LEDVANCE, and Murata.
Bluetooth Mesh in lighting
Bluetooth mesh was designed to be the first low-power wireless mesh networking solution that meets the strict reliability, scalability, and security requirements of commercial and industrial markets. Upon its release, it was widely believed that adoption of the technology would start in the smart building — specifically within connected lighting solutions designed for commercial building automation.
“The arrival of Bluetooth mesh will transform lighting into part of the IT network and effectively kill the traditional lighting control box,” said Ray Molony from Lux Review.
As predicted, lighting control systems have served as a key use case, driving an increase in Bluetooth mesh implementations. A building’s lighting system provides a natural grid through which all devices in a Bluetooth mesh network can pass messages and establish whole-building control, monitoring, and automation systems within a facility. This wireless lighting solution can also function as a platform to enable indoor positioning and location services — including point-of-interest solutions, indoor navigation, asset tracking, and improved space utilization.
“Bluetooth mesh has fundamentally altered the conversation around connected lighting by providing a complete, high-performing solution that allows lighting to serve a greater purpose in industrial and commercial spaces,” Mark Needham, Vice President, European Sales at Fulham Co, Inc. “A lighting system that can both help visitors find their way and allow building operators to pinpoint the location of assets within a building or collect a vast range of data from various building sensors for analysis and utilization is only the beginning of what is possible.”
Bluetooth Mesh in the home
Though designed to meet the high demands of commercial and industrial markets, Bluetooth mesh easily scales down to meet the technology requirements of the smart home.
Initial use cases for the smart home this past year centered not only around lighting but also on smart speaker solutions for home automation. The availability of home lighting and smart speaker solutions from industry giants, such as Alibaba, who’ve decided to build their home automation strategy around Bluetooth mesh networking, confirms early predictions of the viability of Bluetooth mesh networking in the smart home.
“The strategic decision to adopt Bluetooth as the communications platform for our smart home strategy was an obvious choice for us,” said Lijuan Chen, Head of Alibaba A.I. Labs, the department leading consumer AI product development at Alibaba Group. “Bluetooth mesh is a wireless protocol that enables us to meet our customers’ scale, performance, and reliability requirements in the home. Bluetooth is already a proven, trusted, and widely used wireless standard, and we’re confident Bluetooth mesh will be the standard in home and building automation for years to come.”
Bluetooth Mesh in smart industry, smart cities, and beyond
After one year, evidence of increasing adoption and qualification of Bluetooth mesh capable products confirms all initial forecasts — from preliminary adoption in smart buildings via connected lighting platforms to viability as a smart home solution. The rate of adoption within these initial use cases also points to the expanding role of Bluetooth in other emerging markets, including smart industry and smart cities.