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Products Released, Deployments Under Way With Bluetooth Mesh Spec

One year after the Bluetooth Special Interest Group released its mesh specification, companies ranging from lighting control firms to Chinese conglomerate Alibaba are selling products that are being deployed for building intelligence, with smart-home deployments under way this year.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 15, 2018

A year after releasing its Bluetooth mesh standard, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) reports that global smart-lighting solutions that will use the specification are being deployed now, with case studies expected to be released later this year. Development throughout the past year has led to the mesh capability being built into 68 products so far, including smart speakers and other devices, as well as lighting.

According to Ken Kolderup, SIG's VP of marketing, wireless lighting-control solutions have passed through the development stage since last year's release of the mesh standard, and are now being built into lighting-control products, as well as being installed in commercial buildings. The 68 products that have been developed with Bluetooth mesh-networking capability vary from silicon and stack products to components and end products such as lighting systems.

SIG is a nonprofit trade association working with member companies to add new capabilities to the Bluetooth standard and promote Bluetooth adoption. The group is 20 years old and has 33,000 member companies. Bluetooth is already ubiquitous in the phones and devices people use, according to SIG, with 10 million new Bluetooth-enabled devices shipped worldwide each day. That makes adoption one step shorter than for many other new technology standards, for which a new protocol must be introduced to existing devices.

Bluetooth mesh changes how existing Bluetooth technology is used, SIG reports, without requiring new Bluetooth chips in smartphones and other devices. With mesh networking, instead of pairing Bluetooth devices as the process for traditional Bluetooth connections, there is a provisioning step in which a smartphone, with the provisioning application, can be used to bring a new mesh-capable device (such as a light) into a mesh network by providing the necessary security keys. It then becomes a node within that network. Existing smartphones or tablets can also be part of the mesh network. For instance, a smartphone can be used to control devices on the network (see Bluetooth SIG Specification Enables BLE Mesh Networks).

Once the technology is in place for commercial lighting, Kolderup says, those Bluetooth nodes in light fixtures could be used for a host of other purposes, such as indoor positioning of employees or visitors, asset tracking of goods or movement of inventory, as well as wayfinding for visitors. Bluetooth mesh is intended to impact smart buildings, smart homes and smart lighting, as well as smart-industry and smart-city solutions. It has started, however, with lighting.

Commercial lighting systems are highly complex. There can be thousands of fixtures that are controlled with multiple instructions, such as dimming, and are being turned on or off from a variety of sensors. Bluetooth mesh is proving to operate well with this environment, Kolderup says. A message to switch a light on, for instance, can take multiple paths to each device, such as a lamp or fixture.

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