Bluetooth Mesh Solutions for the IoT
Michael Alba posted on July 27, 2017 |
Silicon Labs releases suite of BLE mesh networking tools.
Mesh networking is a many-to-many network topology. (Image courtesy of Bluetooth SIG)
Mesh networking is a many-to-many network topology. (Image courtesy of Bluetooth SIG)

Since the rise of smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices, one wireless standard has emerged as king of the connectivity hill: Bluetooth – especially Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE. Bluetooth is everywhere. I’m typing these very words on a Bluetooth keyboard while listening to music on a pair of Bluetooth headphones. 

Until now, Bluetooth has only allowed one-to-one/one-to-many communication. That is to say, my phone can talk to both my keyboard and headphones, but neither of them can talk to each other. Now, that has all changed. In what the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is describing as a “paradigm shift for Bluetooth technology,” Bluetooth now supports mesh networking, a many-to-many network topology.

Introducing Bluetooth Mesh Networking from Bluetooth SIG.

So what does this mean for the Internet of Things (IoT)? The Bluetooth SIG certainly expects the new capability to make big waves, predicting Bluetooth mesh networks will “eventually become a common technology in the larger Internet of Things ecosystem.”

Semiconductor company Silicon Labs is also betting on the technology, given that they recently released a suite of software and hardware tools for BLE mesh developers. The tools include a variety of Bluetooth mesh modules, system-on-chip (SoC) and system-in-package (SiP) developer kits, and software development kits (SDKs). According to Silicon Labs, these tools will enable IoT developers to cut their time to market by six months (which, as we all know, is an eternity in the tech world).

 "We expect to see a wave of new devices hit the market quickly by leveraging ubiquitous Bluetooth connectivity to create hub-less mesh networks that extend the range and reliability of Bluetooth systems," said Silicon Labs’ Daniel Cooley. "No matter which mesh technology developers choose to power their next IoT designs, we offer a complete portfolio of silicon, software and solutions that gives device makers everything they need to accelerate time to market while designing secure, robust mesh networks."

While Bluetooth isn’t the only technology for mesh networks, it certainly has its share of advantages. Chief among these is the ubiquity and familiarity of Bluetooth devices. Consumers favor brands they recognize, and by now, just about everyone on Earth recognizes the runic Bluetooth logo. Aside from that, Bluetooth has the proven security and low-power requirements that are necessary for IoT applications.

"Bluetooth is the next frontier in mesh networking, and Silicon Labs' new Bluetooth mesh software and tools keep us at the forefront of this rapidly emerging 'many-to-many' network topology," said Richard Baxter, CEO of IoT company Mesh Systems. "From easy-to-use development kits to mobile applications that help us connect devices seamlessly, we rely on Silicon Labs' deep expertise in mesh technology to give us the hardware and software resources we need to increase productivity and speed development time so our customers can better compete in today's IoT race."

For more information on Bluetooth mesh networking, check out the Bluetooth SIG website.

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