Over the past twenty years since its inception, Bluetooth technology has transformed the connected devices market, firmly cementing its place as the go-to technology for wireless connectivity. Now, with the capability to create large-scale device networks via Bluetooth mesh, the Bluetooth SIG has once again expanded the technology to solve new connectivity challenges and address new market opportunities.

Bluetooth mesh networking enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is ideally suited for creating IoT solutions where hundreds, thousands or even thousands of devices need to reliably and securely communicate with one another.

Designed to meet the scalability, reliability, and security requirements of commercial and industrial environments, Bluetooth mesh is already powering smart building implementations with scope to also aid smart industry implementations.

From factories to hospitals, airports, retail stores, and the home, this new mesh networking capability enables the development of building automation systems. It is also fundamental to the emergence and cultivation of new smart markets.

Lighting the way

Upon its release, it was widely believed that adoption of the technology would start in the smart building market — specifically within connected lighting solutions designed for commercial building automation. Forecasts have proven correct, and lighting control systems have served as a key use case driving the increase in Bluetooth mesh implementations.

A mesh networking system allows organisations to monitor, control, and automate their lights and other essential systems. In fact, with a Bluetooth mesh network in place, a building can become a self-optimising environment which reduces costs and improves conditions for the building’s users.

A building’s lighting system provides a natural grid for Bluetooth communication. But since these are smart lights with the ability to run software, they have the potential to form a platform, hosting other applications such as point-of-interest information, indoor navigation and asset tracking. They could also provide room occupancy information which can be used to achieve improved space utilisation.

In one year alone, Bluetooth mesh has paved the way for wireless lighting control solutions and has been a driving force in realising the concept of lighting-as-a-platform. According to ABI Research, annual commercial smart lighting equipment shipments are expected to increase fivefold by 2022.

Right at Home in the Smart Home

Though designed to meet the high demands of commercial and industrial markets, Bluetooth mesh easily scales down to meet the requirements of the smart home market. So, it’s no surprise that Bluetooth mesh also gained early traction in the smart home.

Initial use cases for the smart home this past year centred not only around lighting, but there was also big emphasis on smart speaker solutions for home automation. The availability of home lighting and smart speaker solutions from LEDVANCE/Osram and Alibaba respectively — who’ve decided to build their home automation strategy around Bluetooth mesh networking — confirms early predictions of Bluetooth mesh’s viability in the smart home.

Enabling ‘smarter’ cities

In short time, Bluetooth mesh has become the clear choice for large-scale device networks. Already, nearly 100 products with mesh networking capability have been qualified from leading silicon, stack, component, and end-product vendors.

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. In smart cities, nearly everything is connected. Citizens will benefit from the data and the intelligent management of devices, which becomes a great tool for improving the efficiency, utility, and lifestyle of people living in these locales. Not only this, but Bluetooth already has widespread adoption, and so the realisation of smart city and smart infrastructure technologies is faster because Bluetooth has already done the work of bringing the industry together.