Bluetooth aims for the smart home market with new mesh network spec


A new Bluetooth Mesh specification released today takes aim at mesh network standards like ZigBee, which connects popular smart home devices such as Philips Hue lights.

The mesh network spec, created by standards group Bluetooth SIG, allows devices to work together to extend range by re-transmitting the signals they receive. For example, a Bluetooth-connected speaker’s connection might not reach across the width of a home, but can manage the distance easily when its signal is being re-transmitted by a series of connected lights and a garage door opener.

For those concerned that safety might be an issue when turning smart devices into a deeply connected web, the specification requires all communications to be encrypted.

The mesh network spec… allows devices to work together to extend range by re-transmitting the signals they receive.

Further, mesh networking is a great fit for Bluetooth devices because most are very low power, and the mesh specification allows them to conserve energy by sending out lower power signals that don’t need to span across multiple rooms. Additionally, not all devices will have to take part in the mesh, if there’s a need for further power conservation.

Bluetooth SIG is also allowing some mesh devices to act as “proxies,” which let other Bluetooth products connect to and control the devices on the mesh network. In this manner, one could use their smartphone to connect to a mesh proxy and, for instance, control smart lights.

The new specification can be added to any device that already supports Bluetooth 4.0 or 5.0, but whether current devices receive it depends on manufacturers’ updates. Bluetooth SIG expects Bluetooth Mesh to penetrate the market more quickly than a release that requires new hardware, predicting large scale entrance in under six months.

While Bluetooth’s mesh network specification puts it in a better position to remain relevant in the era of the smart home, Wi-Fi remains a better option for high-speed connections. That’s not the only reason Bluetooth SIG should keep close tabs on Wi-Fi, either: the Wi-Fi Alliance is also creating a low power spec that will directly compete with Bluetooth.

Source: The Verge