Anyone who has been keeping an eye on IOT communication standards, listen up. Bluetooth is about the throw a considerable-sized hat into the ring. Now, you would be forgiven for thinking that Bluetooth has already entered the arena years ago, and in fact was one of the original standards that have been used by many smart device manufacturers. Whilst that is correct, this new announcement is going to make ‘old Bluetooth’ seem like a limited, ancient joke in comparison. The reason for this? Bluetooth is bringing mesh networking to the home.
Making a mesh of things
For those of you who aren’t fully aware of what mesh networking is, let us first look at how our smart homes are generally connected right now. Most smart cameras, doorbells, and speakers send their information from the device itself to the router, and in turn, that information is sent to the cloud, and then back to your phone when you review the footage. If you happen to be watching your footage live, then the information goes from the camera to the router, and then to your smartphone. Everything revolves around the router being the central hub for data travelling in any direction. This works fine for some of us, but there are exceptions. Large homes rely on either wifi extenders, multiple routers, or sometimes hardwired Ethernet, to erase those troublesome dead-zones, and cover the entire property in lovely free-flowing wifi. This can be time-consuming and expensive, and even then you are not guaranteed total success (with the exception of hard wiring all your devices). Mesh networking is different, and when implemented in the smart home, it could be the ‘go to’ communication standard for the next ten years.
Rather than each device in your home sending all their information straight to the router, mesh networking allows all the ‘nodes’ (devices) on your network to talk between themselves, and send on information to the particular node that you have selected. For example, if you have 3 Bluetooth speakers in your home, and one happens to be in the garage at the end of the garden, instead of that speaker struggling to keep a weak connection to a router that is the other side of the house, if it can get a better connection to one of the other speakers, it will route the information through that device instead. This means that when you expand your mesh network with new devices, your current set up become even more robust. Obviously, this relies on you placing these devices in slightly different positions than you are used to, but once you start looking at your home in this way, it is pretty simple to imagine how you will spread your devices out from your router to gain the best results.
4.0 and above to go on this ride
Now, one thing to consider when planning your new Bluetooth mesh network is that not all Bluetooth devices are capable of working in this way. It isn’t all bad news though, as plenty of slightly older devices will work fine. If you have Bluetooth 4.0 and above, chances are your device will work fine. Older devices are likely to have issues, and as such, you should plan accordingly when buying your new Bluetooth speakers. It is also worth noting that even with the advancements in Bluetooth 5.0, the throughput of this type of connection is still likely to be too thin for the likes of a smart camera. However, anything that requires a smaller amount of bandwidth should be game for Bluetooth mesh technology, and at the very least we can hope future device manufacturers use Bluetooth 4.0 and above in their devices as at least one of the option when designing their gadgets.
This sort of communication standard should also pave the way for easy to use ‘beacons’ to enter the home in a way they have previously found difficult. Something that has been happening in the manufacturing industry for some time, using low powered Bluetooth beacons could have our homes recognising where we are, and what we are doing when at home, without the need for cameras in absolutely every room. Regular readers of this website, and IOT enthusiasts aside, not everyone wants to be on camera for the entirety of their waking life, and as such, low powered Bluetooth beacons could be the answer to having the lights turn on when you enter the bedroom or having the garage doors open automatically when you return home. While this functionality exists today, Bluetooth mesh could make the whole set up a thousand times easier than it currently is, especially for large homes.
Let us know in the comments if you have any other ideas about home Bluetooth Mesh could help the smart home mature in new ways. For those of you who are already excited about this, expect the first devices to be primed and ready to use very soon. The network specifications, as well as the tools required to qualify new products, are available on the Bluetooth website now, so we should see this functionality implemented almost immediately.