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Bluetooth LE Standard Gains Mesh Networking for Improved Smart Home Connectivity

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group today announced that its Bluetooth technology has been updated with support for mesh networking, designed to create large-scale device networks by connecting multiple Bluetooth devices to one another.

Bluetooth calls these "many-to-many" connections, which can support just a handful of devices or up to thousands. In a home setting, the mesh feature will be useful for connecting smart home devices to one another to establish a network that spans an entire house, with no areas that are out of range.


Mesh networks are an improvement over single-point connections because a Bluetooth signal can be transmitted from device to device, reaching further distances. Some products, like the ZigBee-based Philips Hue line of lights, already use mesh networking techniques that are similar to what's being implemented today.

Bluetooth mesh also has many commercial uses, because it creates a reliable network with no single point of failure, it can scale to support thousands of nodes, it supports multi-vendor interoperability, and it offers industrial-grade security. Bluetooth SIG believes Bluetooth mesh will be essential for commercial building and factory automation.

"By adding support for mesh networking, the Bluetooth member community is continuing a long history of focused innovation to help new, up-and-coming markets flourish," said Mark Powell, executive director for Bluetooth SIG, Inc. "In the same way the connected device market experienced rapid growth after the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy, we believe Bluetooth mesh networking can play a vital role in helping early stage markets, such as building automation and wireless sensor networks, experience more rapid growth."
Existing devices that support Bluetooth 4.0 or 5.0 can be updated with support for Bluetooth mesh, but implementing support requires a firmware update.

Bluetooth mesh networking specifications and the tools that qualify Bluetooth products with networking support are available on the Bluetooth Website. Bluetooth SIG told The Verge that it often takes approximately six months for manufacturers to adopt new Bluetooth technology, but mesh could start rolling out sooner because it doesn't require new hardware.



Top Rated Comments

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19 months ago
Great news.... that means everything back to the iPhone 5 will be supported; pending a future firmware update, if one becomes available.
Rating: 5 Votes
19 months ago
R.I.P., ZigBee.
R.I.P., Z-Wave.
Rating: 4 Votes
19 months ago
Call it, Blue-Teeth. :D
Rating: 3 Votes
19 months ago
So now we can use bluetooth instead of wifi for multi-room audio? I'm in
Rating: 3 Votes
19 months ago
Even more radiation.:rolleyes:
Rating: 3 Votes
19 months ago
The NEW Internet! :D (Silicon Valley reference).

Jokes aside, this is much welcome for home automation to improve reliability and latency.
Rating: 2 Votes
19 months ago

Handoff is handled by the client, not the access points, and the client tends to do a bad job. My iPhone, for example, is dumb enough to stay on a dying connection for like 30 seconds as I walk right next to another AP it could connect to, so I keep having to force it to rescan. My parents' house is a hostile environment for wifi signals themselves due to materials in the walls, so there are many APs, and the problem is extremely apparent there. AirPort Express totally failed the test there. Same with my college housing a few years back, except they had higher-end equipment.

If you buy special wifi equipment with fancy tricks to help with this, it works a lot better (but still not flawlessly). Seems like those employ hacks to get around the deficiency in the wifi standard, like spoofing values or forcing clients to disconnect at a higher threshold, and the latter requires some tuning. Standard equipment like AirPort or whatever modem/router/wifi combo your cable company installs doesn't do the job.

Another issue is interference between APs. Pros are careful to avoid this, then they tell everyone not to set up their own APs. Wireless mesh setups avoid this automatically, though TBH I'm not sure exactly how they do it.

As a result, if my requirement is that I have at least 1 Mbit/s at all times, in my experience LTE has been better than wifi even in buildings with pro wifi setups. I've almost never seen my LTE fail, but wifi always has dead zones.
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It's possible. BT does support networking, I think IP at the lowest. BT 5 theoretically supports 48 Mbit/s. That's way more than enough for most. If I can get even 4 Mbit/s with Bluetooth but have perfect connectivity and easier setup, I'd gladly take that tradeoff.


Such as?


I have had a great experience with my Ubiquiti Unifi setup. 24 port PoE switch, 2 Pro APs and their Security Gateway Router. It is also scaleable so I can run a line and add another AP if I feel I need one (like in garage or backyard, etc).

With a POE switch you do not need a power outlet in the ceiling for each access point (i.e. PoE "Power over Ethernet"). Also, with ethernet ran to each access point it means you get full gigabit backhaul instead of these extenders that reduce speed as they need to hop from one to another. To my knowledge this is not much different than a mesh network, just with gigabit wired backhaul.

You can literally look at the Unifi management software and see a device (like an iPhone) move connection from one access point to another seamlessly.
Rating: 1 Votes
19 months ago
Bluetooth LE is designed to send short messages using very little power. This makes it ideal for sending and receiving status information and short commands such as found in home automation and ibeacon applications. It is not designed to transfer medium or large amounts of data such as found in headsets, headphones, mice, keyboards or any file transfer operations.
"Regular" Bluetooth is designed for these types of applications and is a completely different standard than Bluetooth LE.

I have not read the new specification but I suspect the mesh networking is for Bluetooth LE and not "Regular" Bluetooth. If so it will not help audio applications or any other data networking implementation.
It will help and greatly expand the possibilities in home automation and environmental monitoring and control as well as health monitoring.
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Can Tile tracker devices benefit from this or do they not have a way to upgrade firmware?

Since the tile uses the signal strength between your phone and the tile to, very roughly, determine the distance between phone and tile a mesh network will be undesirable to use in this application.

I have not read the new specification but I could imagine that mesh could possibly be useful if the number of hops between the phone and the tile is available. Even so this would not, unfortunately, indicate direction.
Overall it seems to me adding mesh capability to a tile would make it less useful not more useful.
Rating: 1 Votes
19 months ago
Off topic: Everyone should use Vimeo.
Rating: 1 Votes
19 months ago

Yes, I've looked a little into Ubiquiti after hearing good things about it, just haven't gotten around to upgrading my parents' setup. They've got AirPort Express or Extreme everywhere, and it's a disaster. From what I've seen, those Ubiquiti devices are the kind I described that use tricks to get roaming to work well.

But first... I wanna try using one AP, connecting its antenna port into the coax network, and putting antennas on the edges. Probably won't work, but it would be cool if it did. I've tried connecting an AP through standard TV-grade coax to a TV antenna before, and it provided far-reaching signal outdoors, despite what everyone on the Internet says about that.


I have no coax in my network so I can't speak to that but an interesting idea. If you can run the ethernet to where you need, it is not hard to terminate the cable and each AP is only about $130. I would certainly recommend it to others if their budget allows. Now my Time Capsule sits in bridge mode for Mac backups only , and the next step for me is to get a few Unifi security cameras that also run over PoE. The cameras have their own software and you can point them to local storage, instead of having to pay for a cloud subscription like most other companies push.

Just remember if you do go the Unifi route you need to install their software on a machine on the local network (ideally one that is always on). If that is not an option, look into the Unifi Cloud Key.
Rating: 1 Votes

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