Bluetooth steps up fight against Wi-Fi by adding Mesh Networking

Posted Jul 20, 2017 by James Walker
Bluetooth SIG, the organisation behind the Bluetooth standard, has announced the technology now supports mesh networking. The system enables large-scale networks of devices to be set up, letting Bluetooth drive masses of connected "smart" products.
Bluetooth Mesh Networking will aid the Internet of Things
Bluetooth Mesh Networking will aid the Internet of Things / Pexels
Mesh networking is already a feature of modern Wi-Fi devices. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are currently battling each other for supremacy over the Internet of Things (IoT). Whereas the two technologies previously had distinct applications, the advent of IoT has blurred the boundaries between the two.
By adding support for mesh networking, Bluetooth can narrow the gap with Wi-Fi. Bluetooth now supports the creation of large-scale many-to-many networks that give sensors, connected household items, automation services and other "smart" products the ability to seamlessly interoperate.
Bluetooth Mesh Networking
Bluetooth Mesh Networking
Bluetooth SIG
The radios fitted to each device can "mesh" together, extending the range of the Bluetooth network. Previously, Bluetooth's operating radius was around 200 metres. The mesh system now allows for an almost limitless expansion. Devices communicate with each other through the mesh. As long as each node is within 200 metres of another, data can flow to any point of the network.
Bluetooth's implementation of mesh networking uses a "managed flood approach" to message transmission. The technology has been pioneered by Silvair, a Polish smart lighting company that set out to build a Bluetooth mesh for its products. This week, Bluetooth SIG officially recognised the system, making it a part of the Bluetooth standard.
Bluetooth Mesh Networking
Bluetooth Mesh Networking
Bluetooth SIG
"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 of Bluetooth SIG.
"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."
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The launch of Bluetooth Mesh Networking means there's now a credible rival to Wi-Fi mesh systems. As the Internet of Things gains traction, node-based networks where each device can expand the transmission range will become more important. They'll enable signals to be passed seamlessly between sensors on a factory floor or a cluster of autonomous vehicles on the roads.
The technology also has direct implementations in the home. Modern Wi-Fi routers like Google Wi-Fi let you "mesh" hotspots together to easily expand your network. Bluetooth devices will soon expand each other's range in a similar way, simplifying connectivity.