“Mesh networks using Bluetooth technology have a bright future. By making the most of your existing lighting systems, both your company and your customers can realize enormous potential for added value.
By: Alf Helge Omre, Business Development Manager, Nordic semiconductor
Mesh networks using Bluetooth technology have a bright future. By making the most of your existing lighting systems, both your company and your customers can realize enormous value-adding potential.
Although mesh networks are nothing new, it is only now that people are starting to use them in industrial and commercial settings. Bluetooth Mesh provides a low-power mesh network with the potential for diverse value-added services.
New mesh network
Bluetooth mesh transforms the Bluetooth network from a typical star-based peer-to-peer network to a true mesh network topology. In such a network, if the customer’s device is within the communication range of the other device, the communication range of both devices is increased. As customers continue to add nodes, the communication range continues to expand.
This is an exciting advantage for smart homes, as it enables users to combine Bluetooth devices from different vendors. Moreover, Bluetooth mesh will also bring great value to sensor-dense environments in manufacturing plants and retail environments.
Lighting is the perfect practical scenario
Whether factories, airports or shopping malls, lighting applications are everywhere, and most importantly, these are powered by mains power. For these reasons, I am sure the lighting industry will be the dominant ecosystem for measuring and transmitting sensor data in commercial settings.
Once a network is established, there are many potential benefits to the business, both internally and externally. Management of the infrastructure becomes easier, and customers benefit from the ability of their smartphones to communicate with the mesh network.
The most obvious benefit comes from the lighting system itself. Using sensors connected to a Bluetooth mesh network, customers can program the lighting system to dim the lights in specific areas of the building when there is plenty of outside light or when there are no occupants. To prevent the lights from turning off in the middle of an important meeting, a Bluetooth mesh network can monitor the movement and presence of smartphones in the room.
Cut infrastructure and maintenance costs
Modern office spaces are very flexible, and rooms are often dynamically configured. While moving dividers and furniture can be cumbersome, reconfiguring lighting involves more factors, is a more complex process, and often requires rewiring. By using mesh networking, customers can remotely configure lighting functions on a room-by-room basis without the need for an electrician!
Maintenance planning can also benefit from increased efficiency thanks to predictive maintenance work. Today, maintaining a lighting system is not done by a janitor with a single bulb replacement, but more akin to an annual maintenance service for a car. By knowing the remaining life time of a light fixture, customers can turn down the power to a specific light fixture so that it can be used until the next maintenance service.
Lighting can boost sales
Lighting color temperature changes over the life of an LED, and in some areas, such as high-end retail, color temperature is very important. In the case of diamonds, they are brightest at a certain color temperature. As the LEDs age, a feedback loop in the lighting system can automatically adjust the color.
Despite the difference in price, the concept of lighting color temperature applies equally to fruits and vegetables and clothing in supermarkets. Have you ever bought clothes that looked good in store light but didn’t look so good when you got home?
A more comfortable and safe environment
Simple sensors can measure carbon dioxide levels, humidity, temperature, and more, improving the responsiveness of facility management teams to prevent problems before they occur. These sensors can also be used to detect movement, heat or smoke, so they can act as security alarms or fire alarms.
By placing asset tags on precious items, customers can easily find their location via a Bluetooth mesh network, or notify security when a particular item is “moved.”
Bring more interactive experience to customers
Customers can combine Bluetooth mesh networking and beacon technology to add more value to consumers.
At its simplest, a Bluetooth beacon is a device that broadcasts a unique identifier that can be received by a receiver (usually a smartphone), which then performs some predefined action. The original beacons (such as the Apple iBeacon) were one-way communicators and tied to a specific application.
Newer systems such as Google Eddystone allow for two-way communication, with richer applications and interoperability. This allows the real world to gain access to certain functions of the internet, such as accessing a customer’s previous data.
The potential applications for these technologies are virtually limitless, some of the most popular include:
・ Indoor maps of shopping malls and airports
・ Send a “Go to the gate” message at the airport
・ Push free tastings to entice people as they pass by the restaurant
・ Discounts based on previous purchases
As a foundation for adding value in a commercial environment, a Bluetooth mesh network built into an industrial lighting system is ideal. Each light fixture can even become a beacon, providing additional benefits to retail environments.