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Bluetooth SIG mesh

What Is Bluetooth Mesh?

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    Bluetooth mesh is a Bluetooth technology owned by Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). It was launched in July 2017. Generally, it can be defined as computer networking that allows communication between many-to-many communiqué devices.

    It’s perfectly designed to enable extensive networking among devices. According to Bluetooth SIG, Bluetooth mesh was created to suitably build automation and offer several Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, where thousands of devices can communicate effectively and securely.

    It also allows thousands of nodes to communicate efficiently without any connection but within the same network. It is a reliable method of sharing information in large networks.

    How Does Bluetooth Mesh Work?

    how bluetooth mesh work

    Bluetooth mesh operates under one principle; a Flood network. This is where the nodes relay messages in a certain manner, either in uncontrolled flooding or controlled flooding.

    In uncontrolled flooding, every node shares the same message to all its neighbors unconditionally. In controlled flooding, each node plays both roles of transmitting or receiving the message.

    Bluetooth Mesh has a message cache that prevents conveying similar messages or messages relayed recently. The figure below shows how a Bluetooth mesh network operates.

    Characteristics of Messages Relayed In Bluetooth Mesh

    1. All messages relayed must begin with an opcode as shown below;
    Opcode (in bytes) Type of message
    1 Special
    2 Standard
    3 Vendor-specific
    1. All messages have the sender and receiver addresses.
    2. They all have sequence numbers which are essential as they defend the network against all attacks.
    3. They all have time to live (TTL).
    4. They are all encrypted and authenticated using the following keys;
      • Network keys
      • Application keys
    1. Each message sent should not exceed 384 bytes. However, most of the messages relayed are 11 bytes long.

    The Bluetooth Meshworks flawlessly in a network of several compatible devices like;

    • Laptops
    • Smartphone
    • Televisions
    • Desktops
    • Speakers
    • Headphones
    • Other low power devices

    BLE Mesh Communication Protocols

    BLE mesh communication protocols

    Bluetooth mesh uses a variety of protocol stacks during communication. The core stacks are divided into two;

    • Host stack, which deals with high-level data and acts as a segment of the operating system.
    • Controller stack

    However, the most important component of the Bluetooth communication protocol is the Generic Access Profile (GAP). This element of Bluetooth mesh technology manages the scanning and broadcasting processes of all Bluetooth devices.

    GAP also plays an important role in controlling how the devices connect to other nearby devices. Bluetooth 4.1 and 5.0 enable all devices to connect and broadcast data directly to other devices.

    Advantages of Bluetooth Mesh

    Although many solutions have been offered using different wireless technologies, the best is Bluetooth Mesh technology. It has several advantages over other wireless networks. Read on.

    1. It’s more reliable as it provides vendor interoperability. For instance, Nordic Bluetooth Mesh technologies, especially nRF52 Series Soc and nRF Bluetooth Mesh, are reliable, as they have multiple paths from sender to receiver, which operate without failure. The Bluetooth mesh stack in this nRF helps in implementing Bluetooth mesh profile specifications.
    2. It extends range, unlike other wireless technologies like WI-FI.
    3. It uses low energy, especially Bluetooth low-energy mesh.
    4. It can operate efficiently on other existing Bluetooth hardware, especially Bluetooth 4.0.
    5. It is more secure than other wireless networks. For instance, all messages in this technology are encrypted and authenticated.
    6. It is quick and easy to install.

    Application of Bluetooth Mesh Network

    Bluetooth mesh network is widely used globally. It’s used in education sectors, health centers, cities, and many other places, where other wireless networks become unreliable.

    1. Bluetooth Mesh in Schools

    University and college students and staff widely use Bluetooth Mesh. This technology is also being embraced in high schools.

    It is convenient in education centers as it can help students and lecturers download large learning files, especially when WI-FI becomes unreliable. Also, due to the wide internet connection coverage by Bluetooth mesh, student’s and staff’s security is guaranteed as they can get information easily in case of emergency.

    2. Bluetooth Mesh in Cities

    With Bluetooth mesh, it’s now easy for cities to connect citizens with this connection. Commuters can easily check their emails and other social networks wherever they are around the city. The technology has also enhanced security in towns as communication through the internet is easy and quick in emergency cases.

    3. Bluetooth Mesh in Health Centers

    Many hospitals prefer Bluetooth mesh networks instead of traditional ones as they are convenient and easy to install. Internet connectivity in this sector is vital as patients’ files need to be updated every day for convenience. Also, doctors can track patients and other colleagues from their laptops or tablets on the premises easily.

    4. Bluetooth Mesh in the Hospitality Sector

    Bluetooth mesh technology has become the rule in most restaurants and hotels around the globe. It is easy and quick to install both outdoors and indoors. It’s effective than a wired network, especially during outdoor concerts in these resorts. It’s also less expensive as compared to WI-FI.

    5. Bluetooth Mesh in Warehouses

    Most modern warehouses depend on this technology to keep track of all warehouse logistics.

    Security in Bluetooth Mesh Network

    One major issue that needs to be addressed concerning the Internet of Things is security. It is a reoccurring concern that can interfere with the Internet of Things benefits like convenience and flexibility. It should be the number one priority, especially in Bluetooth mesh networking.

    The main reason why Bluetooth mesh security should be mandatory is that many devices are involved. Generally, it is built on thousands of Bluetooth mesh devices that communicate with each other. However, in Bluetooth low-energy mesh, security is optional as only a single device is involved.

    Fundamentals of Bluetooth Mesh Security

    These security statements should apply to all Bluetooth mesh networking devices.

    1.Encryption and authentication

    All the messages shared among the Bluetooth mesh networking devices must be encrypted and authenticated to enhance security.

    2.Separation of concerns

    Three types of security keys are used in Bluetooth mesh network security. They include;

    • App keys, which address application security concerns.
    • Network keys (Netkey), which solve network security issues.
    • Device key (Devkey), which addresses device security issues.

    All of them are used to tackle different security issues in Bluetooth mesh networking. In other words, all security issues are addressed independently.

    3.Area isolation

    In Bluetooth mesh, the network is sometimes divided into different subnets. In this case, each subnet is given its own key and can only communicate with subnets with the same key.

    4.Key refresh

    As seen above, most Bluetooth mesh nodes have special security keys. But these keys might need replacement in case a node becomes faulty. In this case, a key refresh procedure is done, and all other nodes are issued with new security keys.

    5.Message obfuscation

    Obfuscation prevents the messages sent within the network from being tracked. It also ensures that nodes are secure.

    6.Replay attack protection

    A replay attack is where an eavesdropper captures a message being transmitted and retransmits it later to make the recipient do something that the invader is not allowed to do. The Bluetooth mesh security helps in preventing such episodes.

    7.Trashcan attack protection

    When faulty nodes are removed from the network, they can no longer use their network keys as the remaining nodes are issued with new keys. This helps in preventing trashcan attacks.

    8.Secure device provisioning

    The process of adding more nodes and devices to the Bluetooth mesh network is safe and secure.

    Bluetooth Mesh Software Development Kit

    To benefit maximally from the Bluetooth mesh features, you need Bluetooth mesh software. Some of the features that the Bluetooth mesh development kit helps improve are;

    • Angle of arrival (AoA)
    • Angle of departure (AoD)
    • 2M and LE Long Range PHYs
    • Advertisement sets
    • LE Data Length Extensions
    • LE Dual Topology
    • Scan event reporting LE Secure connections

    Are Products Embracing Bluetooth Mesh Technology?

    Various products in the market are using this Bluetooth technology. For a product to have Bluetooth mesh networking potential, it must undergo a Bluetooth mesh qualification process. This ensures that it has all the Bluetooth requirements.

    Read on for the Bluetooth qualification process that all products must undergo to qualify as Bluetooth beacons.

    Bluetooth Qualification Process

    This process enables the companies that want their products to be enabled with Bluetooth features to comply with;

    • Bluetooth patent and copyright license agreement.
    • Bluetooth trademark license agreement.
    • Bluetooth specifications.

    To qualify for this process, your products must have all Bluetooth designs. This means they must have the required hardware and software for Bluetooth mesh specifications as explained in the Bluetooth mesh profile.

    To qualify your products, you need to keep in mind various things;

    1.For your creation to be considered as a Bluetooth product, the qualification process is key.

    Even if your supplier’s product has undergone a qualification process, your products must also undergo the process. In short, you can’t inherit the qualification rights from your supplier.

    Also, the product can complete the qualification process successfully if it’s under the Member Company’s account and not under the supplier’s account.

    2.Check the qualification of the products if you are reselling.

    It’s always advisable to check whether the products you are reselling from another company have completed the qualification process. This is important, especially if you are reselling it as a Bluetooth mesh product.

    3.Don’t market your products if not completed the qualification process.

    It’s illegal to sell your merchandise as Bluetooth enhanced products when not qualified yet. You can only distribute them after the qualification process is successful. Also, during the process, ensure you give the correct details that exactly match your products.

    Latest versions of Bluetooth Mesh

    Internet of things wireless communication technology is experiencing a lot of issues. The solution to these issues is the introduction of the latest versions of Bluetooth mesh. One of these versions that are widely used around the globe is Bluetooth 5.0 mesh network.

    Overview of Bluetooth 5.0 mesh

    This Bluetooth specification was unveiled in 2016. It was mainly an improvement of Bluetooth 4. Some of these improvements that make the two versions different as shown in the illustration below;

    Bluetooth mesh version Range in ft Speed in (Mbit/s) Message length in bytes Data transfer rate (mbs/s) Output power (dBm)
    4.0 200 25 31 1 10
    5.0 5000 50 255 2 20

    From the above table, it’s evident that the Bluetooth 5.0 mesh has more improved features that can help solve some of the internets of things issues. These features include;

    • Improved speed
    • Increased message length
    • Increased message sending capacity
    • Increased data transfer rate
    • Increased output power
    • Increased range

    All the above features make Bluetooth 5 mesh more advantageous than other versions like Bluetooth 4.0. All latest smart devices now support this version of Bluetooth technology.

    Other Bluetooth 5.0 Mesh Features

    Other things that this latest version of Bluetooth brings to the table include the following;

    1.Bluetooth low-energy for headphones

    Bluetooth LE audio

    Bluetooth low-energy uses less power as devices communicate with each other. The feature is essential for devices like phones and headphones as they rely on batteries for power.

    Although Bluetooth low-energy was introduced and enabled in Bluetooth 4.0 mesh, it wasn’t as helpful as in Bluetooth 5. It was only applicable to small internet of things devices, wearable, and beacons. Therefore, headphones and other large gadgets would continue using high-power Bluetooth connections.

    All devices can now communicate over Bluetooth low-energy with the introduction of Bluetooth 5 mesh. This increases the battery life of these communication devices.

    2.Bluetooth dual audio

    Bluetooth dual audio

    This simply means connecting more than one audio device to a source. For instance, you can connect two headphones or two speakers to your laptop. This is possible with Bluetooth 5.0 mesh.

    Other Certified Bluetooth Mesh Models

    ESP32 Bluetooth mesh is another model of this Bluetooth technology that is certified by Bluetooth SIG. Its features include;

    1. Has Both Bluetooth and WI-FI Chips

    ESP32 has SPI and SDIO interfaces that enable it to provide Bluetooth and WI-FI functionalities. It can also perform as a standalone system and can be used for various applications.

    2. Has a Robust design

    ESP32 performs effectively in industrial environments under the –40°C to +125°C temperature range.

    3. It Has Ultra-Low Power Consumption

    ESP32 is effectively used in internet of things applications and mobile devices as it consumes low power. It has dynamic power modes and power scaling features.

    4. It Is Highly Integrated

    ESP32 is in-built with various features that make your applications function properly. They include;

    • Filters
    • Power amplifiers
    • Antenna switches
    • Power management modules
    • Low noise amplifiers

    Future of Bluetooth Models

    There is a major development in Bluetooth technology as it is opening new and great opportunities for innovators to experiment and show their creativity. The Bluetooth Special Interest group has recently announced the development of Bluetooth 5.1 mesh.

    Although it may take some time for Bluetooth 5.1 to be functional in most Bluetooth mesh devices, it will soon find its way. This technology will have various new features, as discussed below.

    1. Improved Accuracy

    The current Bluetooth technology, especially Bluetooth 5.0, can tell how far a device is by detecting its signal strength. But it cannot guess the direction of that device, i.e., where the device is heading or coming from.

    Interestingly, the new Bluetooth 5.1 technology will have this direction-finding feature. This technology will have the ability to assess the device’s exact location, the direction it’s coming from, and the distance.

    Therefore, this Bluetooth technology will be vital in the future for easier tracking of networking devices. For instance, if you lose your smartphone or laptop, the direction feature will make the search process quicker and easier.

    2. Improved Connection Speed

    Bluetooth 5.1 will be connecting to other devices faster than Bluetooth 5.0 as it will have better caching. The technology will also save the time customers spend going through service discovery as they connect to Bluetooth. This will make the connection faster.

    3. Less Power Consumption

    Like Bluetooth 5.0, this new Bluetooth technology will be low-energy. This means that even as it performs all its functions aggressively, the power consumption rate is low.

    4. Advertising Advancements

    Bluetooth 5.1 will have more developments on connection advertisements. This means it will have several connections to announce its presence to all nearby Bluetooth devices. The technology will also help reduce the chances of interference when several Bluetooth devices are in the same area.

    What Does A Wireless Mesh Network Do?

    a wireless Bluetooth mesh network forma

    A wireless mesh network is a network device formed by several wireless radios with software that helps them work harmoniously without coordination. This technology is different from traditional networks, as it has no central coordination or computer to handle all the network traffic. Instead, the devices communicate with each other easily and efficiently.

    The wireless mesh network has wirelessly connected routers, which act as wireless access points for its customers, such as smartphones and laptops.

    These routers are connected via a backbone that resembles a mesh-like structure. For the customers to send or receive information, this mesh-like backbone network is used.  The routers also help these clients to access the network.

    To connect to the internet, an external network, you must connect some routers to a wired network. These routers help in acting as gateways.

    Types of Wireless Mesh Network

    This technology is divided into two topologies;

     Partial mesh and full mesh

    • Partially-connected mesh network
    • Fully-connected mesh network

    Fully connected is the one that creates a mesh-like pattern of network connections. In this technology, all nodes are connected to each other and communicate harmoniously. Also, the nodes must cooperate as they distribute information.

    In partially connected technology, some nodes will be inter-connected, and they communicate through hubs and switches.

    The figure below shows how a wireless mesh network works in the process of sharing the internet.

    Wireless mesh network

    As you can see in the figure above, only one node is required to be wired to the internet in a wireless mesh network. It then shares an internet connection with all the nodes near it wirelessly. So, all these nodes require a power supply like solar panels or batteries but not wires to function outdoors.

    Do Mesh Networks Really Work?

    Yes. Mesh networks function perfectly in connecting the entire city to a network. It does this through wireless, reliable, and existing technology.

    Unlike traditional networks, which rely on wired technology to connect users, wireless mesh networks rely on several wireless mesh nodes to connect users in a whole city to a network.

    Advantages of Mesh Network

    1.It’s Scalable

    Every node in the mesh network acts as a router. It’s, therefore, not necessary for additional routers. So, you can conveniently increase the size of your network, depending on your needs.

    For instance, if you want to add some desktops and smartphones to a meeting room, you can do it easily. The best part is the added gadgets will connect to the network automatically.

    You can also add light sources to your conference room or other additional offices quickly as you control the whole network system without requiring extra management.

    2.Can Easily Resist Problems

    Another advantage of a mesh network is its self-healing capability. If one node stops functioning or loses the signal, it doesn’t affect the entire networking process. Other nodes can easily complete the mesh as the failed node heals itself.

    The reason behind this healing is the capability of each node to send, receive, and translate information. The redundancy created in the process helps in keeping the nodes running even if one of them fails.

    3.It’s Affordable

    Generally, mesh networks use a few wires. This means that the installation cost is low. So, even if you want to set up a network that can cover a large area, you can easily afford it.

    4.It’s Easy to Add A Range

    You can easily add a range that you want your mesh network to cover. You simply do this by adding more nodes or connecting some of your nodes to gateways.

    5.It’s Convenient

    Mesh networks are suitable where there are no Ethernet wall connections. For instance, if you have a concert in an outdoor venue, this network is more appropriate. It’s also convenient in almost all transportation settings.

    6.It’s Self Configuring

    As said earlier, you can increase the number of nodes of a mesh network if you want to increase the range it’s covering. In this case, the added nodes don’t require any network administrator to adjust the network for them to work.

    The network incorporates them automatically as they are self-configuring.

    7.It’s Easy To Install

    Normally, the nodes in mesh networks are easy to install and uninstall. This makes it easy to change the coverage area, depending on your requirements.

    Disadvantages of a Mesh Network

    1.Complicated Initial Network Set up

    Setting up a mesh network from scratch can be very complicated and tedious. Establishing the perfect place to set up each node is also complex and time-consuming as you have to install them where there’ll be no latency problems. But once you’re done with the initial setup, it’s easy and quick to add more nodes.

    2.Consumes More Power

    Each node in a mesh network acts as both transmitter and receiver. For this reason, the nodes strain as they try to play both roles. So, for them to operate effectively, more power is needed.

    This might be a small issue for large nodes as they are wired to the electrical system directly, unlike the small battery-powered ones.

    3.Latency Problems

    Latency is the time a message consumes to move from each node to the gateway. This time can affect the entire mesh networking setup. You can easily improve the latency issue by using a mesh network with additional memory, power, and bandwidth.

    However, for low-power, wide-area networks, latency becomes a major problem for mesh networks.

    4.Complicated Workload

    Mesh networks are highly scalable and require adding more nodes depending on the needs. Complications arise when you have latency problems, and you’re required to add more nodes to help solve the problem. The entire network planning becomes more difficult as you have to deploy various equipment types for the network to function properly.

    What Makes Bluetooth Mesh Different

    The Bluetooth mesh makes home automation better than other wireless networks, especially WI-FI. Even though you can turn on your house power with your smartphone or laptop with WI-FI, Bluetooth mesh offers a better experience.

    You can turn on your entertainment system, air conditioning, or alarm system by just opening your front door. This is enabled by Bluetooth mesh technology.

    Also, Bluetooth mesh is less expensive and more efficient than other wireless technology like WI-FI. For instance, the technology has made tracking of devices simpler and has also enhanced wireless security.

    Other traditional wireless networks are not convenient when communication is among many people. WI-FI makes the problem worse as high power is needed to make a WI-FI signal cover a wide area. In such cases, Bluetooth mesh technology is effective as devices connect to each other and pass information from one device to another, forming a communication web.

    Conclusion

    Bluetooth SIG mesh is a computer networking that allows communication to take place between many-to-many communiqué devices. It also allows thousands of nodes to communicate efficiently without any connection but within the same network. It is a reliable method of sharing information in large networks as compared to other wireless networks.

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