Smart buildings, whether for residential, commercial or mixed use, are a top priority for developers. Connected technology can enable buildings to be more energy-efficient, more cost-effectively compliant with environmental regulations, safer and more secure, and more appealing to tenants and buyers.
However, wired systems can be expensive and complex to commission and install. As such, wireless connectivity is a key implementation, and Bluetooth mesh in particular is standing out as a potential driving force of the smart buildings of the future.
What is Bluetooth mesh?
All mesh networks follow a similar structure, whereby every node within the network is connected to as many other nodes as possible. Mesh networks can dynamically self-organised and self-configure, which makes them very efficient at relaying data. Whilst in traditional networks every node has to connect with a single hotspot or access point, mesh networking nodes communicate with each other, and so the signal is amplified and its range extended.
Bluetooth mesh is simple this structure applied to Bluetooth LE devices. It was conceived in 2015 and adopted in 2017.
What are the benefits of Bluetooth mesh?
Bluetooth mesh networking enables many-to-many device communications, which means it has potential for a wide range of applications where a large number of sensors or devices need to be managed centrally – like those within a smart building. It is highly scalable, reliable and secure – making it useful in commercial environments as well as residential and consumer-focused ones, so it can be used in industrial buildings such as factories, airports, hospitals and department stores as well as in the home. In other words, it can bring massive value to smart buildings in a cost-effective and easy-to-manage way.
The smart lighting use case
One of the highest-profile use cases of Bluetooth mesh networking in smart buildings, and one that has already been rolled out in settings worldwide, is in the management of buildings’ lighting. Low-power LED lighting is already recognised as a powerful technology in reducing the overall energy footprint of buildings; by incorporating Bluetooth mesh technology with their LEDs, manufacturers can create interconnected lighting systems whereby switches, sensors and software throughout a building are made to universal standards and can communicate with each other.
The upshot is lighting systems which can be centrally monitored and automated to, say pass messages (lighting can be used to guide visitors to particular locations, or support them in finding exits in the case of an emergency) or simply manage electricity consumption better (lighting which automatically turns on or off according to the time of day or amount of activity). According to ABI research, smart lighting equipment shipments will increase fivefold by 2022, and this is largely down to Bluetooth mesh technology.
But lighting is only the beginning. Because of Bluetooth mesh’s cost-effective scalability and universal principles, it can form the foundation for a wide range of building automation and optimisation use cases, such as environmental controls, asset tracking and security systems. The possibilities for the smart buildings of the future are enormous. Bluetooth mesh has only just begun.