Bluetooth mesh is a protocol that will run on top of any Bluetooth 4.0 device. It does not need Bluetooth 5 hardware, Silicon Labs marketing manager Mikko Savolainen told Electronics Weekly. It relies completely on Bluetooth Low Energy ‘advertising’ messages, defining what goes into the 31byte payload.
A software stack for existing silicon that can implement Bluetooth Mesh 1.0 is the first Silicon Labs product.
Next are Bluetooth mesh mobile apps supporting the firm’s Bluetooth-capable chips and modules. Android versions are available now, with the iOS versions expected at the end of this year.
The third product is a software development kit, to assist product vendors with their product software.
“We expect to see a wave of new devices hit the market by leveraging ubiquitous Bluetooth connectivity to create hub-less mesh networks that extend the range and reliability of Bluetooth systems,” said Silicon Labs v-p IoT products Daniel Cooley.
According to Savolainen, whether or not a particular Bluetooth mesh network node acts as a relay for messages between other nodes is an attribute which can be turned on or off.
Battery-powered nodes like domestic wireless light switches will not be expected to act as relays as this pushes power consumption up from µA to mA.
The ceiling light fitting, is a likely venue for relay activity as there is a mains power supply and good visibility, he said.
In commercial settings, such as shops, such light fittings could also be the source of Bluetooth ‘beaconning’ – wirelessly advertising nearby products.
Further away, Bluetooth-connected light fittings could also become the nodes that implement Bluetooth ‘scanning’ – searching for mobile beacons – for example attached to assets – for asset tracking in warehouses or hospitals for example, said Savolainen.
Si Labs has silicon for BT, Thread and Zigbee – on the same multi-mode chip in some cases.