Bluetooth΄s Emerging Role in the Industrial IoT
As the Internet of Things gains popularity, Bluetooth is coming into play industrially. Its interoperability has exciting possibilities for consumers.
12:49 03 September 2019
Most people think of Bluetooth as a useful but consumer-oriented technology. It allows us to make easy wireless connections from smartphones to headsets, portable speakers, our cars, and other devices. This is what most people rely on it for.
But Chuck Sabin, the Senior Director of Market Development for the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, says that this technology is becoming a key player in the Industrial Internet of Things. He says that the tech is very well suited to both consumer and enterprise markets, and specifically cites its easy-to-implement low-power connections.
More importantly, however, is the fact that it is ubiquitous, with a global awareness of 90% and multi-vendor, blanket interoperability. Most of us already use it for listening to music, beaming the best online pokies Australia has to offer from our phones to our televisions, and more. But the horizons for its utilisation are extending hugely.
The Flexibility of Bluetooth 5
Sabin explains that the introduction of Bluetooth 5 back in 2015 was all about flexibility. Its longer range and higher speeds can provide the vital adaptability necessary to support more trustworthy connections in a wider variety of big, noisy environments. These include typical commercial and industrial spaces.
For example, Sabin used a warehouse being a far different environment than a nuclear power plant’s basement. One is open, requiring connections over longer ranges, and the other is more complex. There is a lot of interfaces, and a steady device network or connection is necessary to deliver information in spite of that level of noise.
Mesh Networks’ Communication
Bluetooth Mesh was released in July 2017, and extended the core specification to allow for industrial-grade many-to-many communication, says Sabin. This means tens, hundreds, and even thousands of different devices can now reliably and safely communicate with each other. These networks are ideal for the control, monitoring, and automation of systems, and are also able to reduce latency and refine security.
The Bluetooth SIG recently announced an innovative direction-finding feature for this technology, granting even greater precision to the location-services systems in use in enterprise and industrial settings. Low Energy introduced the ability to estimate the location of a device by comparing signal strength between the object being located and the tracking device at a broad level of accuracy. This, in turn, has led to cheap, mass-market indoor location and asset-tracking solutions being developed.
The new feature has hugely increased the precision factor. Sabin says not only will you be told that your device is in a specific room, for example, but that it is in the back of that room, in the left-hand corner! And the SIG is working at adding additional distance to the feature, so you will know that it is in a certain room, say, in the back, left-hand corner, which is now 30 feet from you, for instance.
This increase in precision will make way for new applications, including safety and security monitoring, helping, possibly, with jobs like keeping workers outside of toxic environments becoming automated.