Zigbee. Z-Wave. Thread. WeMo. It’s tough to keep smart home standards straight when new ones emerge practically yearly. But the folks behind the Bluetooth Special Interest Group — the network of member organizations that incubate and iterate Bluetooth technology — want to keep it simple. They propose Bluetooth mesh networking as vendors’ smart home connectivity solution of choice. And at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, they advanced their cause with a newly formed working group.
Bluetooth SIG today announced the formation of the Smart Home Subgroup, a consortium that will aim to create additional Bluetooth mesh model specifications for smart home and related applications. (In this context, “models” refers to Bluetooth mesh’s application layer — i.e., the way in which one Bluetooth mesh device is controlled by another Bluetooth mesh device.) Agreed-upon models will be made available to all member companies.
More than 60 member companies are participating in the new Smart Home Subgroup, including Alibaba, GCT Semiconductor, Lierda, Midea Group IoT Company, MediaTek, Nordic Semiconductor, Novel Bits, S-Labs, Telink Semiconductor, Synopsys, UL Verification Services, and Xiaomi.
“Bluetooth mesh models play a very important role in strengthening the connectivity and interoperability among smart home devices. The Smart Home Subgroup provides a forum for the community to standardize the mesh model solutions, and Alibaba is happy to be working with other member companies on mesh model development,” said Dapeng Liu, chair of Bluetooth SIG’s Smart Home subgroup and Alibaba’s senior standardization expert.
Bluetooth mesh, for the uninitiated, launched in July 2017. It’s based on Bluetooth Low Energy and allows for many-to-many communication over Bluetooth radio. Whereas previous versions of Bluetooth had a range of about 30 feet, devices linked together in a mesh configuration can extend to an overall range of about 1.5 kilometers.
To date, over 105 products with Bluetooth mesh have launched, according to Bluetooth SIG.
“For the smart home market to grow, it needs true global wireless mesh networking standards that can meet the reliability, security, and performance needs of the market,” said Dian Fan, general manager of Xiaomi’s IoT Platform division. “We’re confident that Bluetooth mesh is one of those standards and will enable tremendous growth and innovation in home automation for years to come.”