Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Mesh Networking, a relatively new technology development, stole at least some of the spotlight at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month. While a slew of new products were displayed and discussed, a portion of the conversation centered on interoperability and smart home networks.
Stewart Wolpin, a contributor at the Twice publication, suggested that the “most critical smart-home product for this year’s CES may not be a bulb, thermostat, switch, lock, appliance or any other smart device, or even an ecosystem. Instead, the biggest news in smart home and IoT […] may be the improvements in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth infrastructure (Wi-Fi Mesh Spreading and BLE Mesh Networking) that support the products consumers buy.”
He makes a valid point. BLE Mesh Networking offers a way for existing connected devices to work together to deliver greater efficiency, reliability, and security. It also increases the range of those devices. With BLE Mesh Networking, coverage would extend across a single residence, office complex, or automobile fleet. That same ability proffers other possibilities; it could affect AI and M2M applications within environments. Through it, people would experience enhanced communication, convenience, and cooperation.
What Is BLE Mesh Networking?
But before we address how BLE Mesh Networking works and why it’s important to homes, buildings and vehicles — and, in turn, the larger realm of access control — we should begin with a basic understanding of the concept. It essentially merges two technologies, BLE and Mesh Networking.
Bluetooth Low Energy
BLE, according to the Bluetooth website, combines power efficiency with low energy, which enables personal devices to run for longer periods of time without draining the battery. Obvious examples include smartphones, smart watches, and headsets. However, the lineup of devices grows ever larger as the Internet of Things (IoT) pervades every aspect of life.
Mesh networking improves reliability, redundancy, security, speed, and overall performance. It uses a wireless “ad hoc” architecture to connect servers and devices without requiring the input of a centralized hub or router. The points creating the architecture, called nodes, dynamically interact and reconfigure themselves based on available bandwidth, storage, and network pathways.
How Does BLE Mesh Networking Work?
BLE Mesh Networking conflates the best of both worlds to create a more superb one. IoT devices come “untethered” from the usual point-to-point or star-to-point approach, explaining why technology leaders sometimes refer to Mesh Networking as “cutting out the middle man.” After the devices “untether,” they turn into nodes within an almost organic and always dynamic infrastructure.
The results speak for themselves. By skipping the “middle man,” the network becomes more efficient, effective, and reliable. It also expands range. A standalone BLE-connected device, say, a remote car starter, might feature a range between 100 and 300 feet. One incorporated into a mesh network with appropriate infrastructure, i.e., nodes scattered throughout the area, could see a range greater than that.
Why Is BLE Mesh Networking Important To Access Control?
Several recent articles mention BLE Mesh Networking’s importance to the smart home and connected buildings.
Richard Wallace, a current writer and former chief editor at EE Times, says, “Mesh networking is rapidly becoming an integral component in ensuring consumers’ Bluetooth enabled smart locks, lights, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, and appliances work together to deliver a seamless smart home experience.”
Dr. Wenjun Sheng, CEO of Telink Semiconductor and contributor at Embedded Computing Design, focuses more on enhanced connectivity. “By utilizing this new mesh networking capability, individual Bluetooth devices can connect to other devices in [the] networks, enabling coverage of an entire building or home, making it ideal for home and industrial automation applications.”
Jay Turner at TechCrunch offers a similar opinion, albeit through the lens of disaster relief. “Mesh networks reconfigure the typical hub-and-spoke model of the internet into a more diffuse method of internet access. This diffusion avoids any single point of failure by allowing the network to dynamically reroute data through the mesh.”
The possibilities grow enormously when BLE Mesh Networking is applied to the construct of access control which includes homes and commercial buildings.
However, it touches upon almost every other industry because of its relationship to physical and digital security. UniKey’s work demonstrates the fact. By combining BLE Mesh Networking with a secure access control platform, the access control network becomes that much stronger and faster and impervious to attacks, hacks, and malfunctions. People access their homes, offices, and other locations quickly and easily. They experience no delays or frustration; rather, they enjoy a best-in-class experience all the time because their access is undergirded by the strong technologies of UniKey, BLE, and Mesh Networking.
If you’d like to see how UniKey’s access control platform would affect your residential or commercial complex or IoT device, get in touch today.