Bluetooth Mesh and Battery Use

There’s a new article at Nordic Semiconductor blog, By Alf Helge Omre, on Bluetooth Mesh in lighting: What comes next?

Alf explains how lighting is the perfect conduit because it’s everywhere and is also mains powered. The mesh can be used to control the lights as well as provide for IoT sensing.

The main example in the Nordic Mesh SDK is a light control demo which reinforces how important Nordic think lighting will be for mesh. The ‘mains powered’ mention is also important. The introduction to the Bluetooth Mesh SDK says:

“The Bluetooth Mesh requires a higher power consumption than traditional Bluetooth low energy applications, and unlike Bluetooth low energy Advertiser devices, active mesh devices cannot be run off coin-cell batteries for extended periods of time.”

Also, despite all the hype over Bluetooth mesh, TI (the other main SoC provider) don’t have an SDK yet and the Nordic SDK is still alpha:

“This is an experimental release for exploration of the BLE Mesh stack on the nRF5 device family. It is not intended for commercial use”

We have been playing with the Nordic mesh examples and while they work on Nordic’s developer kit hardware we have had ‘alpha’ difficulties getting the mesh working on real beacons. One observation is that the Bluetooth mesh needs more capable SoCs than are found in the majority of our beacons. As previously mentioned, battery life is a concern so USB beacons tend to be the best candidates. Another customer insight is that while it might seem convenient to put sensors into lights, most industrial uses require sensors to be much closer to what’s being sensed. In practice, they will probably not be part of the active mesh and instead sensor beacons will use the friendship feature. We will be providing Bluetooth mesh beacons once the SDK is release quality.

We have also been playing with FruityMesh that’s better suited to battery use and also works on lower spec SoCs. We already have it working on some of our beacons. We have been told by M-Way Solutions that FruityMesh is currently going through a large software update. Once this is completed, we hope to start providing FruityMesh beacons.

Read more about Bluetooth mesh on our web site.