Bluetooth LE in Smart Cities

Researchers from Spain have a recent paper on Experimental Application of Bluetooth Low Energy Connectionless in Smart Cities that considers the increased range and improved robustness provided by Bluetooth 5.x.

The paper describes the various types of communication:

The paper includes a description of Bluetooth LE including advertising and the different physical layer modes.

There’s an experimental evaluation of the new, more-robust, long-range radio mode when used in smart cities scenarios. The I2V scenario is evaluated, where reception is measured against variation in distance and vehicle speed. The I2P scenario is evaluated against interference from WiFi and classic (non LE) Bluetooth.

The researchers found an overall packet loss of 20–30%, regardless of mobility speed, compared to the static scenarios. The classic Bluetooth 4 mode was found to be more immune to coexistence with the WiFi protocol than any BLE 5.x mode. The researchers say this is because Bluetooth 5 extended advertisements 1) make use of more than one channel and 2) have longer data are both can cause more susceptibility to interference. Nevertheless, the updates introduced with Bluetooth 5 allow broadcasting over much longer distances.

The paper concludes the maturity and low cost of the technology could enable fast, easy deployment in smart cities compared to other solutions.

Bluetooth LE for Smart Cities

There’s new research on BLE Beacons in the Smart City: Applications, Challenges, and Research Opportunities.

The paper explains how BLE beacons are a promising solution for many smart city applications. It describes BLE beacons, protocols, competing wireless technologies and the types of applications.

The paper covers some applications such as proximity marketing, indoor navigation and location based services.

Security and privacy issues are also mentioned such as cracking, spoofing and piggybacking.

Differentiating Between Vehicles and Pedestrians Using Bluetooth Sensing

Javier Martínez Plumé, Juan José Marténez Durá, Ramón Vicente Cirilo Gimeno, Francisco Ramón Soriano García and Antonio García Celda of Universitat de Valencia, Spain have a recent paper on Evaluation of the Use of a City Center through the Use of Bluetooth Sensors Network.

The research looks into using the occurrences of detected Bluetooth MAC addresses to differentiate between vehicles and pedestrians. It’s based on a study that was carried out in the city of Valencia that presented significant complexity due to the large number of pedestrians and motor vehicles.

“Conditions sometimes cause travel times between pedestrians and vehicles to be very close or overlapping, making it impossible to distinguish between trips associated with a pedestrian or with a vehicle by just using travel times”

The researchers implemented a filtering algorithm for the classification of trips so as to distinguish between pedestrians and vehicles using the occurrences of detected MAC addresses.

The results of the study found that 60–70% of the vehicles, in a given itinerary, used the historic centre as a shortcut through the city. These findings caused the City Council of Valencia to take the decision of limiting the traffic speed in the historic centre to 30 km/h so as to encourage use of the city inner ring road where 50 km/h is allowed.

Sensing such as this is part of ‘Smart Cities’, with aims such as reducing pollution, easing traffic and encouraging walking and cycling.

Bluetooth for Smart Buildings

While there’s lots of technology used in much of our lives, most buildings currently don’t use much technology. The current low level of sophistication is such that people tend to suffer uncomfortable buildings with common complaints rooms are “too hot” or “too cold”. There are clearly opportunities for significant improvement, not just for occupants but also for companies occupying buildings, the building owners and solution vendors.

Last year, the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA), a leading international industry organisation with 380+ corporate members created a free white paper ‘Creating a New Deal for Buildings’ (pdf).

The paper explains how building automation systems (BAS) and IoT devices can be used to improve the value and utility of facilities. Solutions also provide ways to use less energy and ensure regulatory compliance.

The cost of automation systems isn’t large compared to building costs. The CABA are advocating the design of BAS, during the design phase, much earlier in the building process. The paper talks of the incentives and challenges. Open standards, ubiquitous connectivity and automatic discovery of devices are seen as aiding uptake. The paper goes on to clearly describe the benefits for owners, tenants and vendors. It also covers issues such as privacy, data ownership and sustainability.

The paper says:

“The introduction of LED lighting and the digitalization of lighting control systems add additional optimization dimensions to the interoperability potential of the BAS”

The first wave of Bluetooth Mesh devices have been connected lighting solutions. Bluetooth connected lighting paves the way for further innovations, on top, such as sensor networks for automation and control, asset management solutions and navigation solutions.

Bluetooth is is particularly suitable for smart buildings due to:

  • Compatibility and inter-operability. Vendors products work together and systems can be accessed via ubiquitous smartphones.
  • Low power. Independent devices can run for years on battery power.
  • Low cost. Standards based devices lower components and hence costs.

View the Bluetooth video on ‘The Expanding Role of Bluetooth in Smart Buildings’:

View Sensor Beacons

Read Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Use of Beacons in Smart Cities

There’s a recent paper by Gonzalo Cerruela García, Irene Luque Ruiz, and Miguel Ángel Gómez-Nieto of the University of Córdoba, Spain on State of the Art, Trends and Future of Bluetooth Low Energy, Near Field Communication and Visible Light Communication in the Development of Smart Cities (pdf)

The paper explains how technologies (NFC, BLE, VLC) will be important for the Internet of Things in smart cities and how they will need to be connected via LoRaWAN, Sigfox, Weightless, LTE, and 5G. With regard to Bluetooth LE they say:

Another challenge for the attention of BLE technology is the limited range problem; the range is directly dependent on Broadcasting Signal Power. An increase in signal power makes BLE devices less energy-efficient. Moreover it is necessary to improve accuracy in determining proximity to a BLE device.

The range problem will become less of an issue once Bluetooth 5 devices become available.