Oct 26, 2016
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
As more and more devices connect, the Internet of Things (IoT) grows and becomes more mainstream. But what happens when one of those devices—say a hospital’s portable sonogram machine—can’t be located and time is critical? Or when all the beacons around a department store need to be updated quickly with new data. One solution: Use a Bluetooth mesh network, which can be deployed to help identify, locate, and communicate with Bluetooth smart devices.
But deploying a large number of beacons can be labor intensive, time consuming to manage, and require costly equipment investment. Our latest iteration of CSRmesh, a Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh technology, is designed to simplify the process. It is the first commercially available solution to use a Bluetooth mesh network that permits management and calibration of multiple beacons and to track and report assets. And while previous versions of CSRmesh focused on home lighting and home automation, the latest CSRmesh version opens up new opportunities in commercial/industrial applications and IoT industries.
If you’re distributing a large number of beacons, they can be difficult to manage. How do you confirm that they’re still operable or haven’t been stolen? What if their battery levels are low? What happens when you want to change from an iBeacon to an Eddystone beacon?
Today, most beacons are maintained in one of two ways: a field technician walks around and updates each unit, one at a time, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Or, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth bridges are spread out within the Bluetooth range of each beacon. This requires installing and evenly distributing more hardware within the beacons’ range, which is both costly and inconvenient for deployments in large buildings.
CSRmesh is engineered to simplify the beacon management process by supporting standard Bluetooth beacons within the same mesh network to talk to each other. As long as each beacon is within the Bluetooth range of another, an entire building can be covered and its beacons managed, monitored, and updated from a single point, without the need for a technician or extra hardware. By connecting your beacons via a mesh network, no additional hardware is needed to update them or control your assets.
Scheduling time-based events
The latest version of CSRmesh is engineered not only to allow beacons to provide basic indoor location and context, but also to facilitate time-based events. Imagine going on vacation without having to worry about configuring electronic or mechanical timers for your lights, or turning on the lights within your warehouse at any hour of the night. With this feature, it’s relatively simple for an application to set up a 7- or 14-day timer schedule for devices in the CSRmesh network.
Identifying and tracking your assets
People wandering through a museum. A cart of packages moving through a warehouse. That portable sonogram moving room to room in a hospital. The latest CSRmesh is built so devices like your mesh-controlled lights can also easily track assets or alert you to a status change. This technology can be especially useful during emergency situations. The location of fire extinguishers, life-saving equipment, and even employees during a building evacuation can be monitored.
When a “find” request is sent over the CSRmesh network, the “finding” node or device will report back with a “found” message that includes the asset type and location. To track the asset, CSRmesh uses the network to pass data collected from the moving object back through the mesh, to a back-end service where the data can be analyzed and acted upon. That asset can then be tracked, and movement heat maps and dwell times can be built to find out where the moving item is. Assets can be identified as lights, moving devices, or even people.
An asset can also be defined as needing something. For example, a “human” asset could be defined as needing “light.” In this case light could then follow wherever the person goes—illuminating their way from an outside parking lot to a building on a dark night, for example.
Mesh networks in the IoT era
With CSRmesh, Bluetooth mesh networks are designed to be easily configured and managed and can be employed for a much more diverse set of uses than just turning your lights on and off. Various security features have been incorporated to help prevent unwanted intrusion, eavesdropping, and replay attacks. As the Internet of Things era evolves and expands, Bluetooth mesh can provide the connectivity needed to properly use smart devices for both practical and life-saving uses.