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How Bluetooth® Mesh Enables Safer, Smarter Cities

Telink Staff

June 17, 2021

Applications

Woman wearing mask on public bus

The Bluetooth® Mesh Profile builds on Bluetooth® Low-Energy to enable flexible networks that could support a range of public health and security measures, from contactless ticketing to policing. 

Public health and security have become a top concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep people safe, cities of today and tomorrow need smart, scalable solutions powered by flexible Internet of Things (IoT) protocols like the Bluetooth® Mesh Profile, which expands Bluetooth® Low-Energy (LE) capabilities. 

While the Bluetooth® Classic protocol has long been useful for high-throughput applications, Bluetooth LE and Bluetooth Mesh are different. Bluetooth LE, first introduced in 2010, is used to build low-power, battery-operated IoT devices that can broadcast small amounts of data from one point to multiple receivers simultaneously. Bluetooth Mesh was released in mid-2017, expanding on the low-power standard to enable multipath networking between IoT devices. 

Indeed, Bluetooth Mesh is meant for large-scale uses that might require hundreds or thousands of nodes. It offers a many-to-many network topology for a flexible style of communication, allowing message relay over multiple potential routes. Mesh is robust — it can maintain a clear signal even in crowded environments and is built for enterprise-grade security. With mesh networking on top of low-power capabilities, smart city designers can create powerful sensor networks that improve security and public health.

In the Era of COVID-19, Smart Solutions Could Make a Difference 

Bluetooth Mesh for COVID-19 safety

COVID-19 compelled many new safety measures in countries across the world — measures that could very well remain common moving forward. With the right low-energy, networked technologies, it’s possible to easily and effectively implement a range of innovative, much-needed solutions to protect public health. 

Contactless ticketing. A smart solution would allow for safe distancing, no-touch transactions, and overall convenience. Appropriate for public transit, entertainment venues, and any other number of ticketed spaces, Bluetooth Mesh infrastructure could make contact-free ticketing possible. For instance, sensors on transit vehicles could track when riders who are using a Bluetooth mobile fare app are within the bounds of the network. This could combine with a real-time payment engine, ensuring entrants pay their fees without having to come face-to-face with a ticket agent. 

Social distancing. Many indoor locations have operated at partial capacity during the pandemic — and this may continue to be a requirement or preference moving forward. IoT devices make it possible to easily measure and limit capacity. For instance, a Bluetooth Mesh network can enable a “Be-In/Be-Out” (BIBO) framework to capture real-time usage analytics. When social distancing measures are in effect, the devices could effectively count and cap the number of people in the space.

Smart ventilation. Bluetooth Mesh is already a powerful standard for commercial smart lighting — and smart HVAC systems work on a similar principle. Now that sufficient ventilation is known to be critical for public health, Bluetooth Mesh could help enable both building-wide and localized ventilation control, especially in offices. Motion and proximity sensors could detect activity within rooms and automatically open or close to redirect air as needed, to maintain a level of air circulation appropriate for the number of people in the room. 

Building Safer Cities With Bluetooth® Mesh

Building safer cities with Bluetooth Mesh

While it’s critical to address health, smart cities of the future need to address all manner of security and safety concerns. With low-energy and mesh networking capabilities, Bluetooth sensors and devices can enable any number of intriguing use cases. 

Roadway safety: Installing low-energy sensors in a network configuration could enable safer traffic management on highways and roads, especially given the proliferation of Bluetooth on smartphones and in newer car models. For instance, safety alerts could be used at road work sites, signaling drivers to be aware of upcoming workers and delivering tactile vibrations to workers wearing Bluetooth-enabled wristbands. What’s more, road sensors could help convey when maintenance is needed or communicate road conditions, accidents, or travel time to drivers. 

Policing: In policing, Bluetooth can be a force multiplier, supplementing the abilities of individual officers or ‘extending’ current technologies. For instance, one gunshot detection system uses Bluetooth LE to notify first responders if a bullet-proof vest is breached. In another example, Bluetooth proximity sensors are installed along a public walkway, and if an individual calls in a threat to authorities, the network of sensors helps police or emergency personnel quickly and accurately locate the individual. In addition, surveillance camera systems can be integrated with mesh networks to expand their capabilities, whether that means automation or fast communication between nodes. 

Access control: Many of today’s access control applications utilize legacy technology that may come at a higher cost and does not allow for networking. As a ubiquitous standard, Bluetooth Mesh could allow for more effective keyless smartphone entry, for workers at offices or for behind-the-scenes security staff. Mesh would allow for more versatility in system design and could even help connect access control to other building systems control capabilities.

Disaster relief: Bluetooth Mesh could be critical when disaster strikes a city. After a hurricane or earthquake, for instance, rescue teams may not be able to use typical communication channels. Instead, they could use wireless mesh devices to reach each other directly, form a local but potentially extensive communication network, and coordinate their relief efforts. 

Hardware for a Safer City

Telink’s cost-effective, multiprotocol SoCs power millions of IoT devices that rely on Bluetooth LE and Bluetooth Mesh. By bringing together robust hardware with an innovative protocol stack, we can offer developers the capabilities they need. Whether for public health, safety, or security, these standards are appropriate for a range of critical use cases. 

To learn more about Telink’s full product lines and development tools, visit our wiki or ask us a question using our Technical Forum.