As the preferred technology in the IoT, Bluetooth® technology enables a wide range of innovative use cases, from the smart home and smart city to the digital key and networked lighting control. According to the 2021 Bluetooth Market Update, Bluetooth smart home automation device shipments will reach 222 million in 2021, while annual Bluetooth residential smart lighting shipments will reach 39 million. Analysts predict annual Bluetooth smart home automation device shipments will triple by 2025, increasing to 670 million in just five years. Major devices driving forecasts for Bluetooth Device Networks include smart home automation controllers, smart lighting, and smart appliances.
As the only wireless standard leveraging a decentralized control architecture to help ensure no single points of failure, Bluetooth mesh is ideally suited for control, monitoring, and automating systems where hundreds or thousands of devices need to communicate with one another. Today, Bluetooth mesh enables smart home and networked lighting control systems from many leading vendors. For years, Espressif has been deeply involved in R&D and design of AIoT hardware and software products. ESP-BLE-MESH, a Bluetooth mesh protocol stack developed by Espressif, is used across smart home, smart lighting, and smart industry environments.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Teo Swee Ann, the founder and CEO of Espressif, gaining a deeper insight into the use cases of Espressif’s open-source Bluetooth mesh protocol stack and the future of this technology.
Q&A with Teo Swee Ann from Espressif
What are the main applications of Espressif’s Bluetooth mesh solution?
The Espressif Bluetooth mesh solution is an open-source protocol stack based on Zephyr Bluetooth® mesh. It supports almost all core features, client modes, and server modes, as specified in the Bluetooth mesh protocol. In short, it is a full-featured and open-source Bluetooth mesh protocol stack. Devices built with this solution can interoperate with different types of standard Bluetooth mesh devices from different manufacturers. Our engineers have also come up with many technological innovations pertaining to Bluetooth mesh based on actual use cases for our users. For instance, in 2019, Espressif released an innovative feature for Bluetooth mesh provisioning, Fast Provisioning Model, which can provision 100 nodes in 50 seconds.
Espressif’s Bluetooth mesh solution has been deployed in smart home, smart lighting, and smart industry market segments. Users can build a secure and reliable communication network and realize functions such as device networking, automatic control, and remote monitoring. Espressif provides SoCs (such as ESP32 series, ESP32-S series, ESP32-C series, and ESP32-H series) with integrated Wi-Fi or IEEE 802.15.4 and Bluetooth mesh protocols. Our solutions are also used for implementing Wi-Fi to Bluetooth mesh gateways for the aforementioned market segments.
Why did Espressif build a solution based on Bluetooth mesh networking?
Thanks to its adoption in smartphones, gateways, and endpoints, Bluetooth® technology is one of the most ubiquitous wireless communication protocols. Its ability to work in a congested 2.4 GHz frequency band through adaptive frequency hopping (AFH), secure design, and a high degree of interoperability has made Bluetooth mesh a robust, safe, and important local-area-network protocol. Also, the design of the Bluetooth mesh protocol can easily be extended to existing Bluetooth devices through OTA (over-the-air) upgrades if hardware resources allow.
In addition, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) established a detailed core profile, model profile, and test suite for the Bluetooth mesh protocol, covering common use cases and device types while ensuring the protocol’s extensibility.
Since Bluetooth mesh is defined on top of the existing Bluetooth specification, it can easily be supported on current hardware platforms using the Bluetooth radio. Espressif’s Bluetooth mesh implementation is memory optimized and supported on all Espressif SoCs that use Bluetooth technology. Thus, Bluetooth mesh protocol allows us to offer a stable networking option to our customers at no additional cost.