Bluetooth® mesh continues to prove itself as the most effective and user-friendly wireless technology for professional lighting applications. Still, there are many misconceptions regarding this global standard and its wireless capabilities. Let’s see what myths keep surrounding it and what it really offers to lighting designers.
Navigating the Bluetooth® technology landscape is not easy unless you have been following its development very closely over recent years. Originally designed as a short-range cable replacement technology for connecting computer peripherals, Bluetooth technology has evolved along with the rapid technological progress of the past two decades. Over time, several different flavors of Bluetooth technology have emerged, each suited for different short-range applications. In certain segments, such as audio transmission or wearables, just about everything today runs on Bluetooth technology. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has a proven track record in delivering global standards that both manufacturers and customers can rely on. What does it mean in practice? If you are looking for a mobile headset, you can grab any Bluetooth enabled headset off the store shelf without having to wonder whether it will work with your mobile phone. You just know it will. This might seem obvious to today’s customers, but it did not happen by itself. It is a result of precise and transparent specifications, rigid certification procedures, and an ongoing effort of the leading technology companies contributing to the Bluetooth SIG. By standardizing the mesh topology, the organization aimed to bring this ease of use and global interoperability to more challenging applications, such as connected lighting and building automation. Introducing a new global standard to the market is a difficult and lengthy process, but it’s not the first time for the Bluetooth SIG. Things are progressing fast, and what we’re observing right now might be the beginning of the dominance of Bluetooth technology in the lighting industry.
State of Wireless
Bluetooth® mesh is the only wireless standard that provides a fully decentralized architecture without a single point of failure.
So, what can Bluetooth mesh lighting control networks do today? Quite a lot. Wireless controls have reached a level of maturity that finally allows for reliable and no-compromise operation in the most demanding professional lighting applications. Non-disruptive retrofits, drastically simplified commissioning, and enormous configuration flexibility have finally become a real thing — and with the open nature of the Bluetooth mesh networking standard, these benefits are available to lighting professionals all around the globe.
This is evidenced by multiple real-life implementations from the last year. As a provider of Bluetooth mesh lighting control firmware and commissioning tools, at Silvair, we had the privilege of watching the first wave of projects as they happened. From small pilot undertakings to large-scale commercial deployments, we saw how our partners’ products enable clean and non-disruptive retrofitting of obsolete installations into flexible wireless control systems. To give you an idea of how versatile Bluetooth mesh lighting controls can be, let’s have a look at these examples:
- Yamaha Motor Corporation warehouse in Pleasant Prairie, U.S.
At its vast engine warehouse, Yamaha did a smooth upgrade from full-on luminaires to an efficient, occupancy-aware lighting control system. Bluetooth® mesh connectivity was provided via smart occupancy sensors. A total of 320 such devices were deployed, one for each high bay fixture inside the warehouse.
A complete lighting retrofit was carried out over a single weekend. Without any office downtime, the company upgraded to LEDs, deployed a 360-node Bluetooth mesh lighting control network, and used our commissioning tools to set up a sensor-driven control system with occupancy sensing and daylight harvesting.
At Central Alberta’s largest trade show, agriculture, entertainment, and sports facility, Bluetooth mesh luminaries today illuminate more than 120,000 sq. feet across several pavilions. No sensors are involved, as the managers only wanted reliable manual controls. This was provided via wireless energy harvesting switches from EnOcean.
Following the launch of its Bluetooth® mesh-based HubSense system, OSRAM used HubSense to upgrade the lighting at its Garching office. The retrofit took less than two days with no drilling or cables involved. The control strategies deployed at the office included occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting, and manual control.
Stratosphere Tower is the city’s signature attraction and the tallest freestanding observation tower in the U.S. Its indoor observation deck located on the 108th floor was remodeled in July 2019. When the managers later decided to modernize the lighting as well, they wanted an easy way to create independent lighting scenes without having to wire in a control system. Bluetooth mesh lighting controls met these requirements exceptionally well, while not causing any disruption in the already remodeled space.
In addition to the applications mentioned above, we saw Bluetooth® mesh controls deployed on both sides of the Atlantic in many other types of facilities, including parking garages, museums, and schools. The new standard is extremely versatile, delivering different types of benefits in different environments. Easy retrofitting, flexible control, and energy savings are the biggest selling points at this moment, but the potential is much bigger with all the data-driven services that can be provided via Bluetooth lighting networks.