What you need to know about Bluetooth protocol

• • data transmission, industry trends, Smart Home

You already know that a Wi-Fi transparent media distribution enclosure is essential to your customer’s Wi-Fi devices, but did you know they may also be using the Bluetooth protocol? Bluetooth is almost synonymous with wireless technology. Smart phones, tablets, and PCs are Bluetooth-enabled, and personal wireless technology such as headphones and hands-free auto features typically use the Bluetooth protocol.  

While Bluetooth is mostly known for personal devices, it has also become a big player in the smart home industry with companies like Amazon and AT&T investing heavily in Bluetooth smart home technology.

The origins of Bluetooth

In 1996, Intel, Ericsson, and Nokia met to put together a standardized radio technology that would connect different devices. Bluetooth was a temporary code name that they chose because King Harold “Bluetooth” Gormasson was, according to Jim Kardash of Intel, “famous for uniting Scandinavia [in 958], just as [they] intended to unite PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.”  The Bluetooth logo is a rune image of Harold Gormasson’s name.  

How Bluetooth works

Bluetooth employs a few different network topologies. The most common is a point-to-point topology in networks known as piconets. Piconets use what is called the parent/child model to control how data is sent and received. Child devices can only be connected to a single parent. And parent devices can be connected to up to seven slaves. In the piconet, slaves do not communicate with other slave devices.

Every Bluetooth device has its own 48-bit address, which is known as a BD_ADDR. Bluetooth devices can be paired or bonded to one another so that they connect automatically when they are in range. Bonded devices store the address of other devices in their memories so that the user does not need to initiate processes each time they want to use a Bluetooth device.

For devices such as headsets that have limited user interfaces, pairing happens with a single press of a button. For more complex devices, the user will have to enter an identification code of six or more numbers.

Like other protocols, there are a number of different Bluetooth profiles, which are used to describe how the protocol will be used. These profiles include Human Interface Device (such as a keyboard), and Hands-Free Profile (commonly built into cars for hands-free use of the phone).

Bluetooth also uses a broadcast network topology in which one device can send information to multiple devices. Beacons that send push notifications to cell phones use the Bluetooth protocol.      

The future of Bluetooth

This summer, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which oversees the development of the technology, launched a mesh network topology. Until this launch, Bluetooth was considered a good option only for wireless devices that operate within a short distance of one another. The mesh network topology allows all of the nodes in the network to both send and receive data, which is a huge departure from the parent/child topology that Bluetooth is known for.

All devices made to the Bluetooth 4.1 Generic Access Profile (GAP) will send and receive data, which means that as long as each device is within range of at least two other 4.1 GAP devices, the network can grow indefinitely. The new devices are also very small and have low power requirements, so they can be integrated into other household features like lighting systems. If every light fixture within your customer’s home had a bluetooth node, full home automation would be easier to set up.

One of the criticisms of Bluetooth is that it uses Wi-Fi bandwidth and causes latency issues. The mesh network, which sends and receives on the 2.4GHz radio frequency, enables the Bluetooth network to keep Wi-Fi bandwidth use to a minimum while still providing whole home coverage for all Bluetooth devices.

Wireless mesh topology is nothing new, but combining the flexible and reliable network design with a trusted name like Bluetooth could mean more smart home installations in your future.