Electric Imp today announced its platform now supports Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) communication, enabling manufacturers to quickly and easily address applications requiring local wireless connectivity.
With WiFi and Bluetooth LE supported natively, the Electric Imp platform can target a wide range of new use cases such as asset tracking, beacon management, wireless sensor integration, local smartphone connectivity, and other low power, low throughput communication applications.
As with the security features of impOS, the Bluetooth LE stack is continuously maintained and updated by Electric Imp, relieving customers of the burden of long-term security and compatibility maintenance. APIs provide powerful facilities such as advanced advertising filtering and GATT server management, enabling complex applications to be delivered quickly without extensive Bluetooth or embedded expertise.
“Support of Bluetooth LE is another way EIectric Imp has made it easier and faster for manufacturers to connect and deploy secure IoT-enabled devices,” said Hugo Fiennes, CEO and Co-founder of Electric Imp. “Through our powerful platform and robust partner ecosystem, Electric Imp enables manufacturers to focus on their core strengths, bringing greater value to the products they offer customers.”
The imp004m WiFi/Bluetooth module, manufactured and distributed by Murata, is the first with Bluetooth LE capability. Tested and approved by both wireless regulatory agencies and the Bluetooth SIG, the highly integrated module makes prototyping and shipping hybrid WiFi/Bluetooth applications easier than ever before.
In its latest investment round, fabless semiconductor start-up Wiliot has secured funding from Qualcomm Ventures and M Ventures that will help bring its battery-free Bluetooth technology to fruition.
For all the advancements that battery technology has brought to computing, communication and the internet of things, it also serves to limit these fields. Modern devices can go further, for longer but their power-hungry nature is still constrained by the limitations of current batteries and the need to recharge.
Wiliot’s mission is to scale IoT with battery-free Bluetooth. Based in Israel and California, the company was founded by Gigabit Wi-Fi pioneer Wilocity, a group of wireless engineers experienced in building new wireless products and their associated ecosystems.
The latest investment round follows Wiliot’s Series A funding, which ended in January, yielding $ 14 million. The start-up has raised a total of $ 19 million in its first 10 months as a semiconductor company.
“The quality and experience of the founding team at Wiliot, coupled with their passion to envision a more pervasive IoT, gives us the comfort that Wiliot will significantly change the game, particularly in the medical field, while expanding use and acceptance at a far larger scale,” said Edward Kliphuis, investment director of new businesses at M Ventures.
The current Bluetooth beacon market has peaked in terms of reducing costs, size and ease of maintenance – a limit born largely from the use of batteries. Wilocity’s solution is to remove this element completely.
You may be left wondering how a wireless device can be powered without a battery. The answer is all around us – radio waves. Wiliot’s low-power technology can harvest energy from the electromagnetic radiation that saturates the air with our communications and broadcasting.
“This new technology will allow a sensor/radio/processor combination to be embedded in products, packaging, walls and furniture so that these things can be smarter and communicate with other Bluetooth devices, including smartphones,” said Tal Tamir, CEO and co-founder of Wiliot. “We will enable everything to be intelligent and every place we go and anything we wear, touch or use will include sensing, connected, passive devices with an unlimited lifetime.”
This is made possible thanks to the low-power requirements of the passive sensors and processors –the culmination of decades of fabrication process shrinks, as described by Moore’s Law.
“The range of new applications is endless, given the level of miniaturization and lack of power dependency,” said Boaz Peer, Director at Qualcomm Ventures Israel. “As we look at the IoT space, we see battery-free Bluetooth technology as the next great leap, driving exponential growth for the entire IoT ecosystem, from smartphones and Wi-Fi hubs to battery powered beacons.”
It’s a grand vision that adds another piece to the battery-free IoT puzzle. Battery-free RFID sensors and actuators, triggered by the presence of things like temperature and pressure, have been available for some time. The widespread ability to transmit a Bluetooth signal with energy drawn from radio waves has the potential to bring sweeping changes to IoT.
A Bluetooth® mesh network lets you establish a many-to-many relationship between wireless devices and allows them to relay data to other devices not in direct radio range. In this way, Bluetooth mesh networks can span wide physical areas and support tens, hundreds, or even thousands of devices.
Motivation for Mesh
Mesh topologies offer the best platform for meeting increasingly common communications requirements of commercial and industrial applications, from building automation to sensor networks. Bluetooth mesh was designed to provide:
– Large-area coverage – Just-works interoperability – Device monitoring and control – Low energy consumption – Optimization for efficiency and scalability – Compatibility with smartphones, tablets, and PCs – Industry-standard, government-grade security
Other low-power wireless technologies that support mesh topologies are not optimal for solving the challenges the industrial IoT needs to address. Low data transmission rates, limited numbers of hops, scalability restrictions, and lack of mobile device support prohibited the development of new IoT solutions. Creating an industry-standard mesh technology based on the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) stack allowed us to meet these requirements without the associated limitations and constraints.
Bluetooth mesh networking uses a publish/subscribe messaging system that allows devices to send messages to groups of devices, such as Factory Lights. When a device publishes a message to a group of addresses, all the other devices subscribed to that address receive a copy of the message, process it, and react.
Imagine a set of outdoor lights installed in a factory. Each light is configured to subscribe to Factory Lights messages. When a Bluetooth mesh light switch sends an ON message to the Factory Lights address, all the lights in the factory receive the ON message and react by switching on.
Bluetooth mesh networks allow devices to communicate with each other across large areas, making them ideal for shopping malls, airports, or office buildings. Walls and other physical barriers in these facilities may prohibit direct radio contact between devices. To solve this problem, a Bluetooth mesh network lets you designate some devices as relays.
Relay devices retransmit received messages, allowing them to reach devices that are not in radio range of the device that published the original message. A message may be relayed multiple times up to a maximum of 127 hops.
In a Bluetooth mesh network, messages are not transmitted along a specific path. Instead, all devices in range receive messages. Those acting as relays retransmit the message to all other devices in range.
With a flood approach, there’s no need for any device to act as a centralized router, the failure of which could render the entire network inoperable. Specific routes being unavailable could also have a catastrophic impact on the network, and this too is avoided with a flooding approach. A flooding approach allows for multiple paths by which a message can transmit, making for a more reliable network.
Optimizing Energy Use
A Bluetooth mesh network includes several measures which optimize energy used by individual devices and the network as a whole.
All packets may limit the number of hops a message takes as it’s relayed. Heartbeat messages, transmitted at intervals, allow the network to learn about its topology and the number of hops to each device. This avoids messages being relayed unnecessarily. Every device also contains a message cache so it can determine if it’s seen a message before, discarding redundant messages and avoiding unnecessary processing.
Additionally, power-constrained devices, such as battery-powered sensors, may be designated as low-power nodes. Low-power nodes work in conjunction with one or more devices designated as friends. Friends act on behalf of the low-power node, storing messages and only delivering them to the low-power node when asked. Working with a friend allows the low-power node to schedule its use of the radio to receive messages to whatever frequency makes sense for the device, but at a much lower frequency than if it had to listen for messages all the time.
Security is at the heart of the design of Bluetooth mesh networking and its use is mandatory. Every packet is encrypted and authenticated. Replay attacks are prevented by judicious use of sequence numbers. Man-in-the-middle attacks are protected against by using asymmetrical cryptography during important procedures. Protection against trashcan attacks, which exploit discarded devices, is managed through regular security key refreshes.
Separation of Concerns is an important principle reflected in the security of Bluetooth mesh networking. Security of the network and security of individual applications, such as lighting, heating, or physical building security, are independent of each other. Different security keys are used for securing network layer operations, such as relaying vs securing the application-specific content of messages. For example, a light bulb has access to data transmitted by light switches because they have the same application key. The same light bulb can relay messages from an access token to the lock in the front door, but it can’t see the application layer content of those messages.
The Future of Bluetooth Mesh Networking
Bluetooth mesh networking is a highly efficient and fit-for-purpose topology designed to meet the demanding requirements of the Internet of Things (IoT), and we expect to see it adopted across a range of industry sectors. Commercial lighting is an especially exciting application for Bluetooth mesh as it lets you use lighting as a wireless platform for other building services, such as asset tracking and location.
If you plan on attending the IoT Tech Expo – November 29-30 in Santa Clara, CA, stop by booth 57 to see live demonstrations of Bluetooth mesh in action.
AirPrime® BX Series provides AirVantage® cloud services and secure boot in CF3® form factor to enable scalable Wi-Fi/Bluetooth solutions optimized for industrial IoT applications.
Sierra Wireless today announced the BX Series Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo modules with built-in cloud services and security features.
With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support on a single common flexible form factor (CF3®) module, the BX Series provides OEMs the flexibility to migrate between short-range and cellular technologies, as well as future-proof their product designs.
The BX Series is ideal for industrial IoT applications that need to connect to the cloud, such as equipment monitoring, smart city and healthcare applications, as well as cellular-enabled asset tracking and in-vehicle connectivity.
“A key aim of the BX series of modules is to bring to OEMs compelling features, like FOTA, secure boot and pre-integrated cloud services, to short range wireless technologies,” said Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO of market analyst firm Beecham Research. “These features have already proven valuable to OEMs in the cellular market, keeping IoT devices secure and updated in the field, and are now increasingly needed for all wireless technologies used as part of an IoT solution.”
The BX Series provides best-in-class security, with integrated secure boot and encrypted flash to ensure the module only functions with verified Sierra Wireless software. The modules include pre-loaded security keys to enable authentication and secure connection to AirVantage®. They comply with the latest 802.11i Wi-Fi security standard and support Bluetooth Secure Connections.
Dan Schieler, Senior Vice President and General Manager, OEM Solutions, Sierra Wireless, said:
“An increasing number of applications require multiple wireless technologies, and many more will migrate to cellular connectivity in the future as Low Power Wide Area networks roll out globally.”
“Designed using the CF3 common form factor, the BX Series provides our customers with the easiest integration experience for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices and a simple migration path for future products.”
As with many other Sierra Wireless modules, the BX Series’ industrial-grade CF3 form factor allows OEMs to easily swap modules in their devices to support different technologies or add new features. The modules come pre-integrated with Sierra Wireless’ AirVantage cloud-based IoT platform for free unlimited FOTA upgrades to ensure devices are updated with the latest security patches. Optional wireless device management and application enablement services will also be available through AirVantage.
Expanding on Sierra Wireless’ short-range portfolio, including the popular BC127 for high-end audio applications, the BX3100 and BX3105 (with integrated antenna) modules support 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2 classic and BLE. Optimized for the IoT, they feature integrated TCP/IP and Bluetooth stacks, along with a simple UART interface for fast and easy integration. The devices will be globally certified to meet regulatory approvals.
Samples of the BX3100 and BX3105 modules are available now to select customers for testing and integration.
Both Dell and Salesforce made big announcements about their internet of things plans this week, so Kevin and I try to break that down for people. We also review the latest August lock and doorbell hardware and answer a listener question from Sally about linking her Sonos with her August locks for some musical automation.
I was at the Smart Kitchen Summit this week, and ran into Tony Ciepiel, COO of Vitamix, which just launched a connected blender. He explained how to think about technology in a product designed to be an heirloom and what it means for the company’s operations to support a connected device. We also talk about sharing data across connected products and how technology changes blenders’ capabilities.