Last year, just before the Bluetooth® Mesh 1.0 specification was released, I paid a visit to Silvair’s offices in Krakow, Poland. Silvair makes wireless lighting control solutions and their CTO, Mr Szymon Slupik, is chair of the Bluetooth Mesh Working Group. Their office contained a comprehensive Bluetooth mesh test environment consisting of hundreds of lights distributed across multiple rooms on the ground floor of their building, plus various sensors and switches.
Testing Bluetooth Mesh Lighting
Standing in reception, I was able to see a number of clusters of lights in different rooms through glass panels by each office door. Using a standard Android smartphone, I was then able to connect to a Bluetooth® mesh proxy node and dim and brighten about 274 lights in unison. This was my first hands-on experience of Bluetooth mesh in action.
I’d seen other, proprietary mesh solutions before and had always been concerned by issues like very obvious latency which caused delays in lights responding to actions, especially those which were out of direct radio range from the switch. No such issues were apparent when I exercised control over the Silvair test environment’s lights. There was no perceivable latency at all. All lights responded instantly as I swiped my finger across the smartphone screen. Changing brightness was silky smooth and synchronized across the entire collection of lights. Everything worked perfectly. I’m a cynic who likes to see proof before I’m impressed — and I was impressed!
“We’ve proven to ourselves this technology is ready for prime time and large-scale adoption. We are extremely confident it delivers on the promise.”
Large-Scale Bluetooth Mesh in Action
I caught up with Szymon recently and he told me that their entire building now features a Bluetooth mesh lighting system. Note that this is not a test system. It’s the building’s production lighting system, relied upon by all users of the building.
Rooms also contain Bluetooth® mesh sensors. In rooms with windows, ambient light sensors communicate with the mesh lights in the room so that daylight harvesting can be performed. This results in a consistent level of light in the room all day, regardless of how light or dark it is outside. Other rooms, with no natural light are equipped with occupancy sensors so that lights are only on when the room is occupied. This is helping to cut costs and optimise the working environment for employees.
In fact, the Silvair building looked to me like a great example of Bluetooth communications working well in potentially very challenging circumstances. I asked Szymon about this and here’s what he had to say:
“Our building is probably the most radio-polluted, noisiest Bluetooth environment on the planet”, said Slupik. “We have more than 1000 Bluetooth devices spread around and organized into multiple stress test systems. Collectively, they generate several hundred messages per second. The most reassuring thing is that in this environment Bluetooth just works. The production lighting system works and the demos we provide to customers visiting us work and ordinary Bluetooth devices work too. Most employees use Bluetooth keyboards and mice and have telephone conversations with their Bluetooth headsets. And by the way WiFi works too – the building has 12 high-capacity access points that serve more than 150 devices. We’ve proven to ourselves this technology is ready for prime time and large-scale adoption. We are extremely confident it delivers on the promise.”