Bluetooth SIG, the organization governing the development of the popular device-to-device connection standard, has announced that Bluetooth will now support mesh networking, being able to interconnect a web of devices in a given area. The new feature is compatible with the Bluetooth 4.0 standard and up, and all of the tools required for adding mesh networking support to any Bluetooth-enabled product are available freely on the Bluetooth SIG website. Mesh networking through Bluetooth works much like mesh networking over any other standard, but with a Bluetooth base, and can connect up to thousands of different devices in a given isolated network. Just like any feature or new standard added to the Bluetooth family, mesh networking has already been extensively tested, and was found to be highly compatible and easy to implement with the standard.
Bluetooth-based mesh networking is a bit of a game changer in that it applies mesh networking to an already easily available standard that many products support. In the case of products that already have Bluetooth 4.0 and up embedded, implementing a mesh networking capability would be as easy as making and pushing out a firmware update to users, or just coding it in if the product hasn't shipped yet. This means that mesh networking can be done without any special, dedicated hardware or software, allowing anything with Bluetooth to become part of a smart home network or an office intranet. Since it's all Bluetooth-based, connecting and maintaining the network is essentially handled automatically. According to Bluetooth SIG's press release, networks using this standard as a full-stack internal networking solution are reliable, self-healing, and highly interoperable. Since Bluetooth is a well-known and rather simple standard, troubleshooting should be quite easy, as well, should issues arise.
The implications of this development are arguably biggest in the Internet of Things space. A long standards war has seen various standards based on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as well as low-power networking over LTE, all fighting among themselves and against proprietary, OEM-specific standards for dominance of the consumer and business ecosystems. To say that Bluetooth SIG rolling out mesh networking is a move that could disrupt that rotation is likely an understatement. It's an easy-to-implement, off-the-shelf standard that a lot of devices already have, and it promises easy interoperability on the consumer side, along with low power consumption and high data rates. All of this, naturally, would use up minimal spectrum, thus requiring minimal if any licensing, and making the use of Bluetooth mesh networking in applicable devices more cost-effective than spending R&D time on developing a proprietary standard or implementing a less universal one. The IoT standards war just got a new potential pack leader, and if Bluetooth SIG and device makers play their cards right, it could take a lot to dethrone it.