In May of this year, the electrical engineers gathered in an SUV and headed to Chicago for LightFair 2018. Of all the exciting exhibits, topics, and events we experienced, one of the most prominent focuses of the event was the “Internet of Things.” This phrase encompasses the interconnectivity of every day electronic devices. The idea is that your fridge can “talk” (through various wired and wireless protocols) to your light fixtures. Your light fixtures can “talk” to your thermostat, etc. Through complex electrical signaling, your smart devices could realize a communication path between one another to do some amazing things. For example, a motion sensor can detect when you are entering your home, then communicate with your lights, television, and thermostat, to turn up the brightness, turn on your favorite show, and start the air conditioning. LightFair showed us several wireless means of realizing the “Internet of Things” as it relates to advanced lighting control, and we feel that Bluetooth Mesh could become the predominant system in the near future.
When one thinks of wireless, the two typical protocols mentioned are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. While Wi-Fi has its benefits (large data transmission, for instance), it consumes a lot of power, and uses a high bandwidth (meaning the more devices that are connected to a Wi-Fi network, the slower the speed of data reception and transmission). You might see a drop in speed with as little as two devices connected to one network. Bluetooth has a smaller bandwidth, making it perfect for transmitting and receiving small packets of information (like the status of a thermostat, a dimming signal to a light fixture, etc.) in your cell phone, car, video game consoles, and much more. It’s easy to implement in a variety of applications.
With Bluetooth Mesh, a device (such as a light fixture) acts as both a receiver and transmitter of information. A device in this topology receives information and transmits it to all devices on the same network within range of itself. Devices in range accept the information, then transmit out in the same manner as the previous device, and so on. This happens until the intended device (such as a light fixture) receives the intended information (such as being told to dim to 10%). There are essentially hundreds, if not thousands of possible routes to get the information from the initiating device (such as a light switch) to the intended device (like a light fixture). There is no single point of failure.
Not only is this exciting in the failure proofing of a lighting control design, but it allows for an immense amount of freedom in lighting design and controllability. An electrical contractor simply installs devices with line voltage power, assigns them to a Bluetooth network that the devices all share, and the programming becomes a breeze. No more will the contractor have to run low voltage cabling between devices, to bridge networks, and to a headend controller. This saves money for the end user, in both material and labor of installation.
At Design Collaborative, we are constantly striving to Improve People’s Worlds. It’s written on our walls, and is a constant goal we aim to achieve. This means looking to the future. The electrical engineers feel that within the very near future, we’ll be specifying our first truly wireless Lighting Control System with the help of Bluetooth Mesh.
Associate, Electrical Engineer