Mesh iBeacons

When the bluetooth 4.2 spec was released late last year, people (me included) were really surprised that mesh was not included.
Mesh networking is allowing devices along a line to talk to each other to reach the base station. In other words, if I can’t talk to the master, but can talk to the guy next to me, and he can talk to the master, then the guy next to me can pass on my message for me (and return any instructions from the master for me).
Put simply, it’s a way to make a bigger network out of low power devices….
Sounds a lot like Bluetooth.

Imagine that standard beacons — small electronic devices, of which Apple’s iBeacon is the best known implementation — are like beacons of light, shining a signal to let you know where they are. Retailers mount them on ceilings or walls in a store. At intervals, the beacon broadcasts very small packets of data via Bluetooth Low Energy that simply say, “Hi, I’m here,” with basic ID information describing exactly where it is in a specific store.

A customer then walks into that store. Because she’s inside a building, the GPS positioning for her smartphone may not work well. That’s where the “Hi, I’m here” comes in. The phone listens to the beacon’s location data, and then an app on the phone can transmit that data via Wi-Fi or a cellular data network to the app’s server.

The trouble with the system is that not only is GPS coverage in the store non-existent, but it may well be the case that the cell phone coverage might also be suboptimal.
The store might install WiFi, but for the customer to use that, they need to know the store password, so you make it open, but the customer still needs to connect to the open wifi, something many people will not do…..

Bluetooth beacons get around all of this.

As usual in a vacuum, people find a way.
The spec did not provide the guidance that we needed, so lets just get it done.

The really interesting thing about this tech is that the phone itself becomes part of the network, both as a beacon and as a relay.

My point is this. Bluetooth, once it has some solid mesh networking built into it, is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Cheap, low power and good range. Sure, low data volume, but for a lot of tasks, thats just fine.

My guess is that we are going to see Bluetooth move from domestic to commercial to industrial this year.