Enterprise Bluetooth Networks (EBNs) are a communication network, organized around the Bluetooth low energy (BLE) protocol, for sending and receiving data or messages from BLE end devices, such as a sensor. Core to Enterprise Bluetooth Networks are long-range (1,000 feet) edge Bluetooth routers with backhaul capabilities (such as, Ethernet, cellular, Wi-fi), an Access Controller (AC) used for end device and router network management, and a software development kit (SDK) incorporated into the native app or server software of the application. The SDK ensures interoperability between the Bluetooth router and access controller and, in turn, remote access to the BLE end devices.
As Aruba engineer Peter Thornycroft noted in a 2016, Network World article the development of enterprise-grade Bluetooth infrastructure is predicated on the success of BLE, consumer-to-enterprise technology migration, improved security, asset-tracking beacons (see Bluetooth SIG’s Jan. 28, 2019 announcement of centimeter-level BLE 5.1 locationing here), and “an enterprise networking BLE gateway.”
An Enterprise Bluetooth Network requires integration between the BLE end devices and the Bluetooth routers, using the Generic Attribute Profile (GATT) proprietary to the BLE end device. Also, a translation of BLE end device data to a commonly ingestible format, such as a RESTful API, is required. Data may be associated with network Bluetooth devices, like Bluetooth routers and BLE end devices, via a unique media access control (MAC) address, a 48-bit identifier assigned to network interfaces by the device’s manufacturer. BLE devices also transmit a Universally Unique ID (UUID) in the form of a unique number to identify its attributes.
Deployed in conjunction with global Internet protocol (IP) networks, Enterprise Bluetooth Networks are commonly used for Internet of Things (IoT) applications using BLE end devices. Enterprise Bluetooth Networks may use a Bluetooth mesh topology as provided by Bluetooth 5.0, but are not dependent on Mesh. Long-distance Bluetooth routers employ a star topology. A Bluetooth star topology can use existing Bluetooth 4.X BLE end devices and can address range issues without reducing Bluetooth battery life (as occurs with Mesh). Moreover, a combination mesh-star topology may also be employed.
Applications using Enterprise Bluetooth Networks include: industrial IoT condition monitoring, connected health medical device systems, smart campuses, smart homes, smart cities and other “smart” market verticals. Enterprise Bluetooth Networks are increasingly used in vibration monitoring for predictive maintenance in the industrial IoT, by industry incumbents, such as worldwide leaders in industrial automation, like this ABB use case). Moreover, new entrants to the industrial IoT predictive maintenance vibration monitoring marketplace, such as Infinite Uptime and SpaceSense, are also deploying Bluetooth IoT solutions based on Enterprise Bluetooth Networking.
The use of BLE end devices enable the development of new predictive maintenance use cases in industrial IoT. Enterprise Bluetooth Networks increase the efficiency of previously unmonitored factory machines and achieve a positive Return on Investment (ROI). There are two factors contributing to this outcome: 1.) Bluetooth is very low cost, has low power requirements, and is a world wide Bluetooth standard ensuring scalability worldwide cost containment. 2.) Enterprise Bluetooth Networks use of long-range Bluetooth routers with multiple connections, filtering capabilities, and remote access provide cost efficiencies and enterprise management at scale of Bluetooth IoT deployments. Additional enterprise-grade features like IP65 and edge processing also ensure a high ROI.
Enterprise Bluetooth Networks are a paradigm shift for those who continue to view Bluetooth as a consumer-grade, personal area network (PAN) protocol. Previously, the historic constraints of traditional Bluetooth – short-range, one-to-one connectivity, and lacking remote management – informed this outdated perspective. However, advancements in wall-penetrating long-range Bluetooth, multiple connections (up to 40 in bi-directional mode, 100s in broadcast mode), Bluetooth edge routers, access controllers for remote management have shifted that perspective. Moreover, the addition of Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities – added range, bandwidth, security, and reliability, mesh – have enabled new enterprise use cases in lighting and other verticals.
However, Enterprise Bluetooth Networks are not tied to replacing any existing BLE end devices with Bluetooth 5.0, nor with a Bluetooth Mesh topology. By extending BLE range (1,000 feet) in a star topology, wall penetration (filtering capabilities), one-to-many bi-directional connections, and using a management layer to address remote management Enterprise Bluetooth Networks solve multiple challenges associated with existing BLE deployment and a host of emergent IoT use cases.