Table of Content
- What is BLE Mesh?
- Key Advantages of BLE Mesh
- BLE Mesh Applications
- Bluetooth Modules
- Mesh Profile Functionality
- BLE Mesh Security
- BLE Module Market Players
- BLE SoC Solutions
- U.S. MCUs and SoC Distributors
- IoT Wireless Connectivity
- Bluetooth 5, Thread, and ZigBee
- Firmware Engineering with Krasamo
BLE modules applications are increasing with the accelerated growth of IoT markets.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a technology that comes in chipsets or modules and is used to transfer data wirelessly to other devices while consuming a minimal amount of power.
Bluetooth uses the 2.4 GHz ISM spectrum band and utilizes a range frequency that interchanges signals. It is advantageous as it provides high-speed data transfer within a personal area network (PAN). Bluetooth mesh is a new topology that sits on top of Bluetooth to support large-scale node networks.
Due to the low energy consumption of BLE modules—as well as the extended coverage range and enhanced connectivity of BLE mesh networks—manufacturers are building new innovative applications using this technology.
Bluetooth is becoming an industry standard for mesh networking.
Mobile applications developed for IoT products that work with BLE modules are in high demand. BLE modules are embedded into devices, sensors, and equipment natively supported by operating systems (iOS, Android, and Windows). Operating systems provide APIs that meet Bluetooth LE and mesh profile specifications or communicate through the mesh proxy protocol.
Krasamo designs and develops firmware, mobile apps, and processes that connect with IoT ecosystems.
What is BLE Mesh?
BLE mesh is a network topology for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless communications built on top of Bluetooth (LE) standards, especially for IoT and Smart Buildings. BLE mesh is compatible with Bluetooth version 4.0 and higher.
A BLE mesh network covers larger areas and is designed to keep data safe. In a mesh network, devices communicate with any other device within range (many-to-many network topology), relaying messages to other devices, thus, increasing the network range beyond individual nodes or devices in the network.
New devices become part of the mesh network by provisioning through encryption keys (network keys) and forming a node that communicates through messages using addresses that uniquely identify the elements. The communication model allows the provisioning of devices without affecting other nodes. States and properties of devices have characteristics for each context.
BLE mesh is optimized for large device networks that require communication among devices.
Key Advantages of BLE Mesh
Industrial Grade Solution—reliable, scalable, and secure
Extended connection range
Interoperability between different manufacturers
Bluetooth networking protocols with comprehensive APIs and Bluetooth mesh SDKs
BLE Mesh Applications
BLE mesh networking has been growing thanks to its capabilities, interoperability, and secure communication of many-to-many devices. The following application categories are ideal for developing a Bluetooth mesh network:
- Commercial Lighting
- Beaconing—Asset Tracking
- Sensors—Sensor Network Solutions
- Building Automation
- Industrial Automation
- Smart Warehouse
A Krasamo IoT technical team is available to discuss your company’s business case and how we can help you design a specific BLE mesh.
- System on Chip (SoC) devices and modules—Bluetooth Chip
- Microcontroller (MCU)
- Mixed-signal ICs
- Other sensor products
System on Chip (SoC)
A system on a chip (SoC) is an integrated circuit (IC) with a microprocessor, a complete system that integrates all components on a single chip for maximum functionality. A chip is embedded into a device to perform specific functions, and the control programs are written on SoC or module.
A microcontroller (MCU) is an integrated circuit (IC) with one or more processors (CPUs) that contain limited flash memory and ram memory and are used in applications built for a purpose. An MCU usually needs few external components and interfaces with external devices through serial communication buses. Thus, they don’t depend on external memories, and they work well on real-time applications. Microcontrollers may have processors (CPUs) such as the ARM Cortex-M4 or the ARM Cortex-M3.
A BLE module is a component integrated into an embedded system to connect with a Bluetooth network. A BLE module is an assembled circuit consisting of a chipset with an integrated radio frequency (RF) module, controller, API processor, and other components to suit specific applications. BLE modules can be single-mode or dual-mode.
Mixed-signal ICs are integrated circuit chips that process analog and digital signals in a way that minimizes functionality interconnection between signals. Mixed-signal ICs convert analog signals to digital signals.
Radio Frequency (RF) modules transmit radio signals between devices in embedded systems. RF modules are used in medium or low data rates and comply with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communication protocols.
RF Wireless Boards
An RF wireless board is a printed circuit board (PCB) or a sheet of copper that wires and fasten components.
Sensors provide a source of data obtained from IoT devices interfacing with MCUs. Information such as temperature, pressure, humidity, airflow, proximity, and voltage, for example, are considered when designing IoT modules using sensor development boards. As a result, these products are interoperable and comply with Bluetooth protocol specifications.
Development boards simplify the design of IoT devices by allowing the connection of subsystems’ interfaces with MCUs. In addition, multi-protocol development boards allow cloud connections to upload information.
Mesh Profile Functionality
Bluetooth mesh networking testing is critical for any IoT deployment to comply with the mesh profile specifications of functional requirements in scope.
Testing a mesh profile functionality to verify interoperability between nodes ensures provisioning within the mesh network. Testing performs test cases according to the mesh profile test suite.
- Profile qualification and interoperability testing
- Core host and protocol testing
- Signal generation and analysis
- Verification of features
- Valid behavior (VB) tests and invalid behavior (IB) tests
- Automate Bluetooth measurements with API to connect with IDE
The Bluetooth Test Case Reference List (TCRL) documents all the test cases required to qualify products and their supported capabilities.
Your Krasamo IoT consulting team can explain test case identification, testing purposes, and procedures for your enterprise.
BLE Mesh Security
Securing devices, software, and the stack is vital for the evolution and success of Internet of Things and BLE mesh networks. BLE mesh provides authentication, encryption, and obfuscation of security communications.
BLE mesh encrypts all messages, assigning a unique address to each node by the provisioner. Messages sent through the network are difficult to track, as they use obfuscation mechanisms with 128-bit AES encryption and network/application keys to protect against attacks.
- Network Key (NetKey) secures network layers across all nodes.
- Application Key (AppKey) is used to encrypt/decrypt messages.
(AppKeys are also used to differentiate between applications.)
- Device Key is a random unique ID known by the device and the provisioner.
The security process is performed by provisioning a security model designed with consideration of devices, application layer, selected platform, firmware, and communication.
BLE Module Market Players
- Silicon Labs
- Nordic Semiconductor
- Taiyo Juden
- Laird Connectivity
- Cypress Semiconductor
- Qualcomm Technologies
- NXP Semiconductors
- Texas Instruments
- Würth Elektronik GmbH & Co.
- Infineon Technologies
BLE SoC Solutions
A BLE module can be selected based on many criteria, including considerations such as interface type, data bus width, memory size and type, CPU frequency, core architecture, number of I/O, peripherals, clock rate, and other external components. The following models are worth exploring:
- SoC nRF52840
- SoC nRF52832
- Cypress CYW43455
- Bluetooth Chip EFR32BG13
- Nordic 5.2 SoC nRF52820
- Nordic nRF5340
- Arduino BLE module
U.S. MCUs and SoC Distributors
IoT Wireless Connectivity
IoT applications require the coordination of multi-protocol connectivity, peripherals, and system activities. Therefore, these are prioritized when planning software development for IoT applications.
Sensors and devices can connect through various wireless protocols. Therefore, it’s important to understand wireless standards and environments to tackle the product requirements correctly.
Bluetooth 5, Thread, and ZigBee
Bluetooth mesh network stack performance and behavior are tested for throughput, security, latency, and reliability. Bluetooth mesh, Thread, and Zigbee are usually compared to determine the one most appropriate for the device or application, also considering networks that work with low-power and are battery operated. Recommendations depend on their specific usage, requirements, and type of facility.
Bluetooth performs well on latency—it uses a flooding message technique to relay messages, and latency depends on network size and packet payloads. Latency increases as the network nodes and payloads increase. Managing the number of relays improves performance.
It is worth evaluating the IoT ecosystem, interfaces, and cloud connectivity to find the best fit for the scenario and technology available. Multiprotocol chips that support various protocols are ideal for gateway applications.
Firmware Engineering with Krasamo
Krasamo’s Software Development for BLE Applications:
Krasamo offers development resources for Bluetooth applications:
- Bluetooth applications—customized coded systems and solutions
- Experience with embedded devices in the IoT market
- Firmware engineering teams with experience in semiconductor and product design according to Bluetooth SIC specifications
- Bluetooth protocol stack
- BLE mesh provisioning and configuration
- Define Bluetooth networks and groups
- MCU programming
Krasamo’s Key Competitive Advantages:
- Development of mesh system architectures
- Firmware and system design expertise
- Microcontroller, system on a chip (SoC), module integration expertise
- Multiprotocol connectivity software expertise
- Real-time OS for IoT
- Security integration expertise
- Understanding of mobile apps, IoT systems, and trends
Krasamo’s engineering teams have analog experience as well as the know-how to pursue innovative approaches to IoT problems. We ensure close collaboration with customers throughout various implementation approaches during the development process. This cycle depends on customer factors and requires extensive communication. Our experienced application engineers fully support the design process and product architecture, accelerating product time to market.
- Check the list of products embracing BLE mesh capabilities that have completed the qualification process:
- Learn more about BLE mesh: