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How Bluetooth® Mesh and IIoT are Reimagining Factories and Warehouses

The rollout of Bluetooth mesh, and its capabilities for corralling routed and flood mesh networks together – into a ‘managed flood’ of Bluetooth connections within a certain distance – have kicked open the doors for new connectivity possibilities. We touched on some of these possibilities in an earlier blog post, focusing on the implications that Bluetooth mesh networking could have on connected devices at home, in the office or on the road.

One specific industry this impact will be acutely felt is manufacturing. The manufacturing industry is absolutely ripe for potential with Bluetooth mesh, and is in fact expected to spend over $189 billion on IoT solutions in 2018, according to IDC. A significant part of that investment will be on Bluetooth mesh-enabled devices, as wireless sensor network markets for Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), including industrial sensors and smart buildings among other use cases, are expected to outpace the overall Bluetooth LE market by 3X through 2022, as a Research and Markets report indicated.

This coming wave of interest begs the question – what exactly does Bluetooth mesh mean for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?

Making factories and warehouses smarter

Industrial facilities are outfitted with an enormous array of sophisticated, and increasingly IoT-capable, equipment. But, keeping track of all this equipment and the myriad roles they play in a warehouse or factory’s day-to-day – from machinery output and efficiency to just determining how to best (and intelligently) light the building – can be a daunting task. With Bluetooth mesh, floor managers can turn these convoluted oversight tasks into more streamlined to-do items.

Consider just a few possible applications:

  • Preventive Maintenance: equipping production lines with sensors that can flag when a machine is about to break, so that it can be replaced ahead of time, minimizing overall downtime.
  • Implementing air quality monitoring systems that are linked to different sensors – for example, temperature sensors and pressure sensors – to help improve overall worker safety.
  • Deploying beacons to track equipment across the floor – or, tracking when a piece of equipment has left the facility altogether.
  • Providing a central point of control and visibility for warehouse robotics and other automated systems that manage stacking, stocking and processing.
  • Using humidity sensors and smart thermostats to regulate the heat or air conditioning in rooms where products or equipment may be sensitive to specific temperature conditions.

Installing Bluetooth devices across the factory or warehouse, linking them to every function happening within the facility and bringing them together into a mesh network, gives floor managers a single point of control and visibility over everything going on in the facility. This has the double benefit of creating a streamlined and centralized channel for that equipment to send back data that can be leveraged for making further improvements and investments.

Bridging the communications gap

Part of the problem with the current state of the IIoT is a seriously fragmented communications landscape. Industrial devices vary so significantly from each other, it’s hard to create a baseline, universal standard among them. But, Bluetooth mesh can fill that gap, by empowering mobile devices to be used for tracking equipment notifications or collecting data from sensors. These mobile devices can range from personal ones to company-issued devices, such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, barcode scanners and other mobile computing devices.

Additionally, Bluetooth mesh can be used to quickly and easily provision connected devices. In some cases, this allows for faster response times for on-site applications like lighting. In other cases, this approach can be used as a sort of backup in the event that the facility’s cloud platform is down or otherwise disrupted. 

Warehouses and factories aren’t the only ones

We don’t want to suggest that warehouses and factories are the only corners of the industrial space touched by the IIoT and Bluetooth mesh. These examples are really just scratching the surface of possibilities that Bluetooth mesh can bring to the IIoT. From water quality monitoring in the water infrastructure industry to temperature regulation in breweries, Bluetooth mesh is poised to reshape the IoT landscape across many corners of the manufacturing world, in radically different ways.

Take a look at Dialog’s Bluetooth low energy devices for more on how our solutions can help streamline and improve connectivity in your customers’ personal and professional lives.