Bluetooth technology has evolved significantly over the last two decades. The short-range wireless technology which was primarily used as a connectivity solution for PC and peripherals has emerged as one of the gateway solutions for small scale IoT applications. The reason for this was the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in 2009.
BLE: Low Power, high data rate Bluetooth Solution
Several changes had to be made in classic Bluetooth technology so that it caters to the demanding aspects of IoT devices. Since most IoT devices like wearables and broadcasting beacons are battery-operated, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was crafted to consume much less power while keeping the communication and range aspects of the traditional Bluetooth technology intact. Another significant improvement was the enhancement of data rate enabling connected devices to communicate with enriched smarter packets. This served as a breakthrough for connectionless Bluetooth devices like beacons, enabling them to convey actual information in fewer data packets.
Broadcasting and Mesh Capabilities of BLE
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) also provides a broadcasting mode where it doesn’t require pairing. This gave way to Bluetooth beacons that could transmit messages to multiple devices in close proximity. BLE also allows you to incorporate mesh topology among your connected devices. With capabilities like encryption, BLE implements a controlled flood network eliminating the need of a hub or a router.
BLE System-on-a-chip (SoC) Solutions
There are several prominent chip manufacturers in the market that provide SoC Bluetooth solutions. One such solution is provided by Nordic Semiconductor. Their flagship nRF81822 and nRF52832 BLE chips are quite popular among embedded developers. The primary difference between both chips is the microcontroller they use. The nRF81822 uses 32 bit ARM cortex-M0 chip while nRF52832 provides enhanced capabilities in terms of speed and computing from 32 bit ARM cortex-M4F chip.
The other noticeable solution in the market is Espressif’s ESP32. But Nordic chips edge the Espressif solutions by miles when it comes to power consumption.
With the latest advancements in BLE technology, it has edged other wireless connectivity solutions like Wi-Fi and Zigbee for IoT devices. It has slowly established itself as a de-facto standard for low power battery operated devices with enhanced capabilities like broadcasting and mesh connectivity. BLE is now being actively used in home automation and asset tracking solutions.