Editor’s Note: Bluetooth® Smart is the latest addition to the Bluetooth Specification and it uses Bluetooth low energy technology to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) for products that operate on small coin cells for years. This is the second blog of a 6-part series ECN Texas Instruments about the benefits of using BlueTooth Smart in industrial applications.
Everything is about Internet of Things (IoT) nowadays. What does that really mean? Fundamentally, it means that a device, a thing, can connect to the Internet. This opens up many opportunities for a product. For industrial application, as an example, it means that machinery can be connected to the Internet and be maintained by a common source. Bluetooth® Smart aids the use case by introducing smartphone connectivity and thereby opening a connection to the Internet. It’s important to understand what is on the other side of this link. What resides at the Internet? It’s more commonly known as cloud services and it’s what this short article is a about.
Let’s start with sensors. Adding Bluetooth Smart to an accelerometer or a temperature sensor adds connectivity to the collected data. Bluetooth Smart enabled sensors typically operates with small amounts of data (but not limited to) that is pushed to a collector for further processing. The collector could be a smart phone or some other Bluetooth Smart Ready device.
There are several ways to achieve a solid solution here. What if there was a lightweight protocol that could easily interface the Bluetooth Smart Ready device to the Internet. Luckily, MQTT is a lightweight connectivity protocol that sits on top of TCP/IP and is a splendid candidate for a transport layer to the cloud service. This means that the road to the cloud has been paved.
So where does the road end? What welcomes the sensor data on a red carpet with a glass of champagne? It’s the cloud service, which there is many to choose from. IBM’s Bluemix is one open-standard cloud-based platform that provides services suitable for all sorts of data. The cloud service hosts the data which can then be pushed to or accessed by a web-based GUI, such as Node-RED.
Turning the direction, it’s possible to push data from the cloud to the sensor as well, which could be calibration data or firmware updates. A web interface can maintain control over the home or an industrial plant by deploying cloud services. Once the data is located within the cloud it can be used for statistics and maintenance on a system far more advanced than a single sensor node. This is referred to as cloud computing and it makes much more sense to keep battery driven devices simple and offloaded. Note that the term cloud does not necessarily mean that everything is available via Internet connection. A cloud service can be locally available with a secure interface to the Internet which is only opened for specific occasions or users. The word cloud is a good term since you can’t actually tell what’s inside, something similar to Schrödinger’s cat.
For industrial applications, cloud services can increase efficiency and I would like to be bold and state that Bluetooth Smart introduces intelligence into connected systems. Imagine a factory where seamless automation and complete control is crucial. It makes sense to have a cloud service that collects data, runs statistics and loops through advanced algorithms to estimate future states for pre-alert actions. Diagnosis and service can also be maintained by factory workers being connected to the cloud with a smartphone or tablet. With Bluetooth Smart, the technicians can directly interface with the sensors or systems or on a safe distance through the cloud. The flexibility and reliability is the key features here, along with robustness and safety.
I believe that 2015 is the year where Bluetooth Smart will boom in the IoT, simply because Bluetooth Smart brings a low cost, secure and easily deployable technology into a large smart phone ecosystem that already exists.
For evaluating Bluetooth Smart with cloud service capabilities, the Texas Instruments SensorTag based on CC2541 wireless MCU is a good starting point. IBM cloud services also already have a demo up and running to evaluate IoT awesomeness.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)