Wirepas Wirepas Blog Part II: Together we are stronger

August 30, 2018

Part II: Together we are stronger

By Sami Kaislasuo

As the follow up to our press release with Silicon Labs, in which we released concurrent Wirepas Mesh and Bluetooth multiprotocol , I started a blog series by writing about multiprotocol in general and benefits of using more than one protocol to create better products to tackle some of the challenges in the market that IoT is said to solve. In this second part, I will focus on what combining Wirepas Mesh and Bluetooth could solve, and how the concurrent multiprotocol can also benefit the device manufacturers, when they are looking to address these use cases.

There are enough use cases in IoT space to fill books. Here the focus will be on the verticals Wirepas is committed to and raising some of the most obvious improvement points, which the combination of Wirepas Mesh and Bluetooth can bring.

In Lighting the obvious problems come from installation and user control, here I’ll focus on the latter. It is said that wireless devices will replace the ordinary wall switches, for example. With mobile or easy installation switches the switch can be where it is needed, instead wall mounts during construction phase, making rooms and spaces much more dynamic. These battery powered, and even energy harvested Bluetooth switches exist already, from the likes of EnOcean, and these can be integrated to be part of a Wirepas enabled lighting control system. These switches bring benefits from personalized control perspective as well as ease of installation and possibility of retrofitting wireless control. Additionally, to physical switches, the benefit of many carrying a mobile device could grow into using those broadly as lighting control devices. These applications have already penetrated the home markets and some smaller commercial installations, with early adaptors going with Bluetooth, and other wireless, controlled bulbs in a small setting. However, the big breakthrough in commercial deployment has been hindered by the lack of capabilities supporting massive scale networks and point-to-point connectivity simultaneously. This is where the combination of Wirepas Mesh and Bluetooth shows its strength with Wirepas Mesh creating the backbone for lighting control and sensor data uplink, and Bluetooth bringing the personal control aspect. With the concurrent operation both protocols can work seamlessly, and a smooth user experience is guaranteed.

In Smart metering, one obvious use case is people wanting to track their power consumption locally. Nowadays the power consumption can often be followed from a cloud service provided by the utility company, but this often comes with a lag of hour(s) and in a dashboard like view. A Smart Meter with Wirepas Mesh and Bluetooth could provide local monitoring using a commodity Bluetooth enabled tablet or a phone showing the consumption in real-time with alerts and other functionality. The user experience with an app could be built to much more personal experience than with only relying on a cloud-based dashboard. Benefit of using Bluetooth, instead of Wirepas for the local monitoring is that the Bluetooth devices are available already in almost every household, and point-to-point communication is enough for that. The meters would be connected to each other and the utility company’s network with Wirepas Mesh and back-haul connection.

Asset Tracking and positioning has variety of solutions to choose from and it is not uncommon to combined technologies to achieve the system requirements in price, accuracy, lifetime and easiness of installation etc. One requirement for combining Bluetooth and Wirepas Mesh is combining the tracking of low cost tags with wayfinding or indoor positioning of mobile phones. The tags can be tracked with Wirepas Mesh, combined with Wirepas Positioning engine, and the wayfinding and indoor positioning could be achieved with Bluetooth beacons to comply with the already existing solutions. In this solution the anchor points for location would run Bluetooth and Wirepas Mesh in the same device to save cost and complexity.

As can been seen from these examples the overall interoperability between devices and potential solutions increase when combining a commodity point-to-point protocol like Bluetooth LE/5 with the capabilities of Wirepas Mesh to support large scale networks. This is all enabled by Wirepas Mesh’s use of standard Bluetooth Low Energy physical layer.

Not only does the flexibility and interoperability increase but combining these protocols into one System-on-Chip (SoC) and running them concurrently, instead of multiple chipsets in same device, bring savings to the manufacturer. Obvious saving is the hardware cost, only one RF chipset instead of many, one RF path, simplified PCB design, fewer passive components and smaller space etc. Procurement of components will be simpler, and front-end design comes easier with only one RF path to worry about. In application development the embedded application complexity might slightly increase with two protocols running simultaneously in one SoC, but mostly those complexities are addressed by abstraction layers. In the end maintaining one code base, with one version control, compared to two will save on and simplify maintenance. Testing of one RF device is faster and cheaper, and certification testing will also be simplified and cuts down cost.

The combination of point-to-point connectivity with large scale mesh network can enable vast amount of new use cases otherwise unreachable or add features to existing end-products that have not been available before. From a manufacturers perspective the heavy lifting Wirepas and Silicon Labs have done to bring this solution to the market, eases the decision to make new unique solutions to the market and ultimately saves cost and reduces complexity compared to two (or more) chips solutions.

In the part III of the series we will discuss the technical aspects of implementation, and how it differs from other solutions out there.