November 10, 2017

Why 2018 will change everything for IoT

Nikita Akmaikin

Head of Sensor as a Service, Tieto

The Internet of Things (IoT) has grown much bigger in the last couple of years. Better sensors, better infrastructure and a better ability to analyse the data it produces have all contributed to a booming industry. However, technical limitations still hinder the effectiveness of IoT sensors in some scenarios. But very soon, one of those limitations will be removed with the introduction of Bluetooth 5 wireless technology.

Why Bluetooth 5 matters 

Bluetooth 5 is set to be a game-changing technology for IoT deployments in 2018, offering better coverage, faster speeds and more affordability. One of the current challenges facing any wireless IoT deployments is in the range limitations of the current generation of sensors. 

At one end of the scale, the market is full of sensors that can only reach a few metres and have difficulty penetrating even a thin wall. If companies need a greater range, their only option is an extremely costly solution that, which being able to send signals tens of kilometres, will be beyond the budget of many firms.

Until now, there has been nothing in between these two extremes - but this is where Bluetooth 5 comes in. This technology offers better and much more cost-effective connectivity for distances of up to 500 metres, opening up a huge range of new opportunities for the IoT in 2018 and beyond.

How IoT deployments can take advantage

One application where this can prove highly valuable is in smart energy solutions. Smart lighting and heating sensors typically require mid-range solutions that are not well-served by the current market, particularly in larger buildings where existing Bluetooth solutions will not even reach the next floor. But Bluetooth 5 is set to change this.

Another is smart cleaning technologies, which currently aren't able to get any benefit out of IoT sensors, because it is hugely expensive to fit sensors that have the range required. For example, it could cost up to €400 to fit a single sensor to a waste bin in order to analyse how full it is. But with Bluetooth 5, the cost for this can be up to ten times cheaper, allowing businesses to much more easily build up a large network of sensors to monitor activities across the entire company.

An increase in data speed limits is another feature that can prove useful, especially in industrial settings where delays of even a few microseconds could alter the outcome of a process.

The path to standardisation

Another area this technology is set to change is standardisation, which at the moment is the number one challenge facing IoT.

Whenever you need to create a product using IoT - whether it's a smart heating system or a fully-connected office - communication is key. But this is often easier said than done, as it's likely you'll need to connect devices made by one company with solutions made by another, all linked into a cloud made by a third provider, and so on. The more complex a network becomes, the greater the challenge.

But what Bluetooth SIG offers is a combination that makes achieving this connectivity easier. The technology provides a core hardware update, requiring communication on top.

Bluetooth SIG has therefore created their own Low Energy :mesh which is suited perfectly to wide amount of use-cases, so whether you're connecting one sensor or 1,000, the communication stack will be the same, with only small adjustments on top of the software application. 

This can allow completely different categories of devices to coexist and integrate more easily. For example, imagine a system where an air quality sensor can detect high CO2 levels, inform a user on their phone, then automatically instruct a smart building to open a window. Then, other sensors could close it again if it detects it has started to rain, or if the temperature falls too low, all without human involvement or interference between devices. With Bluetooth's Low Energy: mesh, this becomes routine.

Questions about standards and integration are among the most common issues that are raised by customers. It's a challenge we look to solve by combining different services into one supply chain, presenting customers with a single solution that allows them to focus on the most important part - the data. With new technology such as Bluetooth 5, 2018 should make it easier than ever for data-driven businesses to get the information they need to succeed. 

Read more about Data-Driven Businesses and if you have your own data-driven business idea, join us: Tieto Data Incubator

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