The Bluetooth Special Interest Group wants to raise Bluetooth's profile in the Internet of Things with a toolkit for building gateways between the short-range wireless network and the Internet.
The toolkit should make it easier to build gateways that collect data wirelessly from Bluetooth devices and then transfer it to the cloud via Ethernet, mobile broadband or other networks.
A basic use of gateways could be medical devices automatically sending and receiving health information from doctors far away. Light usage data could also be aggregated from many Bluetooth-connected smart bulbs in a building, then sent via a gateway to a cloud service for analysis.
A toolkit with a reference architecture, firmware and a driver will allow developers to quickly develop such gateways, said Steve Hegenderfer, director of developer programs at Bluetooth SIG.
The gateways could be built on devices as cheap as a single-board computer. Hegenderfer's team built a router on a $35 Raspberry Pi 2, which already has Bluetooth and an Ethernet port.
The gateway architecture is designed for aggregation of data from sensors in a large mesh of connected devices, Hegenderfer said. It's possible to collect data from Bluetooth devices with Internet-connected smartphones and tablets, but the gateways would operate on a much larger scale. They would also require less human intervention to collect and transmit data.
Some of the first gateways will appear in hubs for smart homes. Later ones will go into industrial equipment for purposes of tracking and asset management, Hegenderfer said. Many routers and other Internet-connected devices already have a Bluetooth interface, and installing the toolkit will make it active, he said.
The gateway architecture is part of Bluetooth SIG's goal to grow in the IoT and home automation markets. It is also a way to extend the range of Bluetooth data transfers beyond the wireless range of Bluetooth itself. The next Bluetooth protocol, which will be in devices next year, will transfer data at 2Mbps (bits per second) and have four times the range of the current Version 4.2 protocol. The gateway design will work with the current Bluetooth, and with the next protocol it will gain new features in areas like security.
About 3 billion Bluetooth-connected devices shipped last year. Analysts are predicting 25 billion or more connected devices in use by 2020, and the Bluetooth SIG sees a large growth opportunity as that market grows.