We are still waiting for the big breakthrough for connected products in the home. Certainly, many people have their alarms, lawnmowers and sometimes even their lights linked to the Internet nowadays. But these products are often controlled via separate apps and hardware, which makes it difficult for them to talk to one another. It also makes it expensive and awkward for users to manage lots of different solutions.
The garden is a good place for testing technology. Things are often spread out there, and there are obstacles in the way. Connected systems outdoors for monitoring, watering and lawn mowing, for example, are proprietary solutions that are unable to talk to one another. Instead, we wanted to open them up and link them together
Bluetooth Mesh is a new standard to be launched in 2017. One big advantage is that this technology uses a communications protocol, Bluetooth, that is already used by all smartphones and lots of other home electronics. So in other words, this solution is robust, secure and inexpensive. Another positive is that Mesh (which means “net”) allows product to be connected together and “borrow” range from one another. Range has been a limitation of Bluetooth so far.
To see how Bluetooth Mesh works under real conditions, Semcon and Husqvarna have implemented a research project by the name of GRASS, which stands for Garden Responsive Actuator and Sensor System. This project has been financed by state body Vinnova.
To make the system as open, scalable and low on power as possible, Bluetooth Low Energy was used in a mesh network that can provide coverage throughout much of the garden. Messages are passed between units in the network until they have all received the information. This means that not all nodes have to be reached by a base unit. This network finds its own accessible route with the help of the devices.
Having a separate base unit for all systems is expensive and requires a lot of space. We wanted to find out whether it would be possible to create a smarter network that can lower the threshold for adoption of connected technology by consumers
Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh has proven to be highly suitable as an open standard for wireless communication in a garden environment, with certain devices connected to the mains power supply. Measurements show extensive battery life for individual devices and very good range. This technology also appears to offer major opportunities in terms of lighting, ventilation systems and alarms, for instance. The lessons learned and now being incorporated in ongoing product development at Husqvarna and Semcon.
Up to now we have used frequency 868 systems for our products, but these require separate hardware and software which is costly. Bluetooth is an open standard that everyone is familiar with – programmers and consumers alike – and it is constantly being developed to achieve better range. This makes the solution very interesting for the future