In the previous blog “IoT Connectivity Technologies” we described in brief various wireless connectivity options available for developing an IoT device. In this blog, we will discuss in detail about the Bluetooth Technology – Physical and higher network layer and its classifications.

Bluetooth technology Introduction

Bluetooth is wireless technology standard using short wavelength Ultra High frequency radio waves in the license free Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequency band. Bluetooth is managed by Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) originally formed by five companies Ericsson, Nokia, IBM, Toshiba and Intel. The Bluetooth SIG will publish and update the Bluetooth specifications. The IEEE standardized Bluetooth as IEEE 802.15.1, but no longer maintains the standard. The Bluetooth radio interface enables reliable communications over short distances. It supports multiple channels with different power level and reliable forms of modulation.

Bluetooth Technology Basics

Bluetooth frequencies are located within the 2.4GHz ISM band. The frequency in ISM bands ranges from 2400MHz to 2483.5MHz. There is 1MHz space between each Bluetooth channel starting from 2402MHz and ending at 2480MHz. This can be calculated as 2401 + n, where n ranges from 1 to 79. This type of channel arrangement gives a guard band of 2MHz at the bottom end and 3.5MHz at the top, thus preventing interference. Bluetooth employs a technology called Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum by which the radio signals are transmitted by rapidly switching the carrier signal among various frequency channels.  In this method the transmitted data is divided into packets and sent on one of 79 designated channels switched randomly at a rate of 1600 times per second. The main drawback of this technique is the occurrence of collision with another wireless device such as Wi-Fi when introduced into the same environment. To avoid this, the Adaptive Frequency hopping technique is introduced. The Adaptive Frequency Hopping technique allows the Bluetooth to adapt the environment by excluding the fixed sources of interference (i.e. bad channels) from the available list of channels. This technique of re-mapping reduces the number of channels to be used by the Bluetooth. The following figure illustrate the collision resulting from the random frequency hopping adapting to the environment

Collision in Random Frequency hopping

Random Frequency Hopping

The following figure illustrate the collision avoided using Adaptive Frequency Hopping

Advantage of Adaptive Frequency hopping

Adaptive Frequency Hopping

The digital data is conveyed using a modulation scheme called Gaussian Frequency Shift Keying. In this technique the bits of the transferred data corresponds to discrete frequency changes in the carrier signal. The binary one is represented by a positive frequency deviation and a binary zero is represented by a negative frequency deviation. With this technique, the basic data rate (BR) of 1 Mbps is achieved. To achieve higher data rates, Bluetooth uses another major class of modulation technique called Phase Shift Keying. Phase Shift Keying is a type of digital modulation scheme by which the digital data is conveyed by modulating the phase of the carrier wave. π/4 Differential Quadrature Phase Shift keying (π/4-DQPSK) and 8-ary Phase Shift Keying (8DPSK) are the different forms of PSK used for enhanced data rate (EDR) capability. By these techniques the Bluetooth can achieve data rate of 2Mbps with π/4-DQPSK and 3Mbps with 8DPSK. The combination of these BR and EDR mode is classified as a “BR/EDR radio”. Further improvement in the Bluetooth data rate up to 24 Mbps is achieved without changing the format of the Bluetooth modulation but by operating cooperatively with an IEEE 802.11g physical layer. Bluetooth Low Energy, a version of Bluetooth technology focused on low energy consumption than higher data rate also operates in the same frequency range of 2.4GHz to 2.4835GHz. Instead of the 79 1MHz channels, BLE has 40 2MHz channels and the data is transmitted using Gaussian Frequency Shift Keying. The bit rate of the BLE is 1Mbps similar to the Basic Rate (BR). With understanding of the physical layer, we will now explore the higher communication layers.

Bluetooth Communication

Bluetooth communication takes place a short range ad hoc network known as Piconet. A Piconet starts with two connected devices and can grow up to eight connected devices. In general, the Bluetooth communication sets one of the Bluetooth devices as a controlling unit (master unit) and other device as a slave unit to follow the master. Each device added to the Piconet will be assigned with a specific time period to transmit the data without colliding or overlapping with the other units. Bluetooth core specification supports connection of two or more Piconets to form a scatternet by which a device of one Piconet either operating as a master or slave can simultaneously play a slave role in the other. Hence communication between more than 8 devices is made possible. The following figure depicts the concept of scatternet,

Bluetooth Communicaton

Concept of Scatternet

Bluetooth Classification

Number of Bluetooth versions is developed to meet the specific requirements of the time with the update of fixing the previous version errors. All the updated versions of Bluetooth support backward compatibility. The following table describes the different versions of Bluetooth available 

Bluetooth Versions

Bluetooth Classifications

Why there is so much hype on BLE?

Bluetooth Classic has faced critical challenges such as fast battery draining and frequent loss of connection which requires frequent pairing. BLE has ability to overcome these challenges and this is the reason why it has become popular in this decade. BLE is more intelligent in managing connections while preserving the battery power. BLE rather maintaining constant bit streams of information sends small chunks of data when required and goes to sleep during the idle periods. Bluetooth/BLE Low Energy comes under the Personal Area Network (PAN) type of connectivity. An IoT device that supports Bluetooth/BLE connectivity can use smart phones as a gateway to the internet. At present, most of the smart phones being launched are Bluetooth Smart Ready, i.e. devices that can communicate with both Bluetooth classic and Bluetooth Low Energy devices. Since smart phones have become the norm, most of the IoT device developments especially in healthcare, home automation segments take place centered around BLE connectivity. IoT devices that supports BLE connectivity tends to be a Bluetooth Smart device that can connect only with the Smart ready devices. Bluetooth smart devices such as smart watches, car key fobs, heart rate monitor are stand-alone, small batter operated that mainly focus on the power consumption as low as possible. With the understanding of the Bluetooth technology and its classifications, we will discuss in detail about the design considerations for developing IoT devices with Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity.

About Embien

Embien Technologies is a leading provider of embedded design services for the Semi-conductor, Industrial, Consumer and Health Care segments. Embien has successfully executed many projects like based on IoT such as healthcare Wearables, Gateways, and Data Analytics etc. Embien also offers a set of wearable design collections complete with electronics, firmware and Cloud that can be used to shorten product development costs and time significantly.

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