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Bluetooth® Mesh and Local Voice: A Perfect Pair for Lighting

Telink Staff

April 29, 2021

Applications

Man using Bluetooth Mesh lighting network

Combining the scalability and power efficiency of Bluetooth® Mesh with the convenience of local voice makes for an industry-leading lighting solution that shines like no other.

Over the last decade, voice technology has found its way into multiple facets of everyday life, creating convenience for many consumers. We see it used heavily in hearables, wearables, remote controls, in-vehicle infotainment systems, and smart homes. According to research from NPR, 54 percent of adults in the United States have used voice commands at some point, including 24 percent who use them daily. From Siri to Alexa to Google Home, voice technology is continuing to bridge the gap between consumers and their devices — especially in their homes.

Within the smart home space, smart lighting represents a particularly strong use case for voice technology. The global smart lighting market is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 20 percent between 2019 and 2024, at which point it will be valued at around $23.6 billion. And while smart lighting already has come a long way in recent years, it can go even further when combined with voice technology.

By utilizing versatile networking topologies like Bluetooth® Mesh, today’s (and tomorrow’s) smart lighting systems can offer consumers touchless control over their environments and even automated self-operation based on the status of different nodes within the mesh network.

Mesh Networking for Smart Lighting Systems

Mesh networking provides an efficient system for tens, hundreds, or even thousands of devices to communicate with each other. Made up of nodes that act as both transmitters and repeaters, a mesh network facilitates a resilient, seamless flow of data — even if one or two nodes fail, data can be rerouted along any number of alternative paths to ensure successful command execution.

While most consumers are familiar with one-to-one Bluetooth connections — in other words, direct communication between a user endpoint (e.g., a smartphone) and a particular device (e.g., a speaker) — Bluetooth Mesh allows for multi-node communication (e.g., an entire lighting system). The distributed control Bluetooth Mesh delivers gives users the ability to control both individual smart lights and clusters of smart lights via a single authorized smartphone — or a similar control panel — that is connected to the same mesh network as the lights.

The Bluetooth LE standard brings tremendous power efficiency to the scalability of the Bluetooth Mesh networking topology, creating a solid communications framework that allows for optimal control and monitoring of smart home ecosystems. Many smart device operating systems support Bluetooth LE out of the box, empowering consumers to build their own low-energy mesh networks with the devices they have already purchased — no need to invest in additional routers or network gateways. Devices can be added or removed from these networks without disruption or reprogramming, making Bluetooth Mesh networking an ideal fit for sprawling, multi-node IoT applications like smart lighting systems.

Bringing Voice Capabilities to Smart Lighting

Initially, voice technology involved a roundabout way of activating a particular device. Users would have to push and hold a button before speaking their commands, which would then be transmitted to the cloud for processing before being sent back to the device via a local gateway.

While generally effective, this process often resulted in slow processing speeds, impacting overall user experience. However, recent technological developments have paved the way for smart home devices — including smart lighting systems — that feature always-on local voice capabilities.

Rather than waiting to receive audio data after a user pushes a button, a device equipped with always-on local voice capabilities remains on in a passive state waiting for a designated wake phrase (also called a trigger word). Upon registering the wake phrase, it will be ready to receive and process additional commands — in the case of a smart lighting system, a command like, “Turn on the lights.” Instead of making the round trip to the backend cloud, local voice capabilities allow for an instant response. This also strengthens privacy protections. Both of these benefits are critical to improving overall user experience.

The video below provides a demonstration of how this works when several lighting fixtures are integrated into a Bluetooth Mesh network:

Uniting the Power of Bluetooth® Mesh Networking and Local Voice

As illustrated in the video above, Telink’s TLSR9 series lays the groundwork for easy-to-use, feature-rich smart lighting systems. The TLSR9 series integrates a powerful 32-bit RISC-V MCU with features like local keyword spotting (KWS) and command recognition and advanced acoustic algorithms — all of which contribute to a powerful voice-enabled lighting solution.

The TLSR9 series also delivers excellent interoperability, as it can join a Bluetooth Mesh network composed of devices that are based on TLSR8 series products. With one node programmed to support voice recognition and all others set to act as ordinary Bluetooth Mesh nodes, a user can turn on/off multiple lights simultaneously or each light individually with a simple voice command. Ultimately, the TLSR9 series provides IoT innovators with the hardware they need to take smart home systems to the next level by bringing together robust Bluetooth Mesh networking with convenient always-on local voice.

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