Making a Mesh of Things

Making a Mesh of Things

Within five years, half of all broadband-capable homes in the U.S. will have a smart home device, according to a recent study by Parks Associates. Each of these devices might represent a node in a mesh network, in which all nodes cooperate in distributing data.

Several smart mesh solutions are now on the market, most using ZigBee and Z-Wave wireless technologies, but CSR is the first to create a mesh network for low-energy devices such as light switches or control panels enabled for the nearly ubiquitous Bluetooth Smart.

The year-old protocol, CSRmesh, was initially optimized for lighting control and is now being updated for whole home automation from a smartphone, tablet, PC or wearable device such as a smart watch.

In a demo, CSRmesh controls 50 lights at once using a single app.
In a demo, CSRmesh controls 50 lights at once using a single app.

The CSRmesh Home Automation release will be available in the beginning of Q2 2015. To ensure developers can get products to market quickly, a CSRmesh Development Kit, which provides a complete set of tools for evaluation and software development including Android and iOS source code, is available now and already supports the Home Automation release.

“Range has been the age-old problem for WiFi in the home—how to relay messages from one end of a house to the other,” says Rick Walker, CSR’s senior marketing manager, Internet of Things. “This is a common problem for ZigBee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth Smart. CSRmesh is a flood mesh that broadcasts messages using Bluetooth Smart to whatever is within radio range of the original device, and those devices can in turn rebroadcast to other devices outside of radio range.”

Solutions based on CSRmesh do not require complicated setup, rewiring or use of a hub or router. The protocol allows up to 64,000 sensors, actuators and devices to be networked. Manufacturers are developing cloud-connectivity solutions for home control, Walker says, and CSRmesh can control and monitor a home remotely from anywhere in the world, as it controls the entire infrastructure from chip to cloud.

Security and Standardization

csr_mesh_smartphone_control_lightCSRmesh is a simple, quick, very secure solution, Walker says, and encryption, validation and authentication are critical to CSR. The user must be a member of the mesh network, and a network key is generated from the password the user creates when connecting to the mesh network.

“Customers can simply plug in Bluetooth Smart devices, such as LED lightbulbs, and they’ll just work,” says Walker. “When a new device is installed on the network, the customer uses the CSRmesh smartphone app to read the device’s private key through its QR [quick response] code. The device goes through encryption and becomes an authenticated member of that network.

“You can have lots of networks in the same room, and they will not interfere with each other. They cannot decrypt each other’s messages because their network keys are different. This is ideal for multi-tenant buildings and multifamily homes with numerous networks in a confined space.”

Standardization issues are as important to CSR as security concerns, says Walker. “We don’t want to fragment the market. We want to have a standard solution. We’re working in the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) Smart Mesh Study Group to help create a global standard for Bluetooth Smart mesh by the end of 2015.”

New features of CSRmesh Home Automation include proximity sensing within Bluetooth Smart—if you approach your house at night, your lights will turn on automatically—and voice control using Android Wear or a smart device with a microphone.

“We can also build CSRmesh connectivity onto existing remote controls so that your TV remote can, for instance, control your lights as part of the mesh,” Walker adds. “The user can do three things on this multipurpose device—Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart and CSRmesh—all at the same time, all on the same silicon.”

About The Author

Steve Withrow, editor-in-chief of TecHome Contractor and TecHomeX, is a writer and award-winning author with 15 years of experience in science, medicine, technology and the arts. He joined the AE Ventures team in January 2015. He studied writing, literature and publishing at Roger Williams University and Emerson College. He has spoken to audiences around the world about comics, animation, poetry and children’s literature.

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