Benefits of an Information Centric Lighting Network
In 2018, hardly anyone doubts that connected lighting controls are the future of the lighting industry. However, the last couple of years proved how challenging this environment is for wireless communication technologies. The market remains highly fragmented and customers remain locked to proprietary solutions. Scalability still remains a major issue as wireless systems available so far were not able to provide wire-like reliability and responsiveness in large-scale installations. One might think that relevant solutions should show up fairly quickly – especially considering how big the prize is for those who figure out how to address these problems. Still, connected lighting seems to be stuck somewhere between the “innovators” and “early adopters” stages of the technology adoption curve. The fact that even the most proven wireless solutions were unable to address these challenges shows one thing. A radical change is needed in how we approach the fundamentals of connected lighting.
Network technologies we commonly use today are based on a host-centric paradigm. Perpetual connectivity and the so-called end-to-end principle have become a design framework in computer networking. This is how the Internet infrastructure is organized. This approach has worked thus far but experts say it won’t be sufficient to handle the constantly increasing traffic volume in the future. There is an alternative, though. Information-centric networking (ICN) is an approach to evolve the Internet infrastructure and support its stunning growth by introducing uniquely named data as a core Internet principle. Moving away from a host-centric paradigm, the ICN model doesn’t care about senders, recipients, addresses. Instead, named information is its focal point, making data independent from location, application and storage.
The Bluetooth mesh standard adopted last year introduces the ICN concept to connected lighting systems. This is realized through a fully decentralized architecture with no single points of failure. With its publish-subscribe paradigm, Bluetooth mesh moves away from a host-centric framework, enabling efficient multicast and peer-to-peer communications. Data generated by intelligent sensors becomes addressable information. Since addresses of individual nodes don’t matter, sensor data is the focal point – other nodes subscribe to it and respond accordingly. Just like in the case of the ICN-based approach to the Internet infrastructure, this generates multiple benefits. They include improved spectral efficiency, better robustness and full scalability. All of them are extremely relevant in challenging communication scenarios, such as professional lighting applications.
As part of my presentation, I want to explain how exactly the Bluetooth mesh specification embraces the information centric communication model, and what practical benefits this generates – from faster commissioning and more cost-efficient maintenance to information centric services that can be delivered on top of Bluetooth mesh lighting networks.