Three key differences between ATLAS Link and Bluetooth mesh technology

We often use the term ‘Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) mesh technology’ when describing the technology that ATLAS Link operates on. However, did you know that they are not completely the same?

While ATLAS Link runs on BLE chipsets and shares the same physical layer as the BLE hardware, it still has distinct and enhanced features that differentiates itself from a Bluetooth mesh. This is due to its ability to overwrite the Bluetooth firmware to transmit and receive messages.

The three key differences are:

• Communication technique

BLE mesh uses a technique called ‘flooding’, which is inherently multipath. It works when repeaters receive and repeat messages they hear from other devices. The flooding algorithm is useful in specific situations, for instance, for wireless lighting output control where the lights are mains-powered and the switch command is broadcast to all lights. However, the flooding technique may present limitations for sensor networks bigger than 100 devices.

On the other hand, ATLAS Link uses the ‘routing’ technique. This means that the network itself is intelligent and the nodes will automatically find the best route to transmit messages. Thus, it can handle tens of thousands of devices in one network without a hitch. For example, if one node fails, the nodes will reroute to find the next best route, without compromising on the data being transmitted. Routing is useful especially for use cases involving many sensor devices — for instance, in smart buildings where lights, temperature and air quality may be sensor-controlled and sensor output is only sent to the relevant devices involved.

• Power source

Regular BLE mesh uses repeaters that are mains-powered as they consume a lot of energy. Hence, the mesh requires infrastructure to be built to include the main-powered repeaters. The amount of energy consumed and wires needed to be installed results in BLE mesh being a relatively costly solution.

ATLAS Link is self-powered; it does not require a fixed power source as all nodes within the network are fully battery-powered. Thus, it makes a very cost-effective solution that can be readily deployed in your large buildings and sites!

• Number of channels used in a mesh network

BLE mesh uses a maximum of 3 different radiofrequency channels. This implies that all communication will only be made using 3 different frequencies. With a limited radio frequency, it is more prone to ‘collision’ — when two devices that are transmitting on the same frequency at the same time interfere with each other. As such, BLE mesh uses a method that ensures the devices involved in the collision pause for a certain amount of time before retransmitting, thus creating a trade-off on the mesh network’s performance and scalability.

However, ATLAS Link uses 40 different channels in a network, and the nodes are able to select the least crowded ones independently. This means that ATLAS Link can time-synchronise its communication between nodes to optimise the channel usage while minismising power consumption. The short transmission time also avoids the aforementioned risk of collision.

In summary,

 BLE meshATLAS Link
Communication techniqueFloodingRouting
Power sourceRequires a fixed power sourceNo power source needed; fully battery-operated
Number of channels in a network340

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