Bluetooth Low Energy, since its inception in 2010 with Bluetooth 4.0, has been on a tremendous growth roll and the Bluetooth 5.4 specification was recently launched adding a bunch of new cool features such as PAwR and encrypted advertising data to BLE. But it was Nokia that developed Wibree, a wireless standard just like other short range wireless standards available at the moment in 2006, but aimed at low power consumption and it later become BLE.
We know enough about BLE and its features. How it uses low power unlike traditional Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and how it can transmit periodical advertising signals with response but what about a BLE gateway? How a gateway works?
A BLE gateway is a low power consuming channel device that connects the BLE beacon(s) to a cloud server and then enables a connection between the Bluetooth enabled smart devices, say a smartphone and the BLE beacon(s).
BLE gateways provide the channel that connects two Bluetooth enabled devices for any kind of data transmission whether it is periodic or not. Think of a broker who connects two persons willing to get into a deal and makes the transaction happen.
So, if I had to define what a BLE gateway is, I’d say, “A BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) gateway is a device that acts as a bridge between BLE devices and a local network or the internet. It receives and transmits data between the BLE devices and the network.”
How does a BLE gateway work?
For two Bluetooth Low Energy enabled devices to communicate, it must be connected to a BLE gateway. The pairing then allows the gateway to transmit the data from the Bluetooth enabled device to the cloud server. The cloud server then registers the devices instantly and the gateway then scans for another nearby BLE devices. And this is how two BLE devices share data through a BLE gateway.
BLE gateways are low power consuming and they only scan a limited no. of RF channels to connect to other BLE devices, only 3 advertising channels to be precise. This enables quick scan and low power consumption for a BLE beacon, something that is not possible in traditional Bluetooth or Bluetooth classic.
What are the main features of a BLE gateway?
BLE gateways are an important part of a BLE beacon setup. Without a gateway, the data transmission or periodic advertisement is not possible. These gateways are designed to support multiple Bluetooth enabled device (300+) connections which makes it ideal for large scale deployments in retail, healthcare and smart buildings.
Some of the features of BLE Gateways are as follows:
Supports multiple BLE devices
BLE gateways can connect and manage multiple BLE devices simultaneously and are suitable for large scale applications in warehouses and retail stores.
Low Power Consumption
The gateways have low power consumption, making them suitable for battery-powered devices. The low power consumption also means that these devices remain operational up to 4-5 years.
Reliable Data Transfer
BLE gateways ensure reliable data transfer between BLE devices and the network. The data transfer range can be up to 100-120m, even more.
It can be easily installed and configured. And if there is some kind of malfunction, the parts can be easily replaced.
BLE Gateways Applications
Bluetooth Low Energy beacons are very much in use in various industries and asset tracking and advertisement are the prominent applications and this is why BLE beacon gateways become an important part of such business applications.
Some of the applications of BLE Gateways are as follows:
BLE gateways are used to track assets such as equipment, tools, and inventory in indoor and outdoor environments. When tagged with BLE sensors, employees in warehouses can locate the assets using a BLE enabled mobile phone.
You can use gateways to control and monitor building automation systems, such as lighting, HVAC, and access control. It also provides network architecture for entire building and ensure reliable data transmission between devices and sensors.
Another prominent application of BLE is to monitor and track medical devices and patients' vital signs in hospitals and clinics.
You can also track inventory and customers in retail environments, providing valuable insights into shopping behavior. BLE gateways also allow periodic advertisements which allows retail stores to send customized promotions and offers to customers as soon as they enter the store, leading to better shopping experience for the customers.
BLE gateways are essential devices that facilitate the seamless integration of BLE devices into local networks or the internet. They offer impressive features and have multiple applications, including asset tracking, smart buildings, healthcare, and retail. These gateways are capable of connecting multiple Bluetooth enabled devices to cloud servers for easy and quick data transfer and communication.