Industrial wireless sensor networks (IWSNs) are used to acquire sensor data that need realtime processing, therefore they require predictable behavior and real-time guarantees. To be cost effective, IWSNs are also expected to be low cost and low power. In this context, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) is a promising technology, as it allows implementing low-cost industrial networks. As BLE is a shortrange technology, a multihop mesh network is needed to cover a large area. Nevertheless, the recently published Bluetooth mesh networking specifications do not provide support for real-time communications over multihop mesh networks. To overcome this limitation, this paper proposes the multihop real-time BLE (MRT-BLE) protocol, a real-time protocol developed on top of BLE, that allows for bounded packet delays over mesh networks. MRT-BLE also provides priority support. This paper describes in detail the MRT-BLE protocol and how to implement it on commercial-off-the-shelf devices. Two kinds of performance evaluation for the MRT-BLE protocol are provided. The first one is a worst case end-to-end delay analysis, while the second one is based on the experimental results obtained through measurements on a real testbed.
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