Multi-Hop Real-Time Communications Over Bluetooth Low Energy Industrial Wireless Mesh Networks

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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