Fostering Sustainability with Bluetooth® Low Energy in the Industrial IoT

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By David Ball | 1Q 2024 | IN-7269

Amid demands from investors, regulators, and industry players to fulfill environmental obligations, Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) offers a range of compelling solutions for the sustainable Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

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Sustainable Use Cases Abound for Bluetooth® Low Energy in Industrial IoT


When we think about the transformative technologies integral to realizing a sustainable future, our minds often gravitate to seas of wind turbines, fields of power plants, and fleets of Electric Vehicles (EVs). Sustainable Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystems are foundational to our ability to harness sustainable technologies effectively. Short-range wireless connectivity technologies such as Bluetooth® are playing an increasingly fundamental role in sustainability-oriented use cases. For instance, Silicon Labs has designed a robust long-range Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) chip that detects faults and conducts emergency shut-offs for solar Photovoltaics (PV) systems, increasing their safety. Meanwhile, Nordic Semiconductor has integrated its Bluetooth® LE chip into the Enua Charge—an EV portable charging device—to allow for more cost-efficient charging. The IoT is similarly important to sustainable industrial technologies. Leveraged within sustainable industrial ecosystems, Bluetooth® LE is core to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology and recent advancements in Bluetooth® LE have introduced a multitude of methods to enhance operational efficiencies in commercial and industrial settings.

Within the commercial and IIoT sectors, Bluetooth® LE mesh-enabled lighting and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems can be used to optimize energy usage and fine-tune environmental monitoring, helping to cut energy consumption in buildings, reduce waste, and optimize resource management. Among others, Nordic Semiconductor, Silicon Labs, Telink, Infineon, and Renesas Electronics offer Bluetooth® LE mesh-enabled solutions that can be leveraged for HVAC and lighting applications. This is a crucial step toward cutting the operational emissions of buildings, which stand at an astonishing 28% share of annual global Carbon Dioxide (CO2) contributions. Similarly, Bluetooth® LE Real-Time Location System (RTLS) solutions—such as those offered by Cassia Networks,, Zebra, and many others—can be used to track items on the factory floor, delivering efficiencies in inventory management and asset utilization. Bluetooth® LE sensors can also be used to reduce factory downtime by tracking the vibration, pressure, flow, and temperature of industrial equipment, enabling predictive maintenance.

Demonstrating sustainable Bluetooth® applications both inside and outside the factory walls, Wiliot’s Bluetooth®-enabled tags offer enhanced datafication throughout supply chains, increasing awareness of inefficiencies, while enabling closer alignment of supply with demand. Wiliot’s innovation heralds the introduction of Ambient IoT: a new class of technology powered by energy harvested from a device’s environment. The reliance of Ambient IoT on Bluetooth® LE underlines the technology’s relevance for sustainable IIoT and its growth potential as Ambient IoT begins to establish itself in industrial ecosystems. In retail spaces, Bluetooth® LE-enabled Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs), backed by the new ESL standard, can also help reduce waste through dynamic pricing of perishable items close to their expiration date, avoid the use of paper labels, and optimize order picking. In addition, they can provide consumers with sustainability information on the products they are buying, enabling them to make more eco-conscious decisions at the point of sale.

A Unique Solution for Sustainability Imperatives


Today, sustainability is as much a buzzword as it is an environmental, ethical, and regulatory requirement. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting is now mandatory across numerous major stock exchanges. While the climate-conscious and regulatory skeptics alike have their reservations about ESG, the investment-led sustainability drive is unlikely to significantly falter. Global ESG assets are expected to reach 25% of an anticipated US$140 trillion total assets under management by 2030, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence report, as large investors move away from conventional funds. Interestingly, pressure to adopt environmentally-friendly practices is also emanating from within the tech sector itself, with Apple aiming to become carbon neutral across its entire global value chain by 2030 and Samsung making similar inroads internally.

This is all to say that as companies increasingly adopt sustainable practices, there will be growing demand for industrial technologies that accelerate net-zero transitions. For IIoT, Bluetooth®-enabled devices appear distinctly appropriate. ABI Research’s forecast 24% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of Bluetooth® LE device shipments for IoT applications between 2022 and 2028 is indicative of the growing relevance of the technology. Although equipment managers certainly have their pick of an ever-growing array of technologies to help streamline their industrial operations, Bluetooth® LE offers a uniquely attractive value-add:

  • Low-Power Technology: Compared to standard Bluetooth®, Bluetooth® LE significantly reduces energy consumption of Bluetooth® devices when active, from 1 Watt (W) to 0.2 W. This underlines the intrinsic sustainability of Bluetooth® LE technology. As mentioned earlier, Wiliot has moved one step further with its pioneering Bluetooth® LE-enabled Ambient IoT Pixel chips, which source energy from Radio Frequencies (RFs) emitted by wireless devices in their vicinity, such as phones and Wi-Fi Access Points (APs). Wiliot’s IoT Pixel chips can record environmental conditions of perishable products such as food and vaccines during transit, and track objects within industrial settings. Negating the need for supporting infrastructure to power the devices, Wiliot’s bleeding-edge Ambient IoT Pixels exhibit the potential portability, practicality, and low entry cost of Bluetooth® LE solutions.  
  • Scalability and Interoperability: The cost barrier for Bluetooth® LE solutions is reduced by the ubiquity of Bluetooth®-ready devices, including APs, smartphones, and other IoT devices, which reduces the need for gateways. While solutions such as Bluetooth® LE mesh are not yet widely supported, the standardization of the technology by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) will continue to significantly expand its interoperability. Bluetooth SIG’s announcement of a full stack standard for Bluetooth® Networked Lighting Control in 2023, known as Bluetooth® NLC, is indicative of the increasing standardization of Bluetooth® mesh systems. Similarly, the arrival of the ESL standard has the potential to create a secure, scalable, and standards-based interoperable ESL solution to further ramp up the ESL market and address some of the hesitations from retailers in adopting ESL technologies.
  • Accessibility, Versatility, and Ease of Use: Combined with Bluetooth® LE’s low-power technology, intervention-free usability, and intrinsic interoperability, the wide availability of low-cost chipsets renders the technology particularly accessible. As the evolving standardization of Bluetooth® LE mesh and other Bluetooth® technologies drives further interoperability and innovation, the vast—and growing—array of use cases can be drawn together to form unified and sustainable IIoT ecosystems. As Bluetooth® LE IIoT solutions continue to develop, the market will grow alongside it, increasing the importance of Bluetooth® LE IIoT to vendors.

The Forward-Looking Technology Demands Strategic Positioning to Match


Bluetooth® LE is uniquely applicable to IIoT solutions, especially amid a growing environmental conscience in business, finance, and governance. For IoT technologies, the future for industry-oriented solutions appears particularly promising. ABI Research’s forecasts for Bluetooth® LE IoT device shipments for energy management, condition-based monitoring and maintenance, and asset management and locations services stand at 55%, 47%, and 21% CAGRs, respectively. With the growing importance of sustainable IIoT solutions in mind, there are several ways in which Bluetooth® LE vendors can capitalize on this shift:

  • Promote Standardization: In parallel with the Bluetooth SIG, vendors should engage in wider industry standardization efforts. This will promote interoperability and compatibility within—and beyond—Bluetooth® LE ecosystems. Increased standardization is also likely to have a multiplier effect on Bluetooth® LE IIoT innovation—such as in predictive analytics and AI-assisted solutions—by establishing a common platform for technological development.
  • Align with Environmental Regulation: To leverage the appeal of sustainable IIoT solutions, Bluetooth® LE vendors should develop and market their products to facilitate compliance with environmental regulations. Focus should be placed on consumption and output in industrial settings. Energy efficiency, waste prevention, and emission reduction solutions are of particular relevance. Deployable as sensors, Bluetooth® LE devices can also be used to support accurate and holistic monitoring of environmental indicators in industrial settings. Lending to the ambitions of the Circular Economy Action Plan—a pillar of the European Green Deal—Wiliot has pioneered an innovative approach to Digital Product Passports (DPPs) envisioned by the European Commission. Using Ambient IoT Bluetooth® LE technology, Wiliot’s DPP can track the sustainability of products throughout their lifecycle.
  • Build upon Bluetooth® LE’s IIoT Value-Add: While interoperability through standardization has already been mentioned, monitoring and maintenance, asset tracking and management, and remote and low-infrastructure communicability should be drawn upon to leverage Bluetooth® LE’s unique applications. Vendors should also interact with clients and industry standards organizations to spur the development of IIoT use cases.