Author: Bob Brand, VP of Software Engineering, Packetcraft Inc.
Bluetooth® has just released a new ultra-low power networking feature that is expected to enable high-volume applications including Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) for retail applications whereby thousands of connected end nodes are synchronized with infrastructure. This new headline capability in the Bluetooth 5.4 core specification is known as Periodic Advertising with Responses (PAwR). This update comes on the heels of Bluetooth LE Audio debuting in the market in devices such as the Google Pixel 7 as well as in products from OnePlus and Samsung such as ear buds, smartphones and a TV.
For 25 years, Bluetooth has been on a technological evolution, delivering more advanced capabilities and supporting an ever-expanding set of use cases. It all started with the introduction of Bluetooth in the late 90s for hands free calling, further evolved with the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy in 2010 for IoT applications, and is undergoing another major period of innovation right now. Earlier this month, Packetcraft joined Nordic Semiconductor in showcasing the latest in LE Audio during CES which included a demo featuring the all-new Google Pixel 7 natively supporting high-quality multi-stream LE Audio wirelessly streaming to stereo headphones. 2023 is set to be a break-out year for LE Audio as adoption into mobile devices, earbuds, headphones, hearing aids, speakers, microphones and Auracast™ broadcast audio infrastructure start to proliferate the market.
Today, we are pleased to share that the team at Packetcraft continues our innovative leadership of delivering the latest stacks and software solutions by supporting the newly published Bluetooth 5.4 core specification along with new profiles and services. Bluetooth 5.4 adds support for PAwR to Bluetooth LE along with a number of minor feature improvements. PAwR defines a new Bluetooth LE logical transport used to communicate periodic broadcast control and user data to synchronized devices in a particular area. This, for instance, allows bi-directional communication between a hub and thousands of end nodes that only have to listen infrequently for information directed to them as they are highly synchronized and correspondingly ultra-low power. By including response slots, we can achieve high reliability acknowledgements confirming message receipt which can be used by the higher layers.
An excellent use case for PAwR functionality is Electronic Shelf Labels which is growing at a 20.8% CAGR and expected to reach USD 2.9B in 2028 and continue growing to USD 5.2B by 2032. Bluetooth LE is a power, size, and cost optimized globally standardized solution ideal to support the retail market for wireless ESL communication. With Packetcraft Host and Packetcraft Controller offering the new PAwR capability, Bluetooth LE is well positioned to serve the ESL market and deliver much desired solution interoperability.
Packetcraft trace of Bluetooth LE 5.4 PAwR from Ellisys protocol analyzer
As shown in this Packetcraft PAwR trace captured on the Ellisys Explorer protocol analyzer, an AUX_SYNC_SUBEVENT_RSP message is transmitted in the response slot from an ESL device (price tag) to a gateway which can include telemetry data such as temperature, battery level, and stock level. From this trace one can see there is enough bandwidth to receive telemetry data from many devices. A single ESL gateway has a theoretical capacity of supporting two-way communication with tens of thousands of ESL price tags.
For more information about PAwR and to discuss your intended use case, or to more generally inquire about our Bluetooth host, controller, and LC3 stacks and software solutions as well as our software test products, please contact Packetcraft at firstname.lastname@example.org.