From Silicon Labs: How to use Bluetooth Low-Energy for Wi-Fi commissioning

Aug 23, 2019
 

If your Wi-Fi connected product is headless, then technically speaking, the obvious solution for exchanging the Wi-Fi credentials required to commission the product onto the customer’s Wi-Fi network is SoftAP.

SoftAP stands for Software Enabled Access Point. Some product manufacturers use SoftAP to create a temporary access point for the unique purpose of getting the customer’s Wi-Fi network name (SSID), security mode and password as illustrated in the following diagram:

Figure 1 Wi-Fi commissioning using SoftAP

The customer connects his smartphone to the connected product’s SoftAP, and then uses either a mobile app or web page that displays the list of Access Points available to select and enter the password.

The connected product, once it has the customer’s Wi-Fi network information (SSID, Password and Security Mode) it connects to the Access Point.

The Access Point lets the connected product join the network and gain access to the Internet.

 

SoftAP used to be the Wi-Fi commissioning solution of choice for early IoT devices, but the two fundamental problems listed below have made it an unreliable solution:

  • Once the customer’s smartphone connects to a SoftAP, it will lose Internet connection.
  • If the customer’s smartphone loses Internet connection, then the phone’s logic may switch to a different Access Point and thus disconnect from the product.

 

In order to improve the out-of-box experience, product manufacturers have turned to Bluetooth as a solution for commissioning. For the Wi-Fi connected products that already support Bluetooth for a different purpose (e.g. streaming audio or video) then Bluetooth is the go-to mechanism for Wi-Fi commissioning as illustrated in the following diagram:

Figure 2 Wi-Fi commissioning using Bluetooth

The customer installs the product manufacturer’s BLE Mobile Application and pairs with the connected product.

The mobile application displays a list of Access Points, the customer selects one of them and enters its password.

The connected product, once it has the customer’s Wi-Fi network information (SSID, Password and Security Mode) it connects to the Access Point.

The Access Point lets the connected product join the network and gain access to the Internet.

 

Because of how important the out-of-box experience is to a product’s success, many product manufacturers should consider going to the extremes of adding a Bluetooth chip exclusively to support the Wi-Fi commissioning of the product. Silicon Labs has BLE chips such as the EFR32MG12 that not only supports BLE but also other wireless protocols in the same chip.

Whatever your case may be, this blog shows you one simple way to use Bluetooth for Wi-Fi commissioning by covering the following topics:

  • BLE GATT Server Design
  • BLE Mobile Application
  • Theory of Operation

 

Source: https://www.silabs.com/community/blog.entry.html/2019/06/28/how_to_use_bluetoothlow-energyforwi-fionboardi-CQTu

 

Looking to integrate Silicon Labs products with your design? Our Applications Engineers offer free design and technical help for your latest designs. Contact us today!

 


 

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