The invention of a revolutionary “packet-hop” technology opens the doors of the computer industry to another revolutionary networking standard – instantaneous “Mesh Networks”
Networks are inevitable in today's high speed wireless life. Instantaneous transfers of huge amounts of data from one location to another is a necessity for a wide class of workers – including cops, firefighters, civil engineers, biologists, burglars – the list of which is endless. Most of these networks follow a hub and spoke architecture. In the event that a hub, such as a wireless base station, goes down, the whole network collapses. And that isn't much help to the aforementioned dignities. The fiscal year 2005 witnessed an uprising of software networking companies who literally spent hundreds of millions of dollars in R&D (Research & Development) to find a solution to the problem. The result was the birth of the new networking standard – Mesh Network, the name suggesting its ability to form long range networks remotely, and irrespective of whether a hub or node is functioning.
In a conventional Wi-Fi network – like the ones you see at public cafés and airport terminals - a base station connected by wire to the Internet communicates with a portable device through radio signals. A Wi-Fi mesh network, in contrast, considers all portable devices as nodes. Each node holds the capability to exchange signals with each other and users connected to the Internet. That way, not all nodes need to be wired to internet. This feature enables such a network to provide Wi-Fi coverage over a given geographical area at a lower cost than traditional Wi-Fi networks, in which each node must be physically wired to the Internet.
Every wireless network in existence must have a communications “protocol” known as the medium access control or MAC (do not confuse with Apple computer's Macintosh computers). This MAC ensures that all radios send signals in an organized or orderly manner by coordinating which radios can send signals at what instant of time. In a mesh network, a node comprises of multiple radios, each of which can individually transfer radio signals on an independent “link” (or pathway).
Till recently the nodes in a Wi-Fi mesh network had a range of only about 100 meters, which required at least six to seven nodes per square kilometer. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur have developed a new protocol for Wi-Fi mesh networks that increases the range of the transmitters or nodes and simultaneously increasing data transmission speeds up to 20 times higher than those possible with the existing protocol of Wi-Fi mesh networks. This has been made possible by making a radio in the same node to either transmit only or receive only at any given time, in contrast to simultaneously sending and receiving that had caused interference slowing down the data transfer speed in addition to various other problems.
The innovativeness and convenience of mesh networks technology is further intensively utilized by making use of intelligent software developed for portable devices. Recently, a certain Belmont , CA based networking company came up with a program that enables users, for example, to view video streams from vehicle-mounted cameras in a remote location. In addition to that, users have the capability “to instant message each other, annotate, or draw on images or maps in real time, track each other's location provided that their portable devices has GPS (Global Positioning System) chips installed within” (Technology Review, June 2005) .
Sources & Links
"Instant Networks". Technology Review, June 2005.
"Long Distance Wifi". Technology Review, October 2005 (Courtesy of Raman B., and K. Chebrolu). Top ¬