Mesh, Mesh, Everywhere



If you've been paying attention, you've noticed that wireless mesh networks are cropping up all over the place. But did you know that mesh networks are a hot topic in the world of 802.11 wireless networking?

Not Just Sensors

I first learned about mesh networks as they applied to sensor networking, based on articles from researchers at Oak Ridge National Labs and the University of California at Berkeley and, more recently, companies such as Crossbow Technology, Dust Networks, Sensicast Systems, and Ember Corp. These wireless sensor networks (WSNs) have several identifying characteristics: they are, by design, very low power; they are robust; and the size of the nodes is small and shrinking fast.  After years of development, this technology is now in use and we can expect greater adoption as it matures.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I stumbled onto this article in Unstrung, an online publication specializing in news and analysis of wireless communications, particularly as it pertains to telecommunications and higher-bandwidth networking.  Apparently, the concept of mesh networks is turning heads among people looking to install 802.11x networks.

The same reasoning that makes mesh-based wireless sensor networking attractive to industrial types is winning hearts among those installing WiFi networks in cities and other complicated places. In fact, it's an interesting enough proposition for Unstrung to team up with its parent publication LightReading to undertake a neutral comparison test of the various mesh products out there.

Although it appears that mesh networks are attractive for enterprise networking and, increasingly, for large-scale business, campus, and city-wide deployments, some of these deployments, alas, are running into trouble. Considering how tricky it is to put radios into cargo containers and get the signals out reliably, are we really surprised at the problems involved in setting up reliable communications in such a complex and sometimes radio-unfriendly environment?


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