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Making a mesh

Mesh technology brings peer to peer communications in wireless networks. By John Walko.

Mesh networks are one of the hottest and most contentious segments within wireless networking. There is significant activity on both sides of the Atlantic to achieve efficient, scaleable networks that are more robust than the centralised architectures used for wireless lans (WiFi).

The fact that most of these typically self configuring, ad hoc wireless mesh networks use proprietary protocols and architectures is bringing to the fore the long standing debate over the ability of a Layer 3 protocol, by itself, to ensure robust connectivity. Early efforts to bring standardisation, driven by Cisco and Intel, have been met with some scepticism from some start ups that have carved market niches for themselves.

Mesh technology for wireless nets eliminates the need for a central controller, along with its associated reliability and efficiency issues. Instead, ad hoc wireless mesh nets rely on peers in the network to transmit data from source to destination using multiple hops.

However, this internet like approach has its flaws – mainly regarding data security – because there are problems devising an optimal routing protocol to reduce the number of hops whilst ensuring seamless mobility, secure connectivity and quality of service. Fewer hops translate directly to lower latency and, just as important, lower power drain.

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Graham Pitcher

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