Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Greenstone mesh network bridge

WiFi networks use a distributed hub and spoke model – the hubs are one or more access points and the spokes are the WiFi connections to smartphones, PC’s, tablets, etc. The access points are connected to a wired network where connectivity between end points and the Internet happens.

Mesh networks, on the other hand connect end-points to each other. If one of them has access to the Internet, then they all can. Or they can just communicate with each other using the mesh. This could be handy during emergency situations where cell phone towers are down or where there is limited connectivity.

One of the challenges of this kind of communication is range. In a densely packed auditorium with thousands of people and perhaps hundreds of them using a mesh capability it’s not a problem, but with less dense venues people might just give up because they just can’t connect – there’s a roughly 200 foot limit to connect with other users.

An app called FireChat uses the mesh capabilities of smartphones and is used in
large crowds (at a concert or festival setting.) They’re working on a “bridge” device, called Greenstone, to help fill in the gaps in less dense venues. These battery powered bridges can also store and forward low bandwidth messages typical of chats. When you approach one, any messages for you are automatically delivered.

They’re quite a ways from production, but they did have some prototype samples at SXSW last week.

Have you used FireChat or other mesh networks?

No comments:

Post a Comment