A Breakdown of Mesh Networks and Municipal Wi-Fi

Cities are leveraging mesh networks to support citizens and city workers.

Mesh networks are the foundation of municipal Wi-Fi, allowing cities to offer Internet access across a large area in an efficient manner. In addition to offering citizens access, mesh networks can be used to provide city employees, law enforcement officers and emergency personnel quick, secure access on the go.

Here is a brief overview from Strix Systems:

Wireless “Mesh” takes the capabilities of enterprise-class Wi-Fi with security and QoS (Quality of Service) and makes the network accessible throughout large-scale areas, extending business, residential, public safety, government and other applications well beyond traditional boundaries. Instead of utilizing point-to-point and point-to-multipoint wireless devices for limited connectivity to specific locations, wireless mesh networks are sophisticated self-configuring, self-optimizing and self-healing making it possible to deploy extremely large-scale, intelligent, high speed networks with predictable performance.

Read WiFi Mesh Networks for Municipal Deployments on Strix Systems.

Mesh networks are very different from more traditional LAN and WAN infrastructures and deserve some clarification. Here are a few key points about mesh networks:

They Employ Nodes

What, exactly, is a node? In the mesh network infrastructure, a node is a radio device that can receive and distribute data but can also communicate with other nodes. Unlike routers, nodes are completely wireless. When nodes are distributed throughout a city, often on existing landmarks such as telephone poles, they create huge networks, also known as mesh clouds.

They Are Self-Healing

One of the most important features of a mesh network is that it “heals” itself when a node stops functioning. Because the nodes can communicate with each other, if one goes down, the other nodes pick up the slack. If a node fails, “the network automatically finds the fastest and most reliable paths to send data, even if nodes are blocked or lose their signal.” (How Stuff Works)

They Are Extremely Useful

One obvious question about mesh networks is, why do we need them? Aruba Networks offers some ideas in their Next-Generation Wireless Mesh Networks whitepaper:

  • Municipalities – Cities can deploy a large-scale mesh network to keep their workers and first-responders productive, no matter where they are in the community. A single infrastructure that supports many different municipal applications and departments ultimately reduces networking costs and simplifies operations.

  • Public safety – Public safety agencies can rapidly and efficiently deploy resilient, high-capacity wireless mesh networks almost anywhere to improve situational awareness and support emergency communications.

    Capable of serving as a temporary or permanent network, the wireless mesh lets police, fire and other first responders connect video surveillance cameras for remote monitoring and provide secure Wi-Fi access to centralized databases and applications.

  • Industrial organizations – Wireless mesh networks are ideal to connect industrial operations and sites such as oil and gas fields, mining and construction areas, which are difficult to network because of their geography. With pervasive Wi-Fi, field workers communicate easily and have access to key applications.

Download the whitepaper, and learn more about municipal Wi-Fi.

<p>Image courtesy of bplanet / <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net" target="_blank">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>
Feb 01 2013