When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013, it left behind 6,340 fatalities, 1,061 missing persons, and USD 2.86 billion in damages. While some of this destruction could have been averted if relief efforts had been initiated earlier, this was not possible because the country’s communication network had taken a hit. In situations such as this one, wireless mesh networks could play a crucial role in the future.
Originally developed for military applications, wireless meshes allow ad-hoc networks to be set up independent of the Internet's infrastructure, clubbing a local collection of suitable devices. But instead of a central server, each node—equipped with radio communications gear—acts as a relay point for other nodes. The result—a reliable communication architecture that remains functional till every node on the network has been shut down.
While the most obvious benefit of this technology is visible during disaster management, it could also play a significant role in taking the Internet to new frontiers. For instance, in remote areas that lack a widespread wired infrastructure, wireless mesh networks could plug this gap. Take the case of the One Laptop per Child program, initiated by a non-profit organization in the United States of America. Under this initiative, students rely on this technology to exchange files via the Internet, even when they are not connected to a telecommunications network.
Wireless mesh networks could also be effectively deployed in other industries as well. In the automobile industry, Ford Motors is considering the use of this technology to create a Wi-Fi mesh network that transmits telemetry data between cars instantly, alerting drivers about congestion or accidents ahead. Ford estimates that one in 10 cars would be part of this grid to create a real-time traffic map, while one in three cars would participate for public safety. Elsewhere, this technology is also being considered in the construction industry for automated building solutions, enabling remotely monitored surveillance systems, climate control, and entertainment systems.
Clearly, wireless mesh networks could transform the products and services offered across industries. Besides reliability, an important benefit of this technology lies in its cost efficiency. As installation does not require wires, it is less expensive to set up this technology over large areas. In addition, wireless mesh nodes are easy to install and uninstall, making the network extremely adaptable and scalable.
Yet the complexity of setting up, managing, and maintaining a mesh network remains a barrier to its wide scale adoption. Moreover, the technology has most frequently played the role of an emergency tool, rather than a standard communication platform.
However, once such technology and perception hurdles have been overcome, these self-configuring and self-healing networks offer true seamless connectivity. In addition, they provide an alternative approach to digital connectivity, which is independent of a wired network infrastructure.
How do you think that wireless mesh networks will revolutionize the world? Share your views with us in the comments box below.
Communication,disaster management,Internet,Wireless mesh network