The Basics and Benefits of Self-Organizing Mesh Networks

September 5

Many of today's businesses use mesh networks for various reasons such as offering network resources to clients. They've helped improve wired and wireless networking capabilities for law enforcement and industrial facilities. Mesh networks particularly integrate well with IoT sensors. Here are details on how businesses can improve communications with mesh networks.

What is a Mesh Network?

The definition of a mesh network, also called "meshnet", is a local area topology encompassing multiple interconnected infrastructure devices in a non-hierarchical manner. Information is relayed hopping from node to node in a mesh network. The advantage of this type of design is that every node in the network can participate in relaying data to and from clients. Additionally, mesh networks have self-organizing and self-configuring capabilities.

Topology refers to how network nodes are arranged, which can be mesh, star or cluster-tree. Meshnets are different from the more conventional star or cluster-tree configurations. Out of these three main topologies, the star configuration, also known as point-to-point architecture, uses the least amount of power, due to its direct wireless simplicity.

In a star topology, devices communicate with the gateway instead of with each other. But interference may occur when another signal enters the line-of-sight transmission path to the device. All devices in the star topology must be within reach of the signal from the base station. In the universal cluster-tree topology, every branch, which represents a data link, uses low bandwidth.

Automation properties of a mesh network allow for dynamic distribution of workloads, such as when a device fails. One of the reasons mesh networks haven't grown to be omnipresent yet is due to the lack of common standards among vendors. A key reason for adopting meshnets is they provide advantages in security and reliability.

Types of Mesh Networks

  • Wi-Fi Mesh - This low-cost framework offers limited mobility with radio coverage range. It consists of wireless radio devices including a router.
  • Wired Mesh - Cabling is installed in order for network connectivity through Ethernet ports. This network requires a modem and additional equipment.
  • Full Mesh Topology - Nodes are directly linked to each other or over the internet. A full mesh topology eliminates single points of failure.
  • Partial Mesh Topology - This topology is designed to facilitate high-volume data transmission seamlessly. It's useful for scalability issues such as adding devices without disrupting transmission. Nodes can be used as repeaters to expand the network's range.
  • Hybrid Mesh Topology - A mix of wireless and wired communications systems are deployed. The wired element expands coverage area, as the wireless element utilizes the Ethernet interface. Unlike Wi-Fi, there are no lags in connectivity since each node can communicate wirelessly to other nodes.
  • Infrastructure Mesh Architecture - This type of network improves efficiency and reliability in computing without a centralized server. It's useful for ensuring low latency.
  • Client-Based Mesh Architecture - Using a peer-to-peer architecture, this network solution involves sending data packets via a mesh router.

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Self-Organizing Wireless Mesh Networks

The best way to understand a mesh network is that it has self-organizing capabilities and uses mesh topology. The performance is measured by Throughput, Packet Delivery Ratio (PDR) and Delay Parameters (relating to transmission time from source to destination). Throughput relates to the average rate of successfully sent packets over the connection. PDR equates to the total number of successfully transmitted packets to the destination divided by the number of packets sent.

What Does a Self-Organizing Network Do?

A self-organizing network (SON) has multiple functions including automated configuration, healing and protection with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). Here are deeper details on what these processes can do:

  • Self-configuration - The system automatically identifies and registers new access points. Radios in close proximity automatically adjust technical parameters to avoid interference.
  • Self-healing - This feature allows for the system to automatically resolve network problems when base stations become disconnected.
  • Self-protection - The network automatically resists system penetration by unwanted or unknown users.

Types of Self-Organizing Networks

The three types of self-organizing networks are: distributed, centralized and hybrid. In the distributed model, each node interacts with each other, allowing for greater flexibility. The centralized model allows for commands sent from a network management console to each individual node.

The advantage of the distributed model is faster response, while the advantage of the centralized model is easy scanning of the entire network for better real-time decision-making and future optimization. The hybrid model balances the advantages of response time and central control.

Built-in intelligence and flexibility are the most powerful qualities of a self-organizing network. These qualities provide maximum efficiency through low power consumption. Furthermore, self-organizing networks have lower maintenance costs due to self-correcting capabilities. Ultimately, they reduce network disruptions.

Applications of Mesh Networks

  1. Public Service Communications - Mesh networks expand communication channels for public professions such as law enforcement and firefighting. They are particularly useful for off-grid areas, such as for search and rescue missions in the wilderness.
  2. Environmental Monitoring - Various environmental elements such as temperature, humidity, and pollution can be monitored with mesh networks. This type of monitoring is extremely helpful to farmers in evaluating crop conditions.
  3. Medical Monitoring - Doctors can connect with hospital patient data in real-time through mesh networks. It allows for 24/7 patient monitoring, using "always on" gadgets that contain IoT sensors.
  4. Industrial Monitoring - A mesh network can facilitate embedded sensors that contain procedural instructions for an industrial facility. Other advantages include wire cost reduction and collecting data for maintenance purposes.
  5. Security Systems - Electronic surveillance and alarm systems are supported by mesh networks, in which low-cost sensors are placed throughout a complex. Camera sensors can trigger an emergency response system when danger is present.
  6. Automotive Monitoring - The automotive industry keeps adding new networking devices every year to vehicles. Mesh networks are used for cloud-based autonomous vehicles. Through automated scanning, self-driving cars can detect the proximity of other vehicles.
  7. Military Communications - Mesh networks improve soldier-to-soldier communication systems with high-speed and high-capacity connectivity. They also integrate well with satellite communications, which provide powerful support for combat operations.
  8. Home Monitoring - Smart technology in homes utilize mesh networks, allowing for remote monitoring and control. Through one or more access points, the user can control the digital elements of the home. Since all the devices are interconnected, data signals have multiple transmission paths.
  9. Broadband Wireless Access - High-quality internet performance is achieved without cabling. Network coverage can improve by adding more nodes. Each user node plays the role of host and router while data packets move through an internet-connected gateway, taking multiple paths.
  10. Automatic Meter Reading - Low-cost mesh nodes can be used efficiently to collect data from utility meters. The network utilizes Ethernet for transferring data to a management portal.

Use Cases of Mesh Networks in IoT

  • Lighting - Wireless communication helps control lamps and delivers data to a database. In a modern lighting system, each light is a node with sensors. The sensors monitor the temperature of the lamps, as well as other metrics. A reliable lighting system doesn't depend on any one part of the system.
  • In-door environments - Retail outlets, warehouses, and offices commonly use mesh networks that are set up to cover large areas. Only base stations need internet access. Since installation is quick, setting up a mesh network doesn't require much planning.
  • Electricity monitoring - Wireless mesh networks are used by utility companies to cover large areas that cellular networks don't serve. Utilities install countless IoT sensors throughout their infrastructures, such as in power lines for grid monitoring and control.
  • City-scale systems - The advent of smart technology is leading to smart cities, as local governments adopt digital transformation. IoT sensors are now placed in street lights and trash cans to communicate with local services. One of the reasons wireless mesh networks work well for cities is the coverage self-extends as more devices join the network.

The Future of Wireless Mesh Network Market is Bright

The global market for wireless mesh networking reached $5.44 billion in 2021 and is expected to rise above $13 billion by 2028. The market will reach $9.66 billion by 2026, according to a Mordor Intelligence report published in 2021. The rise of smart technology in modern homes, offices and factories is helping drive the demand for mesh networks.

Some of the leading players in the current wireless mesh network market include Cisco Systems, Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development LP. SkyQuest Technology has reported the number of businesses using wireless mesh networks will exceed 3 million by 2023.

Conclusion

Mesh networks are useful for businesses to connect with staff internally or with customers externally. They provide paths for data to take to ensure smooth transmission. This modern networking is an excellent solution for collaboration and various other environments that involve multiple connected nodes.


Johannes Beekman

About the author

Our CEO has more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing in the high-tech industry. Johannes has worked for 25 years in the semiconductor industry, where he worked for Philips, Infineon, and Sematech in various management positions in process development, engineering, operations, and sales and marketing. While working for Philips, he was an engineering manager in 2 wafer fab startups. And while at Sematech, he managed various international technical symposia. He has built 3 successful digital marketing companies in the past 8 years. His focus is marketing integration, marketing technology, SEO, and inbound and outbound marketing. And he has developed a content creation system that uses the AIDA model to develop content for every stage of the sales funnel. Johannes has experience working with companies in manufacturing, the high-tech industry, process industry, IT, healthcare, and legal industry, and he has published on several trade-focused websites.


Tags

mesh architecture, mesh networks, mesh topology, mesh Wi-Fi, self-organizing network, WiFi mesh, wireless mesh network


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