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Why would you choose Mesh networking ?

Why would you choose Mesh networking ?

In the world of the Internet of Things (IoT), where sensors or regular objects are in some way connected to a network and remotely controlled through a web-based interface, mesh networking is a network topology that allows any node of a network to act as a repeater. Mesh networking increases the overall range of communication of every command sent back and forth to the objects in the network. This directly translates into increased overall range of possible action for the user. This is as true for small indoor applications as it is for large-scale outdoor deployments in industries or cities. You can see it as a spider web where each intersection is a node that can send information back and forth to every node close by in the same web. Even if one intersection breaks, nodes around it will find another way to communicate with each other.

There are major real-world advantages to mesh networking compared with other types of network topology:

  • Get over natural obstacles easily
  • Increase the quality of communications proportionally with the density of nodes;
  • Increasing the distance of communications from the gateway
  • No need for routers as each node acts as a router
  • Automatic commissioning of new nodes within the network territory
  • Network auto-repair.

Get over natural obstacles

In a city or in a large space where natural obstacles such as hills, tall shrubs or too many trees are present, direct line of sight between nodes and gateways is not always constant or even possible. For other topologies than mesh, these situations could affect the network quality, therefore reducing the probability of connection. Communication errors result in assets not working as they should. Of course, street lights not working at night is not acceptable. Mesh networking overcomes natural obstacles since every node act as a router and repeats broadcast commands by repeatedly flooding their surroundings, ensuring the messages eventually reach every node.

There is a strong current at the moment in favour of other technologies for controlling connected devices over natural obstacles, such as cellular technology MCAT or NbIoT. It is important to realize the major increase in cost per node as well as the technological limitations of this method to overcome natural obstacles. For example, there are still cellular dead zones in cities and in city outskirts, meaning areas between communication towers. These will remain until a new tower is added. In many cases, new towers cannot be added either because of a lack of space or there is no financial incentive. This is where being able to create several paths to every node at minimal cost is important and puts mesh networking at a clear advantage.

Increase the Quality of Communications

Simply put, each node has multiple paths  to reach the back end. In case of momentary interferences, it is possible to find its way out, for example by switching to other radio channels. Mesh networking is a city’s best bet for IoT communications of the highest quality.

Increase the Distance of Communications From the Gateway

Simply put, each node has multiple paths to reach the back end. In case of momentary interferences, it is possible to find its way out, for example by switching to other radio channels. Mesh networking is a city’s best bet for IoT communications of the highest quality.

Save on the Number Routers 

In other network topologies, the location of the router is critical to optimize communication between the gateway and the nodes. The distance between each node is also crucial.  This is not the case in mesh network topology. Each node act as a router, retransmitting the commands to each other. The gateway can therefore be placed anywhere as long as it is in direct line of sight with a few nodes.

Automatic Commissioning

Each node added in a network can be simply commissioned by associating the node to the network controlled by the gateway. In advanced systems, this can be done using an app by authorized users. Once associated, the newly added node will automatically start receiving and sending information such as commands, metering data and firmware updates.

Network Auto-Repair

Since the topology can change, the mesh network repairs itself. With some of the latest technologies, if a gateway is not available because of a power outage for example, it is even possible for nodes to search for a nearby gateway to connect to it.

Finally, choosing the right network/radio/protocol for a particular IoT infrastructure is all about trade-offs. There are projects or smart city applications where mesh networking may not be the best suited and where our team can help in identifying the best and latest alternatives.

We hope you have a better understanding of mesh networking and why it is the best type of network topology for urban asset management such as smart street lighting. Coming up in the coming days: “6 things to know about mesh networking for your urban asset management IoT network.” Stay tuned !

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