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First IoT, now mesh networks (and who remembers Indranet?)

Paul Brislen, Editor. 22 November 2017, 7:12 am

Mesh networking is rearing its head again, this time as part of the future of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The idea, that devices in a single location can communicate with each other rather than having to go out to the internet to do so, is one that is picking up steam in the home networking business as multiple devices from multiple providers invade our homes.

Recent Gartner research suggests that the typical Western home will have upward of 50 IoT devices constantly connecting to the network by 2020. From lighting to air conditioning, security to fridges, the IoT story suggests anything with a power requirement can also be connected to the net, presumably to provide a better user experience although many question whether that will ever actually happen.

But all those devices connecting to the network and to each other (a recent survey suggests 50 percent of those surveyed say they use a device in three different rooms simultaneously) pose some kind of drain on home networking and thus the call has gone out for mesh networking.

Qualcomm's senior vice president and GM of the company's Connectivity Business Unit, Rahul Patel, told ZDNET that mesh technologies can provide a new foundation for IoT in the home.

Mesh networking, actively managed, will provide better coverage throughout a property and help fix connectivity issues as they arise and consumers, it seems, are willing to pay more for a product that does just that.

Given this writer's entertaining weekend spent trying to make two home routers talk to each other and provide ubiquitous coverage across the Home Area Network (HAN), mesh networking seems likely to become a phrase we'll hear more of, especially if network equipment maker Qualcomm gets its way.

Patel says Qualcomm has tackled the issue of heat dissipation from such units, and reduced the power needed for such wifi boxes: naturally the vendor will have products in market by the end of next year.

For many New Zealanders with a long memory, the phrase 'mesh network' is most often associated with a Christchurch-based company formerly known as IndraNet. Set up by a French entrepreneur, IndraNet courted controversy during its tumultuous existence by raising capital from mum and dad investors (most of whom have never seen a return on their investments), touting a number of almost plausible technologies (compressed air engines, mesh networks and a desktop sized super computer that uses field programmable gate arrays rather than traditional chipsets) and yet somehow never quite delivering a commercial product.

IndraNet changed its name to Air Future Limited some time ago and its French co-founder, Louis Arnoux, has long since departed, as has most of the investors' cash.

Hopefully this next wave of mesh networking will prove somewhat more useful in the future.


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