Everything You Need To Know About Mesh Networks

April 17, 2020
Wittra Home

Imagine you’re driving in a city and want to get from one place to the next. Either you can take the shortest route possible with the minimal number of traffic lights to stop at. Or you can take a slight detour and stop at more traffic lights than you would have had you taken the shortest route. Or if a road is closed for repairs you can take an even longer route and go around the entire city to reach your destination.

This, in layman’s terms, is a mesh network where devices are connected in such a way that signals from one device can take multiple paths to reach the other device.

WHAT IS A MESH NETWORK?

A mesh network is a dynamically created network that relies on the intelligence of individual nodes to create working connectivity across longer distances than what is possible in the radio communication range of an individual node. In other words, a mesh topology is one where devices are connected to each other in a decentralized network. The nodes are interconnected

with each other in an interlaced structure which enables content to hop from one node to the next until it reaches its destination.

There are two kinds of mesh networks: fully-connected and partially-connected. In fully-connected mesh network topologies, every node is connected to every other node while in partially-connected networks, only sections of nodes are interconnected but the communication happens through switches or central hubs.

ADVANTAGES OF MESH NETWORKS

The flexibility of a mesh network give it a lot of benefits:

  • You can build and deploy as-you-go or as-you-grow, with a reduced total cost of ownership. When each node in a mesh network topology is acting as a router, the mesh networks don’t need additional routers. This enables the user to quickly and easily build the network and modify the size of it.
  • Besides the ability to quickly create networks, the mesh technology has proven to be a high-performance data transfer solution with outstanding efficiency. It’s both fast to build and fast to use.
  • A mesh network is very resilient and self-healing. With each node in a mesh network transmitting and receiving information, there’s a lot of redundancy. This redundancy helps keep the network functional even if a node becomes faulty since the network can make use of other nodes and connections to transmit data, making it a strong structure minimizing errors and increasing stability.
  • It’s easy to scale up a mesh network. The range can be enhanced simply by connecting nodes to gateways, allowing messages to pass through the rest of the network unobstructed. The network can grow with you with a minimum of added infrastructure.
  • Mesh networks also have the capability to self-form and self-optimize in order to find the fastest route to deliver a message.

CHALLENGES WITH MESH NETWORKS, AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM

As each node acts as both an endpoint and a route, individual nodes need to draw more power than in other types of networks in order to operate proficiently. If the mesh network has low power, it can add to its overall latency (the time it takes for a message to travel from a node to a gateway).

Wittra’s solution to this is to use low-power networks where we give components specific roles, use mesh-routers as router nodes with fixed power to route data, and use low-power tags as Endpoint nodes. This way we can create a more efficient and sustainable network, using its benefits while overcoming the drawbacks.

HOW TO BUILD A MESH NETWORK?

To understand how to build a mesh network, we first need to look at its individual components. A gateway is a border router node that can serve as an inter-network router and pass messages from a mesh network to the internet. Endpoint nodes do not have networking responsibilities as they do not route data between nodes in a mesh. Router nodes only forward messages between endpoint nodes and serve as the backbone of the network however in a Wittra Mesh Network the Router nodes can as well send data from itself.

When you plan a network, you need to decide on how many endpoint nodes and router nodes are needed in the network in order to guarantee connectivity so data can be re-routed if a node fails or would go down.

The Wittra Network provides a mesh-network with sensor tags as Endpoint nodes, mesh-routers as router nodes and a border router node as a gateway. The mesh-network makes it possible to expand the range of a network further than the length of one hop, easily to scale coverage of the network, and offer more nodes to join the network by forming a multi-hop mesh network.

The sensor tags only create and send data , and do not route data. It means that the sensor tags are not required to stay online and listen for traffic and can enter into sleep mode to save battery when the sensor tag is not in use. The mesh-routers route data and are always in operation and need to be installed and deployed using fixed power. The border router is part of the gateway, a well-designed 6LoWPAN border router that bridges low-power IP-based mesh wireless network to the internet.

The Wittra Network enables easy scaling, installation, connection and positioning sensor tags through a secure network. It leverages standard technologies based on open standards and protocols and can operate over both wireless and wired connections.

Wireless mesh networks are used for many IoT services and applications such as deploying IoT in smart cities, monitoring and locating medical devices in the healthcare industry, designing smart homes where you can track various temperature and light sensors. They are also useful for enabling low-cost farming methods that track sun exposure and water levels, and are also helpful in tracking key data in industries situated in multiple locations.

At Wittra we are using mesh networks to make IoT work in challenging environments in construction, rental, inventory and other industries. With the use of this network we can provide smart solutions that will let you monitor, locate and control your assets so you can work more efficiently.