Mar 12, 2020 IN Insights

8 things you should know about wireless mesh networks

Wireless mesh is a crucial part of successful Internet of Things (IoT) applications. But what is wireless mesh, what are the advantages of a wireless mesh network and how can your product benefit from this? Here are 8 things you need to know about wireless mesh networks.

1. What is a wireless mesh network?

A wireless network is an infrastructure made up of devices that are wirelessly coupled to each other. The devices help forwarding packets so that the network can cover a larger area without the user needing to think about setting up a dedicated infrastructure.

It is safe to say that wireless mesh networks are a stepping stone for IoT (Internet of Things) rollout. Without wireless mesh networks, it would just be too expensive to roll out massive scale networks in entire buildings.

2. What type of devices are there in mesh networks?

Different technologies have different nomenclature, but usually there are three main types of devices;

i) Gateways or border routers

A border router, or a gateway, is the interface to the outside world, they may connect the wireless mesh network to a building Ethernet, or connecting to a cloud service via Internet, for instance via LTE or 3G.

ii) Mesh devices or routers

A mesh device is a device that helps build up the actual mesh. They forward, or route, data to and from other nodes hence being the mesh backbone.

iii) Leaf devices

Leaf devices are devices that are part of the mesh network, but they do not help creating the infrastructure. They do not forward traffic on behalf of others, but they can communicate via the network. Leaf devices are often devices that need to conserve energy due to constraints on battery.

3. What does self-healing mean?

A wireless mesh is self-healing if it can automatically repair itself when the environment changes. It could for instance be that a link between two nodes that worked perfectly fine an hour ago is now blocked by a bookshelf, a truck or a steel door. The network will then automatically, without the involvement of any user, change its topology to be able to route the traffic via a different path.

4. What is IPv6 and 6LoWPAN?

IPv6, or Internet Protocol version 6, is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol. It became a draft standard in 1998 and is intended to replace the commonly used IPv4 protocol. IPv6 allows for a much larger address space with approximately 3.4×1038 unique addresses.

6LoWPAN, or IPv6 over Low-power Personal Area Networks, is an adaptation layer that allows for the use of IPv6 in wireless mesh networks and other types of networks that are more constrained than Ethernet and WiFi.

By selecting a wireless mesh network that uses IPv6 you gain the possibility to use standard Internet protocols for many different applications, such as security systems or messaging protocols for sensors.

5. Can wireless mesh networks be battery powered?

They certainly can! MiraOS offers unprecedented energy efficiency – allowing for fully connected mesh devices to run from a single battery for many years, even decades.

Not all wireless mesh networks are suitable for battery operation though, and some allow certain devices to be battery operated, while still requiring the majority of devices to have hard-wired power.

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6. Are wireless mesh networks secure?

Rest assured that most wireless mesh networks indeed are secure. Mira networks use strong AES encryption in the link-layer between devices with protection for eavesdropping, replay-attacks, etc.

IPv6 based wireless mesh networks, such as Mira, also support end-to-end security mechanisms with banking-class cryptography.

New vulnerabilities and attacks are discovered from time to time so it is important that the mesh technology you choose supports over-the-air software updates to roll out security updates when they are needed.

7. Is there a standard?

There are many standards. Very few of them are compatible with each other. However, when using a wireless mesh technology that uses IPv6 and 6LoWPAN, your application will be compatible with any Internet protocol based standard – just a word of caution: some protocols are more lightweight than others, making them more suitable for wireless mesh networks. One such standard is LWM2M which is specifically designed to work from the tiniest device via the Internet to the cloud if needed. Other IP based protocols that can be used include CoAP and MQTT-SN.

8. Is it easy to install?

It can be – if you select a wireless mesh stack where this has been an important design criterion. With LumenRadio’s MiraOS, you can make deploy easily with a smartphone app, either using Bluetooth for remote commissioning or via NFC for touch-to-commission.