Saturday, July 14, 2012

Unbreakable: Mesh networks are in your smartphone's future

Micha Benoliel's company, Open Garden, makes a mesh networking utility for Android smartphones and for Windows and Mac laptops (support for iOS is coming). It's a free app that turns your device into a mobile hot spot. No matter how you're connected to the Net (Wi-Fi or cellular), it makes that connection shareable (over Bluetooth) to other Open Garden users. Likewise, if you're running the product but don't have a connection to the Net, and you're near a user who does, this service seamlessly gets you online.
Benoliel says that, for the most part, carriers and ISPs welcome technologies that improve bandwidth for customers and that also lower power requirements (connecting to a nearby hot spot over Bluetooth takes a lot less power than linking to a cell tower). "The only way to improve the wireless networks is to increase the density of microcells or hot spots. I think carriers really understand that," he says. His pitch: "We turn every device into a hot spot... and we improve the network itself."
Sri Srikrishna was the founding CTO of the mesh networking company Tropos (recently acquired by ABB), and is now working on bringing mesh technologies to populations where today's standard wireless networking technologies are insufficient, or are blocked. See his paper, "SocialMesh: Can Networks of Meshed Smartphones Ensure Public Access to Twitter During an Attack?"
Srikrisha says it's time to do two things for people who don't have reliable means to connect to the global net. First of all, we can make better, more frequency-agile radios. Second: Mesh them together.

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