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Mesh, Nodes, and Ants
Jon Lebkowsky, 9 Aug 05

Mesh networks are self-healing wireless networks built many nodes where you can make connections and work around blockages by hopping from node to node. Many forward-looking wireless advocates will tell you that mesh networks are the wave of the wireless future; Jason Pontin in MIT Technology Review discusses why: "Mesh networks are self-healing: if any node fails, another will take its place. They are anonymous: nodes can come and go as they will. They are pervasive: a mobile node rarely encounters dead spots, because other nodes route around objects that hinder communication. Meshes are cheap, efficient, and simple." He goes on to say that "I believe that the most intriguing aspect of mesh networks is their cybernetic qualities. That is, mesh networks are adaptive systems that resemble biological systems...." He refers to a paper, "AntHocNet: An Adaptive Nature-Inspired Algorithm for Routing in Mobile Ad Hoc Networks," by Gianni Di Caro, Frederick Ducatelle and Luca Maria Gambardella, that presents an algorithm for routing mesh networks (here called "mobile ad hoc networks") that "is based on the Nature-inspired Ant Colony Optimization framework." Pontin notes that "Ant colonies suggest how apparently intelligent behavior can emerge from a few fairly simple rules," and wonders whether "mesh networks will promote new technologies that possess some of the properties of emergent intelligence?"

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I am hoping to use mesh networks based on Open Source software and cheap hackable wireless equipment here in Malawi (Africa). So far things are looking good. I am documenting the whole process on my blog. The most relevant articles are here:

If anybody else is doing something similar please get in touch!

Posted by: Mike on 9 Aug 05

Mike, you might want to take a look at a 'Pico Mesh Networks' posting here:

Posted by: Emeka Okafor on 9 Aug 05

[T]he most disruptive business impact of meshes will be this: telecommunications companies do not own them. Meshes profoundly diminish the organizations that own and manage communications backbones.
Spot on. Too many people already resent the cell companies practices, when a cheaper alternative comes they'll be switching in droves.

A friend of mine has 3 teenage daugthers. Their phone bills are ridiculous, but they keep calling and receiving calls during daytime hours.

Imagine a node that automatically "catches" the call and re-routes it through a land line (effectively turning their cell into a portable home phone). He and tens of thousands of fathers (and mothers) in the same situation would rush out to spend the $200 for their node (about the cost it would be to build a node's equipment with the requirements from cuwireless).

It assumes a smart phone, but free node-to-node connections calls would be a strong incentives for the millions who spend $100/month on cell bills and generally get horrible customer service.

Posted by: Daniel Haran on 9 Aug 05

Does anyone know to what extent the electrical grid could be slowly transformed to a "mesh" network? Do all "nodes" need to be the same size or power?

Posted by: David Foley on 9 Aug 05

While this is at the application layer rather than the network layer, I believe the work being done with Distributed Hash Tables also grapples with a number of the same issues.

Posted by: Ethan Fremen on 10 Aug 05

With SKYPE and now google entering VOIP what phone is needed to make to the mobile phone companies obsolete.

Posted by: geoff digan on 24 Aug 05



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