At A Glance – Mesh Network
Connecting devices directly to each other for scalability and resilience
A mesh network is a kind of network topology – a term which describes the layout of a computer system. In mesh networks, individual devices – also known as nodes – connect directly to each other. This creates multiple pathways for information exchange between nodes, thereby strengthening the network in the event of a failure of a specific node or connection. Different kinds of mesh networks exist: in partial mesh topologies only certain nodes have multiple connections to each other, but in full mesh topologies all nodes are directly linked to all others. This increases the resilience of the network but also makes it denser, and more expensive to build.
First appearing in military trials in the 1980s, mesh networks have been commercially available since the 1990s. However, we are seeing a recent resurgence of the concept thanks to growing wireless connectivity capabilities and needs. In the past, connections in mesh networks had to be wired, limiting their scope to small, localised areas. Today, mesh networks can be established with wireless specifications, connecting disparate devices across large physical spaces with minimal physical infrastructures. This scalability makes mesh networks ideal architectures for the IoT, as a viable alternative to traditional WiFi connections.
The interlace structure of a mesh network also means that it is decentralised, in direct contrast to the many networks with central servers that exist today. This lack of a single, centralised authority means that no single entity controls the network. This brings advantages in the form of secure, anonymous communication, without the risk of central control or individual points of failure.
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