Is 802.11 perfect? Move your laptop out of range of an access point, and you're not just wireless, you're network-less. But Maitland, Fla.-based Meshnetworks Inc. thinks it has an answer. Its network uses proprietary software to turn every wireless device into a wireless router, allowing everyone to "Hop" through similarly equipped devices until they reach a real access point. CIO Insight spoke with Rick Rotondo, the company's director of disruptive technologies at Meshnetworks, about the advantages of such an architecture.
CIO Insight: In a typical 802.11 network, the biggest cost is installing access points. How does a mesh network help?
ROTONDO: Basically, what it does for your IT managers is it reduces the out-of-pocket hardware costs for rolling out 802.11 access points. And this holds for both 802.11a and b. And because this network is self-forming and self-healing, where they locate their access points is pretty much irrelevant, because people are going to hop to them anyway.
What does that give the user?
It means I'm going to have much better coverage because I'm going to be able to hop through other users to get to an access point. So I don't have the line-of-sight issues typically associated with 802.11. Most of your users are at the periphery of your coverage, because that's how a circle works. As you get further away from an access point, the area you cover gets bigger and bigger. So typically, most of the users of an 802.11 access point are getting between 1 and 2 megabits per secondthe lowest data offered [by 802.11]. But with mesh technology, they're getting the highest data rate, because they're hopping at 11 megabits.
What value will that provide to corporate users?
You're going to make information easier to access. It's going to be more intuitive for the corporate user, because the device and the applications are going to be much more intelligent and feature-rich. And because you can get at the information a lot more quickly and easily, you're going to be more productive, because you have more time to analyze and act on the information you get. Finally, time is money, particularly when it comes to information. So if you're able to give someone better information fasterthrough a broadband connection, for examplethey're going to make better decisions. And as we know, better decisions made faster are really what makes the world turn.
How will broadband wireless change software?
I think it's going to be an evolution in two dimensions. First, there needs to be a rethinking of what makes a good mobile application versus what makes a good desktop application in terms of the user interface, the inputs, the outputsthe type of information that's really important to you when you're mobile. The second thing is the shift from a client-server architecture to more of a peer-to-peer architecture. I don't think it's anything CIOs have to worry about today, but I do think it's something they need to start thinking and learning about, so that when broadband wireless networks happen, and some of these applications come out, they know how to evaluate them.