How mesh networking ensures uninterrupted data exchange between connected devices

One of the major challenges with connected devices is having a reliable network. Cell phone and standard Wi-Fi networks do not guarantee communication everywhere. Even dense urban  areas have numerous “dead” cellular zones in building basements, elevators, tunnels and underpasses. Remote areas like crop fields, mines, oceans and space also pose problems.

With this in mind, we designed our secure framework for cyber-physical systems to support wireless mesh networking (WMN). The framework is built on distributed ledger technology (DLT). DLT is very important for cyber-physical systems connecting to the internet — also known as internet of things (IoT) — for trusted, tamper-proof messaging and to ensure that data is not lost in transit. If cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity is lost due to an outage or dead zone, the WMN steps in so devices can still transmit their data (up to a pre-defined radius) to the DLT. This ensures critical connectivity, especially important for factory automation, healthcare applications and worker safety in remote locations like mines.

Our framework diagram below shows this offline messaging with a black cloud icon. Let’s see how it works.

A secure framework for cyber-physical systems

Click image to expand.

Mesh network deep dive

As shown in the figure below, the end point (“E”) collects data from associated sensors and machines and passes it to the nearest router (“R”). Routers send, receive and pass messages to the coordinator (“C”). All the communication happens through radio signals — i.e., without a cellular network or Wi-Fi. Once the coordinator receives the data, it pushes the data into the DLT in our secure framework.

Secure, loss-free data exchange with a mesh network

End devices use mesh networking to push data to the distributed ledger technology framework through routers and the coordinator base station — even in the absence of cellular and Wi-Fi networks. Click image to expand.

Putting mesh to work

Our mesh network with secure DLT framework can be used in many domains including:

  • Industrial automation: Automate factory processes leveraging IoT. Track assets and monitor large physical objects with a highly reliable wireless network across factory locations.
  • Smart cities: Solve some of the most challenging issues in this domain by extending radio signals through parking garages, basements, elevators, campus grounds, business parks, and other outdoor facilities.
  • Farming: Track soil moisture levels across farms. Based on the soil moisture, irrigation valves can be controlled automatically for optimized irrigation.
  • Healthcare: Obtain medical parameters from devices as well as locate and monitor medical devices quickly, including user’s status.
  • Mining: Track employees in mines’ cellular dead zones and save lives. Capture live data and transmit it instantly to the control room for further action as needed.

Mesh networking is a critical driver for IoT, as it creates self-extending, highly reliable networks for critical infrastructure. It offers firms a low-cost, low-power alternative to direct connections between machines, without data loss. Mesh enables millions of simultaneous machine-to-machine connections and keeps business processes running smoothly.


Gopalakrishnan Rajaram, a lead technologist at DXC Labs India, focuses on the internet of things, machine-to-machine transactions and edge computing. An innovation champion, he has earned several hackathon awards at internal and external events. He specializes in microcontroller programming, wireless protocols, mesh networking, Perl, Python, mobile apps, cloud, client-facing next-generation prototypes and cryptocurrency solutions such as IOTA. @Gopal_Rajaram

 

Baskar Venugopalan, associate director at DXC Labs India, is a technology enthusiast. As a lead technologist, Baskar has worked in multiple niche technology areas, with emphasis on digital technology adoption. He has led incubators as well as teams of senior technologists and architects. Baskar’s three decades of experience include working with multinationals such as Microsoft and Oracle. @venugbx

Comments

  1. Great piece of work!

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  2. Very interesting and most required for next gen smart cities !!

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  3. What you describe is a wireless sensor network which already exist for 2 decades. What is the different technology presented here?

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    • Agree to your point that wireless communication via peer to peer communication has been in existence for a long time, so did the sensors as well.
      Here, we are trying to stitch together some of the existing technologies with new ones to solve business problems. We are trying to leverage DLT into IoT for secured tamper proof messaging for any critical IoT business use cases. At the same time, we should not lose the data (mainly at the data origin). Hence, we are trying to integrate the Mesh into IoT and then to DLT. We have built a PoC for employee health & safety in the Coal mining. Hope you can correlate the importance of vital human health parameters in the coal and mining industry and how important is the network connectivity issue here.
      This approach attempts to solve all those issues.

      Our earlier CPS framework may give some insights for you. https://blogs.dxc.technology/2019/08/26/enabling-a-secure-ecosystem-of-connected-devices/

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