2019 is an unprecedented time in contemporary world history. Global power dynamics are shifting dramatically as the economic and political wheel seems to turn daily. Population demographics are rapidly changing as the UN reports that more than 3 million people are moving to urban areas on a weekly basis. China alone will have 221 cities with more than 1M people by 2025. Technology has advanced and connected the world in ways that would have sounded impossible 20 years ago. Empirical data about consumption and climate impact is being dismissed as fake news. The question is no longer “Is Smart City Technology is necessary?”, but “What are the best Smart City Solutions?”. Our answer is Mesh Networks.
Smart City Solutions and How To Find Them
When it comes to finding solutions for smart city technology, one size does not fit all. Different cities come with different challenges, each requiring individual solutions. However, the one constant is using connected infrastructure and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance the lives of the citizens who live there. For example, Orbis Mesh is located in Vancouver, Canada and over the past decade the city has slowly become more and more connected. Whether it’s smart parking meters, wireless bike sharing, or a free city-wide Wi-Fi, the city is moving in a clear direction, as evidenced by the city investing resources to become the frontrunner of a 50-million-dollar governmental grant for Canadian Smart City growth.
But what happens when the majority of a city’s infrastructure becomes connected to a cloud? That’s when things can get tricky. If you have every traffic light, gas meter, water treatment plant, HVAC system, warehouse pallet, energy grid, or garbage bin connected, each one of them needs to have an access point to the cloud. Those aren’t even considering all the connected appliances in businesses or homes. For this system to be effective it requires a powerful, inexpensive, stable and efficient solution that is customizable to any device. This is where mesh networking comes in.
How Mesh Network Topology Works
The topology of mesh networks is quite simple. Rather than each individual node or sensor directly connecting to the cloud, the nodes connect to each other, creating a vast, self-sustaining and self-configuring stream of information where a minimal number of nodes are needed to directly connect with the cloud for information to be transmitted. When infrastructure such as irrigation systems in public parks are connected, automated commands can help reduce water waste costs by up to 60%. In that same park the connected street lights can use the same network to transfer data on energy consumption, ambient light levels, and the amount of vehicle or foot traffic can be transmitted instantly. Implementing mesh into these systems allows the individual pieces to work in unison while actively transmitting and automating. This isn’t just theory, Barcelona is currently reaping the benefits of a 30-year project that uses technology that is similar to IoT in 60% of their public parks and saves on annum €425,000 in irrigation costs alone.
How To Connect Mesh Networks
One of the central questions around Mesh Networking is what type of connection will be used between nodes or access points? There is a push from telecommunications companies to use cellular options such as LTE-M. While these networks are low energy, municipalities will need to rely on a telecommunication company for the use of these systems and will also need to consider air time charges when using the network. Depending on what rates are set at and the range requested, those costs could be quite punitive.
Our proposed solution is to use a 2.4 GHz radio frequency which is akin to Bluetooth. These connections are stable, fast, efficient, and use minimal energy. The networks use AES 128 bit encryption and are completely decentralized from telecommunication companies. This means air-tight security with no air time charges.
These low energy signals have a range of 50 meters, so the right hardware is the key to making the entire system work. Orbis Mesh believes that the best hardware for mesh networking is the hardware already designed. Orbis Mesh can create mesh networks with a simple install of a proprietary circuit board into any existing monitoring or automation system. This also allows for minimal labour, easy collaboration with existing companies, and the ability to bridge physical gaps by adding small nodes when access points are outside the 50 meters range.
With cities expanding at such an unprecedented rate and the need for smart city technology to become widely available we believe that mesh networks present our best solution.
Want to find out how Orbis Mesh can help connect you? Get started right here.