WiFi Anywhere with a New Mesh Network: Mesh ++ is a Chicago-based startup testing their proprietary protocol in rural markets.
If there’s one thing that gets just about anyone in a cranky mood, it’s a bad internet connection. Or worse, no connection at all. As we become increasingly dependent on our wireless devices, network issues become increasingly frustrating. Access to a reliable connection has gone from an amenity to a necessity. Tech companies are racing to keep up with the demand they’ve created. One young company is combatting cold connections with solar and battery-powered Wi-Fi devices that use a mesh network instead of a wireless repeater. If that sounds too techy, just bear with us.
The Wi-Fi you have in your home and probably your office is transmitted from a single source: the router. The closer you are to the router, the faster your connection should be. No big deal if your space is small, but what if it’s big?
One alternative is a mesh Wi-Fi system. A mesh network employs multiple devices to act as “nodes” forming an interconnected web. This creates exponentially more opportunities to be within reach of the network. Furthermore, an increase in these nodes leads to better throughput—in other words, more information can be sent and received, and faster. That means more people can be live streaming a concert or tweeting their witty commentaries at a football game.
Hailing from the Windy City, Mesh++ is a company born from a college design project. “Originally, we were trying to tackle the problem of communication in emerging markets in rural areas. A lot of it comes down to the difficulties in laying infrastructure,” remarked Mesh++ CEO Danny Gardner. One major problem in digital communication is that laying cable is costly wherever you do it, urban and rural areas alike, so optimizing wireless data transfer is crucial.
Danny’s background is in wireless communication hardware. His senior design partner was a computer engineer who focused on communication protocols. They looked at how the cellular network operates, and Danny explained that in urban areas there are many smaller cells that are meant to serve a few hundred consumers at a time instead of thousands. They wanted to apply this concept to rural areas without having to build thousands of cells.
“We found a type of mesh protocol that is optimized specifically if you don’t have the challenges of an enclosed space,” Danny said. They modified the technology to be suitable for really dense conditions in order to test its throughput capabilities with a large number of users. For testing validation and initial sales, the Mesh++ team took to Soldier Field, home of da Chicago Bears, for the 50th Anniversary of The Special Olympics. While a big-city stadium wasn’t exactly the original vision for applying their technology, the product was hugely successful, allowing the public access to fast WiFi in huge numbers. They subsequently made an appearance at the Super Bowl in 2018. Since then they have created installations in Palo Alto and San Francisco, as well as one in China and another one at their home base in Chicago. And, now that they have validated their product’s capabilities, they have rolled out a state-of-the-art battery-powered and a solar-powered node in a rugged, waterproof case. These nodes act as powerful routers to increase the speed and signal strength of WiFi.
Mesh++ still wants to deliver internet to areas that don’t have access. From a technological standpoint, Danny anticipates their products rapidly evolving. “We started with innovation and we’re not stopping here,” Danny said. So keep an eye on Mesh++ as they adapt with the rapid evolution of wireless data delivery as we know it.