Mesh Network | Learning by Proxy
Tech companies seem to have billions of devices in the wild today. How do you think they plan to leverage it?
The internet was conceived as a set of computers connected together to pass data to each other. There was never a central hub because there was a need to avoid the disruption of the entire system in the event of a war. This alone made the internet possible. With the advent of wifi and its near ubiquity, a new concept called mesh networks started to arise.
A mesh network (or simply meshnet) is a local network topology in which the infrastructure nodes (i.e. bridges, switches, and other infrastructure devices) connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another to efficiently route data from/to clients. This lack of dependency on one node allows for every node to participate in the relay of information. Mesh networks dynamically self-organize and self-configure, which can reduce installation overhead. The ability to self-configure enables dynamic distribution of workloads, particularly in the event a few nodes should fail. This in turn contributes to fault-tolerance and reduced maintenance costs.
Then came a technology called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that made it possible for any device to share its internet. Any Bluetooth device can create a Personal Area Network. In other words, any device can act as an internet beacon and transfer data. When it was introduced, there was a lot of excitement about the potential application and ability for marketers to use.
The trouble was that most people do not leave their Bluetooth ‘on’, all the time.
And then came the cornucopia of smart devices that have slowly grown inside our homes. Smart speakers, smart-bulbs, smart locks, etc. The thing is; you cannot operate any of these devices when their Bluetooth is turned off!
Welcome to the mesh.
Amazon has been selling their Alexa speakers at a throwaway price of $99, which is often further discounted. The reason; to create a smart device network across the world. They are starting to turn it on.
Last week Amazon launched Sidewalk which is described as:
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo devices, Ring Security Cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door. When enabled, Sidewalk can unlock unique benefits for your device, support other Sidewalk devices in your community, and even locate pets or lost items.
Along with the consumer devices, Amazon is also getting businesses and other establishments like sports clubs to install sidewalk devices on their premises.
Now, Amazon is introducing a new gadget designed to help fill those gaps. Dubbed the Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro by Ring and intended for farms, factories and other nonresidential settings, the Bridge Pro is a dedicated device housing the radios needed to relay Sidewalk's signals to the cloud. Rather than targeting consumers, who can already turn Sidewalk on via their Echo smart speakers and Ring cameras, Amazon is seeking to partner with industries and organizations beyond the reach of the current network.
For now, the company is only touting the application of this network from the perspective of using devices like Tile that can help you find things you have lost or misplaced.
Even Apple is using its Billion devices in the wild, to create a similar FindMy network that will help you trace anything around you so long as it has an AirTag on it.
But I am sure that is not it. What we need to think about is how this global network can be leveraged by these companies to the next order. They are not the ones to play the small game.
Amazon is an investor in Rivian and the Apple Car is an open secret.
Building autonomous cars are the holy grail to wealth. The applications towards which autonomy has been put to great use has been trucks and tractors. They have a predictable route and relatively fewer variables to deal with.
The problem is that making the cars see, much like humans is a tedious task. Elon Musk seems to like this approach. Much like everything that he prefers, this approach is flawed.
The real solution to the autonomous vehicle problem is to build infrastructure that the cars can talk to. Not to build cars that can see. This mesh creates that possibility.
With over a Billion devices feeding in data, including proximity data overlaid on maps, it would become possible to direct vehicles more efficiently. For Amazon, it would also be able to leverage this in multiple ways to enable autonomous delivery. This would be especially true of groceries that can be sourced from the nearby Whole Foods and driven to your address by a cute knee high robot. Or for that matter to help drones navigate the dense urban landscape.
There is a longer game in the works here. We will all see in due time.