Get E”meshed”

Resistance is futile and you will be assimilated…oh, wait that was on StarTrek. What we’re talking about here is a “high-speed, self discovering, self configuring, fault tolerant (I could use that feature personally!), wireless computer network that can run for days from a full-charged car battery or indefinitely with the addition of a solar array or any other supplementary power source”.

That quote comes from the Broadband-Hamnet HSMM-MESH website and last night the Hamilton Amateur Radio Club‘s meeting featured a talk by Ron, VE3RTJ and Anthony, VA3IDL.

So what’s a MESH network and what’s in it for Oakville ARC?800px-WRT54G_v2_Linksys_Router_Digon3

The MESH network uses inexpensive new hardware ($80) or old Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS (free or $5 at garage sales) routers that operate on channels 1-6 of the 2.4GHz ISM band which covers the upper portion of the 13cm amateur radio band.

The MESH setup is being used by thousands of hams everyday on just about every continent (including Antarctica) to create data networks (just like the one in your home or office).

Plans are being proposed to install MESH networks which will work locally at club repeater sites in Hamilton, Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto and Oakville.

How to do this is pretty simple and for those who understand TCP/IP networking it looks pretty easy and cheap. Here’s a link to the technical details.

So what does it do? It allows Hams to communicate across a local network (Remember MESH is a network and not just an application.) using data that can be text, voice (VOIP) or even video. This network can be extended to other local networks as well.IMG_0109

Think of the possibilities for emergency communications! While we can have mobiles and portable units communicating on FM through the VE3OAK repeaters, we can also have computers (maybe even smart phones and tablets) sending and receiving text. That text could be in the form of pre-done documents like Red Cross message forms.

But it’s more than text. Because this is just a data network (like your wireless connection from your computer on your desk to your wireless router which is connected to the Internet — the MESH system isn’t connected to the Internet but to the other routers in the closed system) we could transmit video from webcams or voice as well.

Now technically I may have some of this wrong (I’m new to MESH.) but the possibilities should be of interest to Oakville ARC as a club and to our possible future involvement in ARES (which still has tons of questions about packet radio on its communications exam which might tell you about how out of touch we can get) which is moving toward MESH networks when it comes to emergency communications.

If you’re interested in learning more about MESH here’s a link to the FAQ.

Thanks to the Hamilton ARC for hosting last night’s talk.

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About Peter West

I am retired. I'm invested into bike riding, guitar playing, yoga and Ham Radio. I am a former photojournalist, newspaper and magazine editor and public relations practitioner with national, regional and local experience. A long-time member of Toastmasters International and an active Amateur Radio (Ham) operator here in Canada I am taking on new challenges.
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