Mesh networking is a technology that allows for online connectivity without using an ISP. Considering all the doubt that surrounds net neutrality laws in the United States right now as well as the connectivity issues faced by many internet users around the world, mesh networking offers an alternative way of connecting online.
Through a mesh network (a Meshnet), nodes can connect directly with each other and route data to and from users, with no ISP. Which basically means that no centralized authority is directly involved (sound familiar?). Mesh networking, just like blockchain technology is decentralized, with no single node acting as a master node or single point of failure.
A More Technical Look at the Matter
A Meshnet makes use of local topology, in which nodes connect directly with all other nodes participating in the network. Mesh networks can self-configure, meaning that there’s no need for costly service intervention as with ISPs. It also means that, should one node in a network fail, the information is simply passed over to the next node in the network. This makes it fault-tolerant and allows the provision of a constant connection that is more robust and secure.
It’s also uncensorable since there is no central authority involved.
Mesh networking is nothing new. The military was exploring the use of this technology with limited success via wireless radios decades ago. But with the advent of the smartphone, the use of mesh networking is really starting to take off.
Smartphones are growing in popularity around the world, with some 2.5 billion cellphone owners predicted by the end of next year. Unlike expensive computers and ISPs, the smartphone is bringing connectivity to previously excluded areas–since they can allow for peer-to-peer connectivity through mesh networking.
But here’s the catch: ‘Why should you share your connection with other users in the system?’
Why Should You Care About Mesh Networking?
Like many exploratory technologies, the question is often, “what’s in it for me?” Well, there are a few reasons why mesh networking could be a possible option in the future. Until recently, mesh networking remained a long way from realizing its full potential.
After all, why would anyone want to share their internet with a whole bunch of people within a network? If your neighbor’s ever asked you for your WIFI password, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If the only incentivization for sharing your internet connection is feeling like a good neighbor, the network won’t last very long.
But blockchain technology allows for the tokenization of mesh networking through cryptocurrency and could prove to be a real gamechanger here. By incentivizing people through cryptocurrency, mesh networking can become a reality.
Companies like Open Garden, RightMesh, and Blockmesh are already achieving peer-to-peer connectivity using WIFI and Bluetooth features present in mobile phones.
Each time a client connects to the network, a mesh is created for people to join, and then networks grow from there. Every time you lend your connection, you get rewarded with tokens. This adds the missing piece of the puzzle needed for mesh networking to flourish. People become their own ISPs and no longer have to rely on expensive, inefficient internet providers.
Open Garden has already created an app called FireChat, which is the first off-the-grid messaging app to work when people have no internet connection. And things are just getting started. Pilot projects in impoverished countries and hard-to-reach places with no access to the internet are also proving to be successful.
Another key feature of mesh networking is that it can keep running even after a storm or natural disaster. And no governments can shut it down. So, when internet lines go down, your mesh connection can stay online.
Mesh networking isn’t replacing the internet any time soon. But it may not be too long before we have a viable alternative. Once a system is in place for uninterrupted connectivity, you’ll definitely start to carefully consider the benefits of this underrated technology.