Distributed Intelligence with Wirepas Mesh

By Esten Jacobsen August 7, 2019

Distributed intelligence with Wirepas Mesh

Building a network for an IoT application involves making trade-offs based on key parameters such as power efficiency, latency, wireless range, bandwidth and scalability. But not all applications have the same requirements. For corporations seeking to leverage benefits from industrial IoT, a lot of very different applications will contribute.

Introducing Wirepas Mesh

Wirepas Mesh is a decentralized mesh network protocol that has proven scalable both in network size and across a wide range of use cases. The network has a distributed intelligence where each node schedules data transfers toward its neighbours by way of a sophisticated time and frequency division multiplexing algorithm. Because of this synchronization, not all nodes need to be optimized for the same key parameters – and both low latency and low power nodes may coexist in the network.

In addition, all nodes can reconfigure themselves to be routers or gateways, and the network is self-healing should there be a problem with a specific node. Another strength is that the protocol can work seamlessly in concurrent operation with, for example, Bluetooth Low Energy on the same radio. This simplifies interfacing with the network as devices can be added or configured using a mobile phone that talks BLE.

These many degrees of freedom make Wirepas Mesh attractive for businesses that would prefer using the same network for dataflow in an ecosystem of applications. This includes future use cases that may be very different in scale and type from the ones we see today.

A venous system for IoT at the smart hospital

Wirepas has come a long way since the first ideas formed at the University of Technology in Tampere at the beginning of the century. The Finnish tech company had previously worked to deliver an entire solution comprised of both hardware and software. Since 2014, they have focused exclusively on a best-in-class and hardware agnostic networking software for IoT applications.

A recently published case study shows how Wirepas Mesh is used as the network for a wide range of different applications at a children’s hospital in Utrecht, Netherlands. Together with partnering companies such as Gooee, Enocean and Fujitsu, who make modules based on the nRF51 and nRF52 series SoCs from Nordic Semiconductor, Wirepas Mesh acts as the venous system in a truly smart hospital.

Asset tracking and finding your way

Asset tracking is a major use case for any business and is also the case for a hospital. Keeping track of the location of wheelchairs, beds, blood pressure meters and other medical equipment improves efficiency. If the nurses can locate a misplaced piece of equipment on their mobile phone, they can spend more time caring for patients. It is also easy to imagine how asset tracking may extend to asset monitoring further down the line. If medical equipment is made smart by the suppliers, the machines themselves can send notifications via the network when they need servicing, and unnecessary downtime can be avoided.

Using the building’s lighting infrastructure to lay out the main mesh network is both cost effective, as lighting infrastructure is something all buildings have regardless, ensures great coverage, and allows a big portion of the network to be mains powered. In addition, this enables smart lighting control.

Read more: Mesh in lighting: What comes next?

Another use case for the mesh network is wayfinding. Indoor navigation on your mobile phone is something that can make a hospital visit less menacing whether you are new working at the hospital or new as a patient finding your way around a large unknown space.

The hospital in Utrecht keep finding new use cases for the network, and it is almost certain that even more effective uses will be identified in the future. The versatility of Wirepas Mesh makes it a good choice for handling the applications of tomorrow.

Read more: Bluetooth 5.1 puts Bluetooth in its place

A versatile and robust networking software

The proprietary protocol can in principle be used by any radio hardware, transmitting at any frequency. For instance, it can operate using hardware transmitting in either the global 2.4 GHz frequency band, or in a sub-GHz spectrum if a greater range is required.

Because it is a decentralized network where each node decides whether to route or not, and it does not rely on simple flooding algorithms, Wirepas Mesh is also ideal for massive networks.

In Oslo, Norway, power company Hafslund have deployed around 700,000 smart electricity meters that use a single Wirepas Mesh to communicate in sub GHz frequency range. But the protocol is also robust in cramped spaces.

In collaboration with Nordic Semiconductor, Wirepas has demonstrated that the network functions without error with a density of 1500 nRF52832 chipsets within a cubic meter. Asked for an update, Mirva Saarijärvi, marketing director at Wirepas, confirms this demo has had continued operation for one and a half years without any loss of data packets.

 

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Topics: mesh


Esten Jacobsen's photo

By: Esten Jacobsen

Esten Jacobsen has an M.Sc. in Electronics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and has been with Nordic Semiconductor for 8 years. After graduating he worked with digital hardware design on the nRF51, nRF52 and nRF91 series before moving to his current position as a Product Marketing Engineer. Feel free to ask Esten a question in the comments below!

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