Top 4 Use Cases for Wireless Mesh Networks in IoT

Lighting, in-door environments, electric grids, and city-scale IoT systems. This is where wireless mesh networking is the perfect choice.

Adam Dunkels, Thingsquare CEOBy Adam Dunkels, Thingsquare CEO – October 22, 2021

Wireless mesh networking is in many ways the ideal technology for Internet of Things (IoT) systems.

Wireless mesh networks are resilient and robust. Wireless mesh networks expand automatically as more device are added, leading to increased coverage.

And wireless mesh networks don’t need a third-party infrastructure, such as a mobile telephony network.

These features make wireless mesh networks a great fit for many IoT systems.

At Thingsquare, we build IoT products and projects for our customers and use wireless mesh networking in all of them.

In this article, we explore four use cases when a wireless mesh network is a particularly good choice:

  • Lighting systems
  • In-door environments
  • Electricity and microgrids
  • Anything at the scale of a city such as street lighting or other smart city systems.

What is a mesh network?

Let’s first look at what a wireless mesh network is and why it is being used for the IoT.

Mesh networking is a technique where all devices in the network help each other out to extend the range of the network.

IoT network topologies: star vs mesh network

In non-mesh networks, all the devices must communicate directly with a base station. This is often called a star network, because how it looks a bit like a star.

In a star network, all devices must be in the immediate reach of the base station.

This means that the range of the network is equal to the range of the base station.

In a mesh network, a device only needs to be in the reach of one other device - any device - in the network.

This makes mesh networks very scalable: they will automatically expand with every new device.

It also makes mesh networks very robust. Every device will have many ways to reach their base station. If one device breaks, many others are ready to take over its role.

Top 4 use cases for wireless mesh IoT networks

While mesh networking is good for many areas of the IoT, there are a few situations where a wireless mesh network is a particularly good choice.

What these situations have in common is that they require back-and-forth communication in places that may be difficult to reach for wireless signals. Or where the area that needs to be covered is large. And where the area is not known in advance.

In this article, we look at these four use cases:

  • Lighting
  • In-door environments, such as retail environments or in houses
  • Electricity monitoring and microgrids
  • And city-scale systems, including street lighting and sensor-based measurement

Let’s dive into the details!

1: Lighting

In lighting, wireless communication is typically needed for two reasons:

  • To control lamps, and
  • To collect data from the lamps, such as temperature or other usage information.

This means that we need two-way communication.

Lighting systems are often deployed in large spaces. Horticultural lighting systems may cover vast areas. Industrial lighting systems are placed in large industrial halls.

This means that we need to have very good wireless coverage.

Lighting systems also needs robustness. The network should still operate even if parts of the system goes out.

Wireless mesh networking is therefor a great match. Mesh networks are inherently robust. And they can cover very large areas.

In a wireless mesh lighting system, each light is a node in the network. As we add more lights, the network grows both larger and stronger.

In-door environments, such as electronics stores, may be large. But a wireless mesh network can easily cover the entire area.

2: In-door environments

IoT systems for large in-door environments need to cover large areas.

Examples include warehouses, retail stores, or office spaces.

For in-door environments, wireless communication systems that rely on cellular communication may be tricky, because cellular communication may be spotty. This is particularly true in basements or deep buildings.

Wireless mesh networks offer a bunch of benefits here:

  • Each device need only communicate with its neighbors.
  • Only the base station (or base stations) need to have Internet access, via a cellular connection.
  • The mesh network can cover vast areas, even dwindling corridors and hallways.

Also, because the network automatically extends itself, installation is quick. There is no need to plan ahead: just add more nodes as needed.

In one IoT project in a retail environment, we use a mesh network to cover electronics stores. Each store has its own network.

This is what the wireless mesh network in one of the stores looks like:

The IoT mesh network covers the entire area of the electronics store.

3: Electricity and microgrids

Electricity and utility systems cover large areas that are often not served by cellular networks.

In the electricity and utility area, IoT is used for many different systems, including power line monitoring and microgrid control for renewables.

Because a wireless mesh network extends its range automatically, and don’t require any third-party infrastructure, they are a good fit.

Reliability and robustness is important because electrical systems are deployed in locations that may be hard to reach.

Again, mesh networks are a good fit because of their inherent robustness: if parts of the network goes down, the rest of the network takes over.

4: City-scale systems

There are several IoT systems in use at the scale of a city today. Examples include:

  • Street lighting
  • Air pollution monitoring
  • Trash can usage monitoring

City-scale deployments are large and the devices are often placed in clusters.

Wireless mesh networking is a good choice for city-scale systems because they cover large areas and because they self-extend as more devices are added.

City-scale deployments are also affected by weather conditions. In damp weather, wireless signal propagation changes. A wireless mesh network automatically adapt: devices automatically choose the best network structure.

Wireless IoT mesh network deployed along a street
A wireless mesh network deployed along a city street. The colors indicate connectivity between each device.

Conclusions

Wireless mesh networking is a good choice for a range of IoT situations. And for some situations wireless mesh networking is particularly good.

At Thingsquare, we build IoT systems together with our customers. All built on wireless mesh networking technology.

In this article, we discuss four examples where wireless mesh networking is particularly good: lighting, in-door systems, electrical systems, and city-scale systems.

Are you looking to build your own IoT system? Check out our Internet of Things (IoT) guide and our IoT product planner to see how your specific requirements affects timeline, budget, and hardware selection.

Interested in more of this? Join our IoT newsletter!

And as always, feel free to reach out to see how Thingsquare can help make your IoT product come true!


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Adam Dunkels

Adam Dunkels

CEO

Fredrik Rosendal

Fredrik Rosendal

CTO

Marcus Linderoth

Marcus Linderoth

VP Engineering

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