Call it the proverbial canary in the coal mine or a leading indicator, but what Wi-Fi chip designer AeroScout announced this week in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force points to our future.
Because as Wi-Fi becomes ubiquitous and combines further with mesh networks, RFID, and GPS, we are sure to witness dramatic changes in our society.
And I'm not sure it will all be to the good.
Using currently available GPS chips, Wi-Fi, and high-gain antennas, AeroScout will give the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) the ability to locate any aircraft and any aircraft part left anywhere within the confines of its 110-million-square-foot desert facility, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, in Arizona.
[ See where the Feds rank on our "Top 10 reasons to be paranoid." ]
When complete, AeroScout's technology will do this with GPS chips attached to thousands of pieces of equipment. Yet, thanks to the high-gain antennas, the system only requires 42 Wi-Fi access points.
Besides broadcasting the position of equipment to AMARG's Wi-Fi network, the battery-operated GPS systems include motion sensors and on-board thermometers within the chip design to enable AMARG managers to track the location, condition, and status of parts from a single network.
Add the increasing value proposition of mesh, and you just might see where this technology is heading.
Mesh: Data's bucket brigade
What makes the mesh-network specification particularly unique is its bucket-brigade architecture, which passes data from node to node until it lands at its end point.
The significance of mesh for both the enterprise and municipalities is the lower cost of deploying a wireless network outdoors. Mesh does not require each access point to be hardwired to an Ethernet connection. In addition to cost savings, the time to lay out such a wireless network is also greatly reduced.
Once the price and ease-of-use of mesh comes down, the availability of the technology will increase a hundredfold. We will surely witness more and more uses for this integration of technologies.
Cisco already has wireless access points, each with two radios. The Wi-Fi radio handles access, and the second radio is dedicated to wireless interconnectivity, or the meshing across wireless and wired access points.
Along with this hardware, Cisco also deploys AWPP (Adaptive Wireless Path Protocol), essentially its algorithm for selecting the best data path among the many access points laid out in a coverage area.
Combined with RFID, increasingly expansive mesh networks will describe a future in which nothing -- or everything -- is lost.