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How does a wireless mesh network work?

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Quick Answer

A wireless mesh network is a network of wireless users connected to each other instead of to a single central point. If one user sends data into the network, it travels from node to node until it reaches its destination. Dynamic routing allows the mesh network to maintain the most efficient routes through the swarm of users, routing data around outages.

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Full Answer

In many ways, a wireless mesh network mirrors the wired topology of the Internet. When a user sends data out into the network, it can travel along any number of paths to reach its destination. Wireless mesh networks have the advantage of allowing data to travel to any node within range, rather than only through direct connection. This makes the network self-healing, instantly finding new paths around blockages.

One example of a wireless mesh network is the FireChat Bluetooth application. When installed on a cellular phone, FireChat uses the built-in, short range Bluetooth radio of the cell phone to communicate with other users who are running the application. This means that even if the phone cannot connect to a tower, it can connect with other users and relay messages if anyone is in range. In October of 2014, protesters in Hong Kong set up enormous FireChat networks at demonstrations, allowing members to communicate even when the cellular network became overwhelmed with calls.

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