Neighbourhood Networks

In a recent blog entry on Education Malaysia, Ong Kian Ming mentioned setting up a neighbourhood network (NN) so that kids would be able to play multi-player computer games at home and they would not need to hike off to the seedy cyber-cafes (CC) for their regular fix of group fun. However, it dawned on me that this NN is an excellent idea.

The kind of network that I am describing can be seen as a form of wireless mesh network. Incidentally, the OMRP, which is an open hardware/software platform for implementing wireless mesh networks, uses my aeMB processor at its core. However, none of what I have to say, is processor dependent.

It is extremely easy to set up a NN today. Gone were the days when cables had to be lain from point to point. Today, we can just do the entire thing with WiFi. If every family buys a wireless router and sets up a home zone, all these zones can be combined together to form a blanket network. This can be achieved using something called the Wireless Distribution System (WDS), which is present on almost all modern routers.

There are some very obvious applications with the NN.

It would now be fantastically free to call up your neighbours on voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology. There is no need to use any phones to ring up your neighbour. Furthermore, you don’t need to limit yourself to just streaming voice, but you can also stream video over the network. So, it would be easier than ever to bug your neighbours. Of course, there are many other more creative pursuits that one can pursue using this technology.

With a network communications infrastructure in place, it would be trivial to install various IP-security devices. There is a lot of interesting work being done in the field of sensor networks, which generally employ a large number of simplistic sensor devices to produce all kinds of telemetry data that can be analysed for any number of applications. This brings the neighbourhood watch to a whole new level.

There are some legal issues to deal with, especially if the NN shares multiple Internet connections. The NN can combine and aggregate these multiple connections into a single large pipe. However, ISPs often have legal restrictions in place on the freedoms of end-users to ‘share’ their connections. Obviously, if a resident does something illegal on-line, it creates a whole host of legal issues as well.

Anyway, this sounds like a great idea to me. Maybe, instead of rolling out a state-wide WiFi infrastructure, our local governments should actually focus their resources at setting up and linking a number of neighbourhood networks. The people can help fund the project by supplying part of the equipment while the government takes care of the pipes linking the disparate networks and the Internet.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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