General, Misc

We can either wait for infinity for the man from BT; or we can reach for the nearest can of Pringles and have a mesh-up…

I’m going to have to be *very* careful here.

It took me the better part of four years walking the walk in this web space before I got to do a ‘mash-up’ – in our case that between Google’s Maps and Addiply’s data.

As in here:

And now I’m going to try and get my head round a ‘mesh-up’.

Or, should that be trying to mash a mesh up; mash an Addiply local ad mesh with a rural wireless mesh?

Like I said, it gets complicated. Quickly.

But it shouldn’t. It should be simple.

Last week I was in Colchester; at the University of Essex. And there I listened to Professor Stuart Walker, Access Group Leader for the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

Most of his talk flew way over my head; attenuation curves and Fresnal Zones. OK, whatever.

But the light switched on when he came to the PowerPoint slide above; the lad in Africa building his own mesh network with the aid of an empty Pringles can. Look again at the photo. It’s the red thing; plain, ready salted.

Inside the tube is lined with foil; it concentrates the beam – enough to allow the lad to point the beam – with a concentrated Fresnal Zone – at his neighbour’s house and start spreading web goodness – wirelessly.

It’s not only in Africa where the ‘technology’ to build a rural mesh network exists. I think this is from the US.

Clearly, they favour the sky blue, Salt & Vinegar can as opposed to the every-day Ready Salted variety of their African counterparts.

Each to their own, I guess.

The hows and technical whys of it all are here…

Building a wireless community network in Sonoma County, Ca.

With a Pringles can.

What does this create as the signal is pinged from one neighbour to the next; one church tower to the next?

It creates an elegant, meshed network.

Which you can then scale; off a gateway or a backbone. Into clusters.  

In the same way that, for example, those clever boys and girls at STV are building new ‘clusters’ of networked content through their proposition.

So, they have a cluster of sites in South Lanarkshire; another cluster on the banks of the Moray Firth. Which is all very interesting if you were to mash that up with a wireless mesh launched off the top of Buckie church tower with a Pringles can.

Because we, too, can do clusters. In South Lanarkshire.

Give me a Pringles can on top of Motherwell Church and me, STVLocal, the wireless-upped residents of Motherwell are all laughing; we have a nice, simple, elegant mesh-up of local wireless connectivity from which hangs both relevant editorial content and appropriately targetted advertising opportunity.


If we view the web as a blank piece of paper; if we think that we all need to start again from scratch, from the bottom up… then the power of true, networked thinking is there for all to see.

The fact that you can build a wireless mesh network with a can of Pringles is not, however, good news for everyone.

Not if you’ve spent the last 80 years of your life defending mile after mile after mile of copper cable as if your future pension provision depended on it.

Wireless isn’t good news for anyone in the duct, pole, exchange and cable business; just as IPTV isn’t the best of news for anyone with a transmitter.

Not if a lad with an empty Pringles can and a ladder can light up Sonoma County, Ca.

The University of Essex isn’t the only insitution in this country to be playing with mesh and network theory when it comes to rural broadband. There was Lancaster University, for example.

They were opening up a backhaul facility via its Lancashire University Network Service (LUNS).

There were seven villages in rural Lancashire who – until recently – had a plan. Involving LUNS. 

The villages of Abbeystead (via Quernmore), Arkholme, Melling, Wennington, Wray and Caton were going to all mesh together in a bid to light up their lives via the Web. To build new solutions from the bottom up. All with the help of CyberDoyle and her digger.

That project came to an end this week.

Lancaster City Council pulled the plug on their funding; they decided that their future was best served working with the joint venture proposal put forward by Lancashire County Council and… BT.

Who don’t do cans of Pringles. Just mile after mile after mile of copper wire.


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