Pushing Bits in Vegas

Another city experimenting with another wireless network: this time it's Las Vegas, and according to this article in the always-educational IEEE Spectrum they're building not WiFi but a mesh network, and it's for municipal services, not bloggers drunk on the Strip.

A mesh network, as almost everyone reading this will know better than I do, is nodeless -- that is, instead of having a hub that directs traffic to and from spokes, mesh networks treat every user as a place to route data. They're super-fast, robust, and expensive. In Vegas, the town got interested when black-market devices started showing up that let drivers change traffic signals from red to green, the way emergency services vehicles can. But Vegas also has a network of traffic cameras, like a lot of towns. And, says Spectrum:
The mesh network also offers an opportunity for Las Vegas to solve its interoperability problem. What visitors think of as a single glitzy metropolis is actually a patchwork of municipalities and areas that fall under the control of the surrounding county. Even the Las Vegas Strip, the city's signature avenue of outlandish hotels and casinos, is nearly all part of an unincorporated township called Paradise.

As a result, when major problems arise, it's difficult to coordinate the different agencies involved, such as the fire and police departments.

A mesh network infrastructure left over from a busted company, Richochet, was one of the few communications nets still in operation in New York after the Sept. 11 attacks, the article says. If the tech works in Vegas, and gets cheap enough (hardware's up to 10 times as expensive as your basic 802.11g gear), and they let civilians on the network, you can expect me to start surreptitiously blogging from craps tables on Fremont St.


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