NC State Launches Experimental Wi-Fi System

February 7, 2012

The open-air, large-scale outdoor wireless network will assist researchers in studying communications security, jamming, and other applications.

RALEIGH, NC /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- Centennial Campus at NC State University just got covered by a "mesh." Not an actual mesh, but an outdoor Wi-Fi network system that will allow researchers to study everything from network security to healthcare applications.

The project, called CentMesh (short for Centennial Outdoor Wireless Mesh Network Testbed for Research and Education), is one of the first in the country to create an open-air, large-scale experimental wireless system to be driven by open-source software, allowing researchers to modify or re-write the code to meet their specific requirements.

"Because it's all open source, researchers can trash it, write their own or make changes," said Rudra Dutta, an NC State computer science professor and one of the researchers.

More than a dozen experiments are already planned for the network in the coming year, according to Dutta, including understanding ways to help emergency communications that operate on batteries, saving energy and bandwidth.

Another possible experiment is to equip the network with multiple sensors so environmental conditions, such as air and quality, can be overlaid with readings from an individual's heart rate and blood pressure. Those applications could be used to detect earlier the problems associated with the elderly or people with asthma or heart conditions.

The "mesh" contains 14 access points, which blanket the main section of the research park and technology campus. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Army Research Office and is scheduled to begin operations this month.

According to Dennis Kekas, Associate Vice Chancellor in Charge of Partnerships at Centennial, CentMesh is a perfect example of using the research park as a "living laboratory," where actual research is conducted on the premises in a real-life environment. Kekas says Centennial is the ideal location for such research since it is a self-contained "mini-city" of buildings, employees, students, and amenities. Other examples of research taking place on Centennial include the park's public golf course, which has been used as a laboratory for the university's Turf Grass Management program.

About Centennial Campus
Owned and operated by NC State University, Centennial Campus is 1314 acres, located near downtown Raleigh. Home to more than 60 companies, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations, the research park is also home to several of the university's top colleges, including Engineering, Textiles, and Veterinary Medicine. Centennial Campus is also home to the largest biomanufacturing training and education center in the U.S. and the only National Science Foundation–funded center focusing on alternative technologies and distributed energy (FREEDM Center).

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