Blockchain Technology & Wireless Mesh Network
Improving telecommunication networks and achieving low-cost internet infrastructures.
The demand for more inclusive structures keeps increasing. Many of us are beginning to see the need for communities and social inclusion. The argument as to whether the internet is bringing us together or pulling us apart will always be one that may never end. However, because we live in a digital age, the internet has been at the centre of this recent shift and demand for globalization and sustainable communities.
The trendy words in the corporate and tech world are: “Democratising”, “decentralization”, “financial inclusion” and “Community”. It is obvious that, to even get the attention of people these days, brands need to sell inclusiveness or equality. The Fin-Tech space is filled with companies that are looking to help more people be financially included while other sectors also tell potential customers that being a part of their community is a decision that would benefit them immensely.
However, despite these well-intended actions or PR, we are still far from social inclusion and decentralization. Only a few technological solutions have been able to provide humanity with the hope that the world can be democratized.
Decentralized solutions like Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency, NFTs, and DeFi, are the closest solutions to the decentralized and inclusive world that we clamour for. By completely giving equal access and power to people in finance, art, data privacy, and security, these platforms have all given glimpses of the possibility of a decentralized and inclusive world.
However, as earlier stated, the internet remains at the centre of literarily every solution these days, and as such these decentralized solutions mentioned above, are all digital solutions. Therefore, incoming solutions would also follow the same path and this means that despite the good intentions we have about a decentralized and inclusive world, the sustainability of our predicted world, depends on the internet and how we can get more people to use the internet and its network.
Local and global participation depends a lot on network infrastructures available to people. There is a need to improve telecommunication networks and provide low-cost internet infrastructures so that more people can leverage the potential solutions that are in store for mankind.
Blockchain technology is already becoming a widely accepted technological solution and its application is increasing by the day. Blockchain was made popular by Bitcoin as it was the underlying technology behind the most popular cryptocurrency. Since its initial application to crypto, Blockchain technology has been applied in several other ways, and there is still increasing clamour for further application of the technology.
Blockchain technology sometimes referred to as a distributed ledger, is a peer-to-peer network that contains immutable information in blocks. A single block contains information that cannot be changed except with the permission of all peers in the network. This is possible because the hash of all information in one block is included in the next block and as such all blocks are chained together and tampering with one block disturbs the content of all the blocks in the chain.
Asides from the immutability of data in the blockchain, the decentralized nature of blockchain technology, has also made it useful for data privacy and security. Blockchain technology enables people to join networks even with their identity hidden and also bypasses the need for a central body in facilitating transactions or communication. A typical and most common example of this is the application of Blockchain in cryptocurrency. With the help of blockchain technology, cryptocurrency has become one of the best examples of decentralization because financial transactions are carried out without the need for a central body like a bank.
On the other hand, Wireless Mesh Networks (WMNs), are decentralized access networks that involve a community of people with equal and shared access to the network infrastructures. These networks are characterized risen by being neutral and inclusive as they involve the pooling of resources by people who share these networks.
Wireless Mesh Networks (WMNs) comprise wireless nodes like wireless mesh routers, wireless mesh clients, and network gateways. They can grow organically because they are self-organized and new network links can be added to increase the reach. A person (client) can connect via a mesh router or with Wi-Fi and access the internet by using a Wireless Mesh Network.
WMNs are decentralized networks because they only depend on routers and links being pooled together by local decisions and without the need for any central planning or organization. All that is needed for this interconnection is the adoption of a routing protocol after identifying the best network paths periodically.
The Wireless Mesh Networks (WMNs) infrastructure has been touted as the possible solution for connecting the rest of mankind who do not have access to the internet. It is believed that the decentralized and communal nature of the network, can be used to build more community access networks. These networks are already existing and the number of community members is quite promising. The Guifi network (Guifi.net) is a typical example of a Wireless Mesh Network. It already has about 34,000 participating routers in its community.
However, trust and sustainability are major issues associated with the Wireless Mesh Networks. The present model involves recording the consumption and contribution of each participant and thus ensuring that there is a balance in consumption and contribution. For example, a participant who has a negative contribution compared to its consumption would have to compensate another participant who has contributed more. This is done to ensure that there is fairness and equality in the community. However, the problem is that these records are collected manually and are also not immutable.
Every participant keeps a record of cost and consumption and declares it periodically. These records are compared with the WMN network traffic measurement. In the case of non-correlation, both records are flagged and there is a resolution of dispute mechanism in place. As much as it might sound cool, this method can be subject to numerous conflicts and also threatens the sustainability and future expansion of the Wireless Mesh Networks. Therefore, there is a need to incorporate a structure for recording data that is immutable and sustainable. This technological solution that would be integrated must also ensure that decentralization, which is a major feature of the Wireless Mesh Networks, is not compromised.
Hence, the integration of Blockchain technology with the Wireless Mesh Networks can be used to improve the trust in the community and ensure that the access networks are more sustainable. This can be achieved because Blockchain technology acts as a distributed ledger. The concept of being a distributed ledger is that every transaction is recorded and all participants have identical copies of these immutable ledgers.
Integrating both Solutions
The integration of the decentralized access networks and blockchain solutions must be done without losing the core values the networks were built to achieve. Blockchain solutions must be seen as the secondary piece of the puzzle and designed to improve the efficiency of the access networks. The Wireless Mesh Networks must ensure easier internet connectivity while still being economically self-sustaining, trustworthy, and inclusive.
Hence, elements and features of blockchain solutions must be carefully selected and integrated into the existing mesh access networks. Asides from immutability, which forms a core aspect of blockchain solutions, the concept of permission and privacy must be extensively considered.
Permissionless blockchain allows anyone to be a part of the network and to collaborate with other entities or members of the network. This means that everyone has “write access” in the network. Bitcoin and Ethereum are classical examples of permission-less Blockchains because anyone can join the network, transact on the network and perform other operations like mining.
On the other hand, permissioned blockchain has a more stringent mode of operation. It is mostly used in business applications (especially finance), where there is a need for the company or service provider to know their customers. KYC (Know Your Customer) is considered paramount for certain business operations and permissioned blockchains are incorporated with such solutions that also want to leverage the data immutability that blockchain offers.
Also, when it comes to privacy, blockchain solutions can be described as either public blockchains or private blockchains. When blockchain data is available to the public, it is referred to as public but when access to its data is prohibited, it is referred to as private.
Hence, in integrating blockchain solutions with mesh access networks, there is a need to ensure that data privacy and immutability are more sustainable and trustworthy. Therefore, private permissioned blockchains are recommended for the Wireless Mesh Networks (WMNs).
Selecting the right platform for this integration is therefore very paramount. As identified earlier, the blockchain platform must enable private permission operations. Ethereum and Hyper Ledger Fabric (HLF), are two possible blockchain networks for achieving this target.
The Hyper Ledger Fabric (HLF) is a modular open-source implementation of a permissioned blockchain network. Its modularity enables it to support the dynamic implementation of its components and features. Distributed applications written in general-purpose programming languages like Go and Java, can be executed using the Hyper Ledger Fabric (HLF). HLF enables impeccable confidentiality among a set of transacting member peers. A closed and permissioned version of the blockchain is promoted by the platform by grouping members in several channels and specific chain codes or distributed applications.
The HLF “ordering service” component is similar to the Proof-of-Work (POW) in Bitcoin. The consensus concerning the state of a blockchain takes place at the ordering service level. Ordering service functions by arranging transactions chronologically and creating new blocks of transactions which are broadcasted to the peers in the network, who in turn, append these blocks to their local copy of the blockchain.
On the other hand, Ethereum is an open-source blockchain platform that can be leveraged to build public or private applications. These applications run on it just like how software may be developed to run on a computer. They are referred to as ‘Dapps’ which means ‘Decentralised Applications’.
To some, Ethereum is only known as one of the most valuable and popular cryptocurrencies out there. They only know it as the second most valuable virtual currency after Bitcoin. However, Ethereum is more than a cryptocurrency and some people may even describe it as one of the most important innovations in modern tech history. Ethereum has been used for several other solutions like buying and selling of goods like Bitcoin and serving as a major component in the growth of decentralized Finance (Defi).
Although the Ethereum Platform is a public blockchain, developers can deploy private permissioned networks with restricted participating nodes. This is possible because the core software platform of Ethereum is open source and is Turing complete.
The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), forms a critical aspect of the Ethereum platform. The EVM is responsible for implementing the Ethereum Protocol and also executing the Ethereum Smart Contracts. The Ethereum Protocol is what makes state transitions and computations possible on Ethereum, without the need of a central or third party.
A smart contract is usually a contract that is developed by using a specific programming language like solidity. When deployed on the blockchain network, the smart contract is assigned a unique address. The smart contract and the Externally Owned Account (EOA), both form the major entities of the Ethereum Ecosystem as they both involve the allocation of addresses for the facilitation of transactions. There is a change in the state of the Ethereum Virtual Machine whenever a smart contract address and EOA, make a transaction. However, in the Ethereum network, whenever any such codes or transactions are invoked, all the nodes in the network execute the exact type of codes. Hence, the corresponding state change is recorded across all ledgers in a decentralized and immutable manner.
It’s hard to specify which of these blockchain solutions should be preferred to the other. The major differences between Ethereum and Hyper Ledger Fabric (HLF) are their approaches towards adopting a permissioned vs open blockchain paradigm respectively. HLF adopts a more stringent approach towards achieving a closed and permissioned version of blockchain. It does this by guaranteeing confidentiality among a selected member’s peers and grouping them in channels, associated chain code, or distributed applications. Ethereum on the other hand seems to take a more open approach as a blockchain solution and enables automation and building of distributed applications on the platform.
However, what is most important is that, from the detailed description of their features and mode of operation or execution, both the Hyper Ledger Fabric (HLF) and the Ethereum platform, are blockchain-enabled solutions that have the features and dynamism to be integrated with the mesh access network. These blockchain solutions also show the exact qualities that would be needed in building sustainable, inclusive, and trustworthy access networks.
What Does the Future Hold?
It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what will happen in the technological space because innovations and inventions keep happening at a rapid pace. The best that we can do is look at recent trends and demands. The persistent social trends can be pointers to where technological solutions might fit in, while people’s clamours or demands can also be indicators of where tech solution providers, need to focus.
The recent trend indicates a shift towards communities and social inclusion. There are increasing tech solutions geared towards helping people belong or find communities that suit their interests. Asides from social media platforms, more digital platforms are looking for ways to build online communities or ‘tribes’.
On the other hand, there is also an increase in demand for more decentralized and data-protective platforms. More people are worried about how tech companies and public entities, are using their data. It is increasingly becoming a major issue because there have been increased reports of data manipulation, social engineering, and online fraudulent actions. This demand for improved data management solutions has been met with innovations in the cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, and similar secure platforms.
Therefore, the integration of mesh access networks and blockchain solutions like Ethereum is nearly perfect for the recent trends and demands. The solution provides decentralized access networks with trustworthy and secure processes. It would encourage sustainable usage of the internet.
The adoption of mesh access networks has been threatened solely by its lack of trustworthy processes. The vulnerability of data to tampering and lack of effective data and records systems had been a major reason why these community networks are still doubted by some and why they haven’t reached their potentials.
However, with the integration of mesh access networks and blockchain technology, we might finally be approaching a sustainable economic network community. This innovation would transform the telecommunication industry and revolutionize how we create and share networks. The dream of a community access network does not have to remain a dream anymore because the emergence of blockchain-enabled solutions has created a platform for that dream to become a reality.