Sonnet: Off-Grid Mesh Networking

John Greenfield
Dec 12, 2018 · 4 min read

There’s an undeniable gap in the network market for outdoor enthusiasts and those who are seeking a more off-grid life. It was while browsing through crowdfunding sites that I stumbled across a particularly interesting project that is potentially a revolutionary piece of kit. Introducing Sonnet, an off-grid mesh networking solution, which may sound like gibberish to some, but basically what it does is act like a networker repeater or router. It uses long-range frequencies in a similar bandwidth to Walkie-Talkies to connect devices over a pretty large area (up to 5km according to their indiegogo page). It’s being developed by Sonnet Labs, based in Toronto, Canada.

The scenario I’m picturing using these for is ensuring areas of Britain that still don’t have sufficient, or sometimes any, mobile signal can now make sure they have signal for calls. This, of course, is just one of near infinite possibilities for a little device like this. You can connect one to an internet connection (Mobile dongle, ADSL router and so on) and have others wherever you need an internet connection. In fact, they work completely independently of any network infrastructure so you don’t even need an internet connection to create your own mesh network.

It’s this feature of the Sonnet that I find intriguing, as this technology could be implemented on a nationwide scale to assist in cases of blackouts or other natural disasters. Combined with a promised long battery life, this novel use of already existing technologies could be a potentially life saving device.

The little hexagonal device uses long-range radio frequencies, specifically the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band, with the specific frequency available to you ranging depending on your region.The good news is, this band is open to public use without the need of a license or dependence on 3rd party suppliers. You aren’t going to get broadband speeds on this band however, as bandwidth is compromised for increased range with this device, but should the technology be further developed, who really knows what the future could hold for Sonnet.

So far, they’re still in the prototyping stage technically, and they’re over their predicted delivery date by quite a few months now, but that’s very much the norm with crowdfunding campaigns. I wouldn’t recommend you go preorder a few of these little devices just yet, maybe wait until they’re actually available to purchase. They say there won’t be anything like a subscription model, so if you buy a few, they’re yours to use.

According to the indiegogo page, these tiny off-grid networking solutions are packing some power under the hood. It’s going to be a fully-featured Linux computer, so that developers can easily build their own firmware, or integrate other devices for a more robust off-grid network. There’s no details on what kind of machine will power these little boxes, whether it’ll be something akin to a Raspberry Pi or not I can’t tell. It’ll have it’s own built in Lithium-ion battery and I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to plug a powerful enough solar panel into one of these.

I can just see so many possible uses for something like this, and with some more development a string of them could deliver internet to rural areas that don’t have broadband yet. An outdoor activities site could use them to allow their patrons to use their mobile phones in case of emergencies (or instagram selfies I guess).

What do you think about this nifty little off-grid mesh networking device? I’ve seen a similar attempt from the early Anonymous days where someone was trying to make a “pirate network”, although it never got off the ground. I don’t think they really knew what they were do, but they did have some grand dreams. Those dreams could soon finally be realised with the Sonnet, and if/when they finally release I will definitely be getting a couple to play around with. Let me know what you think about this gadget down in the comments section, I always enjoy reading what you have to say on these things. As always, make sure to follow me for the latest Technology, Internet and Pop Culture updates. Until next time, be good to each other!

Useful Links

Sonnet Labs Website
Sonnet Indiegogo Campaign

Sources:

Sonnet on IndieGoGo (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sonnet-most-advanced-wireless-mesh-network/#/))

Sonnet Labs Website (https://www.sonnetlabs.com/)

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John Greenfield

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Cult Watch | Internet & Pop Culture | Technology

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