SkyPilot On the Edge, On the Earth

By Eric Griffith

March 12, 2007

New updates from the mesh provider include hardware that doesn't extend the mesh, and embedded network data in Google's mapping application.

Mesh equipment provider SkyPilot announced a slew of new updates to its family of products this week.

Foremost is the introduction of the SkyAccess DualBand product, a unit designed to sit on the edge of a mesh network. Like the company's SkyExtender units, the DualBand uses the 4.9-5.8GHz band (whatever the provider wants to use) to connect to the mesh backhaul and then provides client access via 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. What it doesn't do is extend the mesh any farther than its current location. It is the last hop on the mesh.

"This is a way of provide a device to lower the cost of that last hop," says SkyPilot's vice president of product management, Brian Jenkins. "It doesn't mesh itself, nor does it repeat a signal. And it's half the cost of the SkyExtender." The SkyAccess DualBand will sell for $1,800.

Jenkins says the DualBand will also be perfect as a "coverage fill-in" unit that can be placed into a network where customer connections have weak signal strength.

SkyControl is the management application the company provides to run its networks across metropolitan-scale deployments. So what better tool to work with than Google Earth? Version 1.5 of SkyControl, coupled with the Enterprise version of Google's mapping application (not Google Maps, the online service), will let administrators view their network on an overlay of the actual city streets displayed in 3D. It can pull this off because each SkyPilot node also happens to have a GPS chip inside.

"We use the GPS information to provide Google Earth with the location of our devices, and provide an aerial view of the entire mesh network," says Jenkins. Version 1.5 is a free upgrade for current SkyPilot customers; Google Earth is separate and costs extra.

Next week, SkyPilot will announce another software upgrade, this time to the SyncMesh synchronous mesh protocol that runs the nodes. Version 1.5 will provide enhanced 802.11e/WMM-based quality of service (QoS) options for providers who want to offer voice over IP services on a SkyPilot network. It will also be free to current customers with a service contract, so cities with the equipment in place could soon have better support for your Skype calls, if not more structured offerings from the providers.

The Santa Clara, California-based company has sold 25,000 units to 300 customers in 50 countries since its inception about seven years ago. SkyPilot products power the mesh networks found in cities like San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Foster City, California; Portland, Oregon; Boston, Massachusetts; Springfield, Illinois; and more.

SkyPilot's latest partner is RedMoon Broadband in Texas, which is creating a "starter kit" for cities that want to deploy 2.4 and 4.9 GHz mesh networks. The kit will include SkyPilot nodes along with video surveillance cameras.  

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