Wireless Networks: Understanding Pelican Wireless Mesh Networking

Mar 11, 2019

Over the past twenty years our lives have been influenced through advancements in wireless technologies. Smart phones and connected devices are prevalent, inexpensive, and reliable approaches to life and comfort management. This articles discusses how Pelican incorporates wireless into their commercial climate management solution and how our approach differentiates us from other technologies.

Pelican invents a new approach

When Pelican ventured into the field of commercial climate management, wireless communication and Internet connected devices were relatively unheard of. Connected thermostats were rare. Building Automation Systems were standardizing on a wired communication network and protocol. And technologies like wireless headphones or wireless watches were a fantasy, to say the least. We were at the forefront of innovation and invented a new approach to enterprise level network communication.

Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) is a communication infrastructure made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology. It is also a form of wireless ad hoc networking. A wireless ad hoc network means it does not rely on a pre-existing infrastructure, such as routers in wired networks or access points in managed wireless networks. (“Wireless Mesh Network” and “Wireless Ad Hoc Network,” Wikipedia).

We hear about wireless mesh networks from a variety of different companies serving different markets and needs. In Pelican’s case we utilize a wireless mesh network architecture designed specifically for the scale, data rate size, and security needs of our markets (commercial/government/enterprise/school districts/etc. climate management). 

When we speaks about wireless we are talking about how Pelican devices, which are spread around a building or campus, communicate securely and automatically to reach your Pelican Web-App. Our architecture was invented so you can streamline the installation and gain real-time control, at a fraction of the cost to our competitors.

Key aspects to our Wireless Mesh Architecture

Our wireless architecture is built specifically for our technology (climate management) and our markets (commercial/government/enterprise/school districts/etc.). We developed our wireless to maintain separation between your business network (WiFi), to scale to a wide variety of different building/campus layouts, and to be self-creating/healing to reduce workload on your IT department.

Stay off my network!

Network security is one of the largest headlines in today’s news. There are many approaches to building a secure network. Pelican applies two key architecture security features to help mitigate this concern:

  1. Isolation
  2. Encryption

This article is specific to our wireless, to learn more about our overall security architecture - click here.

Isolation is one of the most secure approaches to network security. An example is, if someone wants to break into a car, and they are unable to find your car, can you be robbed? This is the same idea behind Pelican’s isolation architecture. Our devices are the only devices able to communicate on our wireless network. This keep them separate from all other networks working to stay isolated from your confidential business infrastructure. If Pelican is unable to be found, can it be compromised?

Our second level of security is to encrypt the communication between your Pelican devices and your Pelican Web-App. Our encryption practice is a combination of private and public keys, which rotate, and remain fully separate between customer sites. Each device has a 128-bit AES encryption method, so devices know data received is truly meant for them and from a reliable source. This is similar to taking a secret message and transforming it into a completely unreadable form which only one person, who hold a secret key, can read. These keys are unique between customers, keeping with our isolation architecture from above.

Many companies use WiFi as the wireless network to bridge their climate management system to the Ethernet or App. WiFi, in general, is an extremely secure wireless platform, which is why your business uses it. But, the more devices connected to your WiFi network, the wider the risk since each point becomes a point of vulnerability. Pelican is not against WiFi, but we believe that not using WiFi enforces an isolation architecture and eliminates burden on your IT department. Each WiFi device needs to be configured to talk with your WiFi network(s), many IT departments need to create unique separation SSIDs to keep these devices from seeing others, and you need to make sure your WiFi network is built to handle the extra load now put on it. These are all items which can be taken care of and some done extremely well (using separate SSIDs does not isolate devices on your network, just makes some devices invisible to others). But, the question is, if you use WiFi, what is the cost, what is the burden, and why do you want the headache just for climate management?

Self-Creating/Healing Architecture

Because Pelican devices are designed to communicate on the Pelican Wireless Network, each device becomes plug-and-play Internet connected. This allows for a large reduction in installation costs and eliminates the learning curve to a successful implementation. There are two principals to our system which allows us to do this:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Know how to get it.
The second a new Pelican device is powered-up it knows what it wants, “Where is my Pelican Wireless Mesh Network (WMN)”?! Our devices are extremely aggressive about finding home and the working out the best path there. This is why the Pelican solution is so easy to install: each device helps expand the mesh network around your building and assists new devices on the best route back to your Pelican Web-App. All the back-ground hand-shakes, addressing, encryption key passing, etc. is done automatically. Our goal is to allow you to get a climate management solution active quickly and not turn you into a network expert just to do so.
Wireless is kind of a strange animal. Wireless strength changes due to natural interference. One second a wireless signal can be strong from point A to point B, while the next second point A talks to point C better. By re-enforcing our devices to always figure out the best way to get to the Pelican Web-App, we allow them to be intelligent and self-sequence between the best routes to get there. Pelican devices are always active, looking for the quickest route back to the Internet, so you have real-time control and data at your fingertips. Sounds tiring, but this is the beauty of computers, they never tire and they never give up. We built a system the makes sure it is always finding the best way home.
Good wireless is tough, especially when your customers have unique buildings, multiple floors, and large campuses. But, Pelican has been installed in hundreds of thousands of locations and we have learned best practices through the creation of intelligent wireless hardware. 

In conclusion

Our wireless is unique, we built it from the ground up for our market and specifically the needs of a commercial climate management solution. By focusing on enterprise level network security, self-creating infrastructures, and self-healing algorithms – we have introduced climate management to customers who never thought they would be in control of their occupant’s comfort. Our wireless is our backbone, keeping things organized, active, and functioning. With a solid backbone you can create a solid solution and keep that solution at the forefront of the climate management industry.


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