eA4-Mesh (extension)

Long Title: Easily Deployable A4 Wireless Mesh Networks
Universität Bern
Université de Neuchâtel
Domain: AAA
Status: finished
Start Date: 01.11.2012
End Date: 30.04.2013
Project Leader: T. Braun
Website: https://A4-mesh.unibe.ch/

A usable and sustainable deployment of "real" outdoor wireless mesh networks is the goal of this extension that builds on the field experiences in A4-Mesh.

(see also A4-Mesh)


Component Description
Documentation Generic documentation is available at the public webpage
Specific documentation Specific documentation is available at the project repository (not public)

The A4-Mesh project and its extension eA4-Mesh consider several application scenarios of wireless mesh network technologies. The main application scenario that has been deployed in two Swiss regions, focuses on support for environmental research.
The first deployment of the A4-Mesh network is in the Crans-Montana-Sierre region in Valais, where the A4-Mesh network is used to continuously transfer environmental data measured by various environmental sensors of the MontanAqua project. The A4-Mesh network solution leads to various benefits such as lower maintenance costs and reduced risk of losing data.
The second deployment of the A4-Mesh network is installed in the area of Emmental to support environmental research, specifically to investigate how groundwater flow systems used for water supply will react to dry periods that are expected to occur more frequently under future climatic conditions. For this, the A4-Mesh infrastructure is coupled to a database feeding a hydrogeological modeling and simulation system to make the environmental research process more efficient.
To allow easy access to the A4-Mesh network, special care was taken to seamlessly integrate authorisation and authentication into the organization's own authentication and authorisation infrastructure (AAI), grouped into a federation: in our case the Shibboleth-based SWITCHaai is used. Furthermore, the accounting function provides specific traffic statistics, which contribute to the traffic based charging module. It operates in a SWITCHaai compatible wireless mesh network, which allows the network administrator to have full visibility of the forwarded traffic including the source, destination, and the forwarding nodes (organizations) involved. With this data the organisations can be properly charged for their traffic.

The A4-Mesh project and its extension eA4-Mesh achieved the goal of integrating a large number of wireless mesh network (WMN) users, namely the environmental researchers from UniBE GIUB and UniNE CHYN, in addition to the IT services from UniBE IT and UniNE SITEL.
The project and its extension will continue under the umbrella of Swiss Academic Compute Cloud project.


There are several challenges and problems encountered during the deployment of A4-Mesh, which will bed solved in the extension. The common goal of all work packages consist in providing an easily deployable outdoor wireless network that supports secure high speed network access as well as mechanisms for accounting and auditing. An aim is also to guarantee sustainability of results by applying unchanged measures of the A4-Mesh project.


eA4-Mesh is structured around the following work packages:

  1. Design of an automatic antenna alignment systems for enabling maximum signal reception:
    • Exploration of a mechanical auto-alignment system based on a stepper-motor
    • Beam-forming in which a high gain of the antenna (a beam oriented in a certain direction) is achieved due to the autoconfiguration of the antenna array (commercial system as Wavion)
  2. Exploring the deployment of commercial off the shelf (COTS) equipment:
    • Scrutinize available COTS solutions (e.g., Ubiquiti Networks NanoStation2) for wireless mesh network nodes; choose most suitable COTS solution to conduct experiments when the developed software will be integrated (ported) to it
    • review of a few integrated hardware solutions including porting of ADAM Linux to the most suitable platforms from the enduser perspective
    • develop suitable software installation and configuration tools and documentation for the chosen equipment
  3. Deployment of a new pilot network for environmental research in the area of Emmental (Sustainable water resources management project):
    • Specification of application requirements
    • Selection of sensors and measurement stations to be connected.
    • Design and implementation of outdoor nodes.
    • Selection of node locations and agreements with land lords.
    • Deployment of the pilot network.
    • Evaluation of pilot network.
    • Evaluation of Zabbix for environmental monitoring
  4. Reliable traffic accounting scheme:
    • Exploration of reconfiguration of NetFlow probes to send template-based v9 records
  5. Scientific data handling method:
    • Develop a solution for users who may benefit from storing their sensor data at least temporarily on the existing A4-Mesh infrastructure
    • Mesh nodes directly retrieve the environmental information from the attached sensors by means of Zabbix agents and send this information to the Zabbix server residing on the gateway, which provides a standard way of storing and presenting the data to the end users
    • Connection of sensors to the A4-Mesh mesh nodes and reading out the sensor values by the mesh nodes from the sensors
  6. Documentation and dissemination of the project results:
    • Scientific publication of the knowledge generated during the project
    • Manuals of relevant procedures on deployment procedures for wireless mesh network components and A4-Mesh software
    • Dissemination results by informing scientific communities about the project results and its benefits for (environmental) researchers