Friday, April 20, 2007

My Meraki Mesh Node - Update

Meraki is a pretty cool company. I don't say that just because I am some bleeding heart liberal (even though I am) and they have a rather humanistic desire to get inexpensive Internet connectivity out to "the next billion people". Nor do I say it because they like to be polite network citizens and not go for the capitalistic jugular. But also because they have their head in the right spot and treat people decently and still make money doing it. nice. Liberals want to get rich too!

Not long after getting the free (as in "beer") Meraki node set up I purchased two new minis. I purchased these to learn about how they work and for fun and to "hack-on". I mean, heck, they were pretty inexpensive. Soon after I put these nodes up using the same SSID as Meraki's project so they would associate to it and I gave them to my neighbors. At this point Meraki contacted me. I guess they were monitoring the "Free the Net" WLAN and they sent the following note...

Hi Bruce,

We noticed that you ordered a couple of Meraki Minis and have set up your own network with the name "Free the Net". We are very psyched that you're so motivated and excited to help out with the project, and we'd love to help out. :) For starters, you definitely don't need to spend your own money, we'd be delighted to provide Minis for any of your neighbors who you can get involved. We would also really love to have the repeaters in the "Free the Net" project be in our existing network in Dashboard, so that they'll all show up on our one network map and we can see the aggregated usage numbers and all of that in one place. I totally understand that as a WiFi guy you'd probably like to play around with Dashboard some yourself -- could we offer to send you a couple more Minis to play with, and let us add your neighbors' repeaters to our existing network?

Thanks a bunch, and again, we appreciate your help with the project!

What great folks! A few days later 2 more nodes showed up and now I have two to "Play" with and two that will soon be migrated to the "Free The Net" project. I have all four up now on a new SSID and when I attach my laptop to them I get a nifty splash page from Meraki. This is of course because my new mesh of 4 (lets call them "Unchained") automatically saw another Meraki node ("Free The Net") and linked to it. as an aside, I think, if I plug one of my "Unchained" nodes into my Internet connection they will dis-associate from "Free The Net"

Now here is the real surprise, After you click the, "Take me to where I was going" link you get a new bar at the top of your browser window that scrolls advertising for local businesses. Now, I have no idea if these businesses are paying for this. I assume they are, but who knows. But think of the revenue opportunities.

The bar is very discrete. Thin and lean. the rotating text ads are very low key and I didn't even notice it for quite a few days. Also there is a request for input in a box if you click the "?" icon.

Lastly, there is a "search local" box that allows you to search for businesses and other stuff in your local area based on your Latitude and Longitude (actually, the Lat Long of the node you are associated with). Very hip.

The Result then takes you to a Google Local page. Nice.

All in all, when you add this idea and the strategy to get a percentage of money that Meraki makes off of your monetizing you own mesh hotspot, the large orders of nodes going to other cities and countries desiring a quick and easy way to get their citizens connected to the Internet and the fact that Google buys Meraki nodes to extend their mesh into peoples homes and businesses, Meraki is poised to pay off that Sequoia investment in nothing flat.


  1. Hi, Bruce. I've been following your blog with great interest over the last few weeks as I, too, am in the process of setting up a non-government, grassroots, volunteer operated "muni" wifi project in Staunton, Virginia. I intend to base the project on Meraki gear. I also have several years WISP experience, having deployed a commercial wifi project in Richmond, Virginia several years ago.

    I've been intrigued and very impressed, as Meraki obviously is, with your excellent enthusiasm and continued posts describing your project.

    Keep up the excellent work and thx much for the screenshots!

    Kory (still a ways to go)

  2. So Meraki nodes don't need to be in the same dashboard network to mesh? Just have the same SSID and channel? I wasn't aware of that and that's very interesting...

  3. Hmm. I'm trying to convince the local folks to set up a 'non-profit' meraki mesh, ostensibly to serve an 80+ unit condo complex, but also to hopefully serve the neighborhood. I'm trying to figure out bandwidth needs and all that. =/ Difficult. Most local DSL/cable providers prohibit sharing etc. So I look at T1s, and they aren't cheap.

    Do you have experience that can help me at least figure out what I will need to tie the mesh to, to get decent coverage? Spending $3000 on mesh is no big deal, but $900 a month on T1s is going to be a harder sell.

  4. I'm in the same position as jaehoon is. this is an idea that i might be able to get to take off, yet the question remains with what the access is to the internet. DSL is not available.

  5. I live in Hillsboro Oregon, and spent a little over an hour talking with the Mayor of Hillsboro and his IS guy

    They just kept giving me the "we are thinking about it" excuses; I offered to help them start a system and donate enough Meraki's to get them going - but no interest at all

    Portland tried Free Wifi with MetroFi and it "bombed" so bad, you can look out your window - see the antenna, but can't access it

    You call them up and they say "you need to purchase a $100 antenna booster"

    Mesh is the only way that we will have a working Wifi.

    Here we are - the high-tech city of Oregon, and the local bureaucracy doesn't want to get involved, I would like to start a grass-roots Mesh here in town