About mesh networks
There are many kinds of networks in the world today. Most of them follow one of two general patterns—both of which are present in Staples Connect. We’ll explore them both.
Hub and Spokes
In a hub-and-spokes pattern, a single central location connects to all the others. The other locations don’t have any communication with each other or even know the others exist. All the intelligence and communication goes through one point. Think of airline flight patterns, a spy network where all the agents communicate with headquarters, or a lot of computers accessing a single website. These are hub-and-spokes patterns.
In this Staples Connect network, the Lutron devices (shown in red) connect in their specific way. No other device uses this type of communication and each Lutron device communicates directly with the hub.
Although this is a part of Staples Connect’s system, it’s not the only way devices connect.
The other pattern that Staples Connect uses is called mesh networking. Let’s look at our network again.
We already know the red devices are Lutron and use a hub-and-spokes pattern. The device in gray, a DLink camera, also uses that pattern. The devices in blue use Z-Wave, a common home automation pattern that uses mesh networking. Let’s look at just those devices.
When you connect a Z-Wave device to your hub, the device immediately begins to look for other devices around it—with one important exception that we’ll explain later. When your device finds another device, it connects to the new device and sends the information back to the hub. The hub connects to the new device through the first device, and both devices keep searching for and finding new devices until all devices have been found.
The pattern might sound a little more complex but it has two major advantages. First, since each device is looking for new devices around it, the range of the hub is dramatically extended. The hub has a range of about 150 feet in an unobstructed path but that range can be easily extended through its devices. And because the devices connect to each other as well as the hub, the network can be adjusted easily if a device drops out.
This type of network, where each device communicates with each other as well as a single central hub, is called a mesh network. It’s the primary model of home automation networking.
Before we go, there’s a couple important notes. First, only devices that are powered look for other devices and extend a mesh network. Any device that’s battery-operated doesn’t send out signals. Locks and sensors are two common devices but neither of them help build your network.
Let’s take a look at that graphic again (a slightly modified version):
The outlet and the alarm near the top are both outside the hub’s range. To connect to them, the hub has to go through another device. But the sensor near the top doesn’t extend the network, so for our hub to connect to the alarm, it has to go through the garage door sensor and then the outlet. This works but it’s not ideal. If that outlet stops working, we lose both the outlet and the alarm. And even if the outlet works, it’s going to take a bit of time for any signal to go from the hub to the alarm.
To avoid a situation like this with our lock, we’ve added a range extender. This provides an extra path for communication with both devices and ensures that our lock isn’t out on the edge of a path like that poor alarm. If something happens to the light, the lock will still be able to talk to the hub. (Since the lock is an important device for our home, this isn’t a bad idea.) Our network is stronger and less unbalanced at the bottom than it is at the top.
Knowing these mesh networking concepts allows you to position your devices better and build a strong network. This will help your Staples Connect system function better and let you enjoy your connected home more.