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Cisco adds Fluidmesh to provide wireless backhaul for industrial IoT

Cisco announced its plans to acquire privately held Fluidmesh Networks, based in Brooklyn, New York, which sells wireless backhaul equipment and technology. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company said the action would allow it to sell connectivity to transportation companies, mining operations and other enterprises looking for their own private wireless networks.

"You need solid wireless technologies to do that," Cisco's Vikas Butaney, VP of the company's IoT business, explained.

Butaney told Light Reading that Cisco has been working with Fluidmesh Networks for several years already, using the company's backhaul technology for specific IoT deployments. Butaney said Fluidmesh's technology is uniquely geared to support wireless connections in moving objects like high-speed trains or mining equipment, keeping them reliably connected even at speeds above 300 kilometers per hour.

With the acquisition of Fluidmesh Networks, Butaney said Cisco can now sell a complete connected train offering to transportation providers or cities, for example. The system would include transmitters alongside the train's route, broadcasting in unlicensed spectrum to receivers installed on the train, keeping it connected as it passes. That setup could support everything from Wi-Fi access on the train to video surveillance to a completely autonomous train.

Cisco said other industrial sectors that could use such technology range from manufacturing to shipping ports.

Why this matters Butaney said Cisco's industrial IoT business was created roughly a dozen years ago. It received a major shot in the arm in 2016 when Cisco purchased Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion. The purchase allowed Cisco to handle the management of IoT devices connected to cellular networks.

But Cisco's industrial IoT business is not restricted only to cellular devices. Butaney said Cisco also builds IoT networks for enterprise customers using network technologies ranging from LoRa to Wi-Fi.

Thus, Cisco's acquisition of Fluidmesh Networks essentially expands the number of IoT services that Cisco can supply directly to its customers. And based on the wide range of case studies highlighted on Cisco's IoT website, the company and its partners supply IoT services to a dizzying array of customers spanning the manufacturing, smart city, utility and government sectors.

Interestingly, Cisco's Butaney acknowledged that the company is edging further into the private wireless networking space with its acquisition of Fluidmesh Networks. Although Cisco has long built private Wi-Fi networks for enterprises and others, the company's acquisition of Fluidmesh Networks expands those networking capabilities into new areas.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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