Too good to be wireless?

The performance of EchoRing™ seems closer to that of a cable than to that of a wireless network. To understand how this technology can reach these outstanding numbers it is necessary to know two key concepts: determinism and cooperation.

 

determinism leads to real-time

To deal with the random nature of the wireless channel, EchoRing™ introduces a decentralised and deterministic scheme: token ring over wireless. A token ring network allows its stations to transmit only when they hold the token (small control packet). When a station receives the token it is allowed to use the channel during a delimited time-slot (THT: Token Holding Time), after which the station has to send the token to the following station. In this way, the stations do not interrupt each other and use efficiently the wireless spectrum. Similar approaches are well known in the wired world – including the formerly widespread IEEE802.5 Token-Ring LAN standard, or the PROFIBUS standard.

As the THTs of all stations in the system are predeterminate, the overall system latency is known and fixed (TTRT: Total Token Rotation Time). Furthermore, the system is decentralised, which allows for an easy and automatic system-rearrangement in case any station leaves, or an additional station joins the network, and avoids a point of failure. In case of a token loss, smart methods are in place that allow for an immediate token recovery.

 

cooperation to increase reliability

In contrast to other wireless technologies, the stations of an EchoRing™ system cooperate for the good of the overall performance of the system. The cooperation works through a “buddy” station (support station). This “buddy” will be chosen by the sending station based on the information held in the token (which has an overall overview of the wireless channel).

On a first attempt, each station tries to send the information packet directly to the intended receiver. However, if for whatever reason the packet does not reach the receiver (or there is no ACK received by the sender), the “buddy” station will immediately relay the information packet to the intended receiver. It is able to do so, as it records the packet when the sender sends the first attempt. This is much more time-efficient than a classic retransmission – a technique overused by other protocols.

 

coexistence with other wireless technologies

The wireless channel is a scarce resource in which different technologies and networks using the same technology can collide. This kind of collision creates interference, a phenomenon not easy to deal with. For this reason, EchoRing™ incorporates an ultra fast and dynamic frequency-hopping technique into its protocol. By avoiding the use of frequency bands that are instantaneous buys, EchoRing™ can safely operate in channels/frequency ranges that are used by other technologies at any time.

 

a mac layer protocol and hardware platforms

EchoRing™ is a MAC Layer communications protocol. The MAC layer is a sublayer of the Layer 2 (Data Link) of the OSI Model. In this sense, EchoRing™ is a 100% software solution that is agnostic to the hardware platform used, i.e. this software can run on any radio chip and operate in any frequency band.

Currently, EchoRing™ runs on the WiLink™ 8 of Texas Instruments, that is a standard Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) radio chip. It operates in the 2.4 GHz Band, as well as in the Short Range Device (SRD) channels of the 5 GHz band (5.725 – 5.825 GHz).

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