Cisco eyes high-speed IIoT with Fluidmesh acquisition

Fluidmesh’s technology is designed to provide zero loss of data transfer at speeds of more than 300 Km/h. (Getty Images)

Cisco on Monday announced plans to acquire wireless backhaul systems provider Fluidmesh, in a move to extend the vendor’s industrial wireless reach to high-speed applications such as rail and mass transit.

Fluidmesh’s technology is designed to provide zero loss of data transfer at speeds of more than 300 Km/h (or above about 186 Mph), which Cisco intends to use to support increased demand for “on-the-move” assets and applications that have mission critical reliable backhaul needs.

In addition to rail, privately-held Fluidmesh also supports customers in mining, ports, and pubic transit applications. Cisco said it will use the New York-based company’s products to broaden its industrial wireless position to include those applications, as well as manufacturing and industrial automation for things like autonomous mobile robots operating on a low-latency network.

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“Beyond high speed rail, numerous industries from manufacturing, oil & gas and mining, to shipping ports, are all looking at how they can use wireless connectivity to automate operations in an effort to reduce operational costs,” wrote Liz Centoni, SVP and general manager of Cloud, Compute, and IoT at Cisco, in a blog. “Today, customers are using Fluidmesh’s reliable wireless technologies in a range of industries to improve productivity, safety, and the customer experience.”

Cisco called out large-scale distributed sites like shipping ports and urban areas as environments Fluidmesh technology can come into play where maintaining a strong signal might otherwise be difficult.

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For example, NY Waterway chose Fluidmesh’s system to create a wireless network connecting its ports and ferries, which operate over wide areas that include most waterways surrounding Manhattan. The project included Fluidmesh’s Fluidity technology and radios, with a network deployed at 22 shore-based locations in New York and New Jersey, as well as 35 individual ferries.

“To design Fluidity, we approached the mobility problem from a completely different point of view. Our goal was to build a solution not only suited for Internet browsing but for real-time streaming of video, voice and mission critical applications,” said Cosimo Malesci, Fluidmesh VP, earlier this year in a case study about the deployment. “Mobility needs a complex network operations such as IP address negotiation, handoff and mesh infrastructure point-of-access selection. We took a completely new approach by designing, from the ground up, a cross-layer switching framework to completely hide these operations from user devices like cameras and VoIP phones.”

Cisco’s acquisition will also let it tap Fluidmesh’s systems integrator relationships, which the vendor said combined with Cisco’s scale, will help accelerate its industrial IoT business and expand key customer segments.  

“Cisco provides one of the most secure and reliable networking technologies on the market today,” said Centoni in a statement. “With wireless technology playing a greater role in every organization’s multi-access IoT strategy, reliable wireless connectivity is paramount to organizations operating Industrial IoT environments.”

Cisco expects the deal to close in its fourth quarter fiscal year 2020, with the Fluidmesh team joining Cisco’s IoT business.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

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