GCN LAB REVIEWS
Fortress Vehicle Mesh Point creates a network in the outdoors
- By John Breeden II
- Sep 29, 2010
The Fortress Technologies ES820 Vehicle Mesh Point is designed to provide wireless communications where none exists. The coolest thing is that the more of them you have, the stronger and more reliable your network becomes. It’s not unlike the Fortress handheld units we tested earlier this year, only more powerful and designed for use inside vehicles.
The ES820 might seem a little difficult to set up initially, but once in place, there is no need to ever move it out of a vehicle. So assuming you have trained techs who know how to mount it and tie it into a vehicle control panel, this shouldn’t be a problem. We were given a rather simple control panel for our testing and had the unit up and running in a vehicle in about half an hour, most of which was spent mounting it properly in a Jeep and reading the instruction booklet.
Fortress Technologies ES820 Vehicle Mesh Point
Pros: Rugged against vibration; can be temporarily submerged in water.
Cons: Initial setup a bit difficult.
Rugged level: A
Ease of use: B
Government price: $3,595
10 rugged devices that are fit for all seasons
Once in place, the ES820 is surprisingly rugged. Lots of laboratories test for vibration by hooking a device up to a shaking table, and we considered it. But where is the fun in that? Instead, we took the ES820 off-road through rocks, streams and more than a little mud.
The little 2.5-pound unit won’t put a dent in your hauling capacity. The metal case packs a 500mW 802.11a/n radio and a 250mW 802.11a/b/g/n radio. We setup a base camp with wireless devices and dispatched the Jeep loaded with the ES820.
Even in a light forest-like environment, the base camp was able to get a signal from the vehicle almost a mile away. It was much better when in line of sight but had good signal regardless. The network is designed to self-form, self-heal and self-patch, though we couldn’t test this feature because we only had a single unit. Still, it did fine in our point-to-point testing, so we see no reason why additional ES820s would do anything but make those connections stronger. A whole fleet of them should be quite powerful indeed.
The ES820 went all day through various bumps and bruises and never stopped working. At one point, we thought we might shake our test vehicle apart, but the ES820 didn’t skip a beat or drop its signal. Surprisingly, the ES820 is also submersible to the IP67 standard. If your vehicle suddenly goes completely underwater, you might be trouble. But the ES820 went into a pond, sans Jeep, for several minutes and emerged unharmed.
Fortress Technologies, www.fortresstech.com
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.