You can’t have a network less network, can you? May be not, but this is what researchers are doing and …it works. And it is not just research in some crazy labs, it is being done in industrial settings as well. Ford Motor company has started to install WiFi transmitters and receivers in some of its models in 2010 and has recently stated that by 2015 80% of their cars will be WiFi hubs, ready to talk to nearby cars.
Researchers at MIT, Georgetown University and at the National University of Singapore are studying ways to exploit these bounty of wireless nodes moving around. Why not using each car as a network node, a network that is continuously reconfiguring as cars move around. There are issues about the connectivity and when to drop a link that is fading away and switch to a new link. Complex issues, but they are well known since, to a lesser degree of complexity, they have already been tackled for cellular networks.
However, there are also new issues that are related to the fact that this would be a really mobile networks (in a cellular network all the antennas on the poles are quite “fixed”). The strategy for routing and for the optimization of links usage is quite different and has to be worked out dynamically. There is more. Suppose that your average car has quite a bit of storage capacity on board (a quite natural assumption). Then it makes sense to assume that when a car (a passenger) wants to access some data (like the daily newspaper) it is quite probable that such a data is already available in some cars in the surrounding. So, no need to connect to the big Internet, rather let’s look for the right car.
This is also a question researchers are trying to address. What is the best strategy in distributing data/information in a car ensemble so as to maximize the probability that some nearby cars can deliver the information when needed?
It turns out that, according to the MIT … researchers, cars can be modeled through a paradigm of connected clusters by identifying as belonging to a cluster those cars that have some recurrent contact with one another. Within a cluster a car may have strong links with some (it is often within WiFi contact) and weak links with others. The same will apply to links among clusters.
Now this starts to sound like a small world paradigm….!
Indeed, in the future we can see that the cars, from the point of view of forming a network less network may behave like an ecosystem and the same rules of interactions that are played out at that level can be found in these networks.
And, in perspectives, although this is not addressed in the MIT study, it is not difficult to imagine other components in these network less networks: people with their cell phones that all of a sudden become network nodes of a dynamically fleeting network and also homes…. And what about “things”? They also are progressively connected and they also will be able to act as nodes of a networks that exist because all these nodes are there!
In the next decade we will continue to have big (bigger actually) pipes but these will be connecting communications spaces resembling more to fabric than nets (in the sense of fishing nets). As this happens the role of network providers will change significantly. Players like Google and now Facebook are becoming part of the telecommunications “plumbing/piping” infrastructure and they, as the others, will make use of pervasive communications fabrics. Also the role of service providers is likely to change in this scenario. Rather than delivering a service to a terminal services will have to be delivered to an ambient using pipes to reach it and then leveraging on the local communication fabric connecting all the bit transducers available in that space. And there is more!
A single ambient/communication space will actually consist of several instances, one for each user within that ambient. And the actual transformation of bits arriving from the pipes and interacting with local bits “owned” by the ambient will be orchestrated and directed by the instance owner (that is it will depend on the specific user).
A quite different scenario for a ubiquitous internet infrastructure!