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Cellphones The Internet Wireless Networking Technology

A Mobile Phone Mesh That Can Survive Carrier Network Failure 131

bennyboy64 writes "iTnews reports that researchers from Australia and Singapore are developing a wireless ad-hoc mesh networking technology that uses mobile handsets to share and carry information. The mesh network will make use of Bluetooth or Wi-fi to swap information between handsets — even if the mobile phone network was offline. One potential scenario could be during an emergency where the mobile phone network was unavailable or clogged. In a city centre, users could set up the network to share information, video, photographs and, depending on the final client applications, even locate friends and loved ones. One benefit of developing such a technology would be that users sharing content between their devices would use the wireless communications technology already built into their phones and not bandwidth from their mobile provider. The researchers from the National ICT Australia and Singapore's A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research hope to demonstrate the technology within two years, according to NICTA project leader Dr Roksana Boreli.'This is an early stage in the research project,' she said. 'We are addressing how you would quickly establish trust between devices, how you would discover them and share the information,' Boreli said."
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A Mobile Phone Mesh That Can Survive Carrier Network Failure

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  • Re:File sharing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eleuthero (812560) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:56PM (#29610835)

    So... how long until the news media starts shilling that file sharing is "illegal"?

    This strikes me as a perfect way to get away with file sharing as "sneakernet 2.0." The method of sharing data between two phones can already be done on the iphone (though I think that is more of a GPS-linked WAN situation than a LAN situation).

    I would suggest that this does pose a security problem. One of the other posters here has noted his lack of concern:

    Encrypt information you want to send, then I don't care if 50 drug dealers, pedophiles, Catholic priests, scientologists, or other low-lives are involved in the chain, so long as the message reaches my intended recipient who has the proper key to decrypt it.

    It seems though, that if pedophiles are on the same network as I am AND if I am routing my traffic through their systems, that I might be the one blamed ... like with students I teach who are caught with contraband and later explain to the cop, "I swear, officer, someone put that XXXXXX in my bag, I don't know where it came from" - when possession itself is a crime, this could be problematic.

    It will be suggested that the encryption part solves the problem--but how do I know if the server through which I am temporarily housing my communication is sniffing and breaking the encryption only to add more to it?

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:59PM (#29610859) Journal

    Strikes me that mesh networks would be fantastic for aviation. The FAA is in the starting stages of their next-gen ATC system, that will solve all the problems now in place with airplanes and trying not to hit something else. Air traffic control still depends on RADAR and transponders, which are fraught with problems. For example, aircraft typically just announce where they are, like:

    "Smallville traffic, Cessna N1235 altitude three thousand, 5 miles northwest of the field, making left downwind for three three".

    Which means: "For the airport in Smallville, I'm a Cessna with a License number of N1235, I'm three thousand feet above sea level, I'm 5 miles away from the field coming from the northwest, and I'm going to maneuver to the runway pointed North north west. (compass heading 330)"

    It's almost all trust-based, self announced. If you make a mistake, and announce NorthEast instead of NorthWest, the likelyhood of an accident rises sharply. Yet it's a mistake that's simple to make. I've made it - announcing East instead of West, etc. When I notice, I'll re-announce, but it's still error prone.

    But a simple mesh network that allows aircraft to automatically broadcast their location (latitude/longitude/altitude from GPS) in a simple packet in a protocol similar to that used for wifi or ethernet, where aircraft closer than 200 miles will rebroadcast (aircraft on the ground have a broadcast range of less than 5 miles, at 5 thousand feet the range extends to hundreds of miles) and the result would be that all aircraft would know about all other aircraft with perhaps a 10 second latency, even in very heavy traffic.

  • by langedb (518453) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:07PM (#29610967) Homepage Journal
    The HAM community already has this sort of thing. It's called APRS [], and includes all the capabilities that you describe. All that would be needed is to put the necessary GPS and computer systems into the aircraft and wire them up to warn the pilot when another plane is getting too close.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:26PM (#29611233)
    T-Mobile may have a crappy cell network, but they're the one cell company I actually respect. They fixed glitches with the iPhone on their network even though they didn't have to, they have the most open cell phones, and they don't neuter their cell phones (like Verizon does).
  • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @06:22PM (#29612335)

    A Mesh Network running on various home and mobile devices could be used to provide "free" Internet and phone services. Those that are willing to pay for a traditional Internet connection could hook up "gateways" for the Mesh Network to connect to the Internet (and thus VOIP) services. Like other posters note, this does consume battery/power/bandwidth, so it isn't exactly *free*. However, the more nodes on the network, the more capacity the network has (particularly if the devices can transmit with less power when close to other nodes). Nor would any node need to do any transmissions if a "grounded" node (one plugged into some reliable power source) can handle the traffic. A protocol could be developed to have nodes intelligently manage their power available/ transmission obligation trade offs. At least in dense node population situations.

    There is no doubt that a back bone is needed to carry traffic distances. But like mass transit, the last mile is kinda a problem. A mesh network would be a great way to smooth out some of those "last mile" issues, provide coverage where coverage is spotty, and empower regular people to fix environments to work well. That's a huge step up from having to wait on your cell phone provider/ prison warden to decide to fix access.

  • Re:Diamond Age? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jc42 (318812) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @07:04PM (#29612617) Homepage Journal

    Isn't this the way that the information network is suposedly done in Diamond Age? As long as the encryption is good enough and the bandwidth wide enough, there's no reason such a system couldn't work.

    Somewhere around here, I have some of the docs from the early days of the ARPAnet, pre-Internet and in the late 1960s. I remember well a number of discussions of the way that these docs included pictures that were 1) completely wireless, and 2) included relaying by pretty much every gadget. The intent from the first was that if there was a data path between two nodes that wanted to talk, the software would find a path and deliver their packets to each other. This was funded by the military, as you'll all recall, so the equirements included the possibility that relay nodes were coming on- and off-line randomly, often because someone was shooting at them as they came on-line. The military wanted routing software that would rapidly route around damage and get the packets through. (Has anyone here heard the phrase "route around damage"? ;-)

    In the 1980s, I poked around a bit at MIT's ChaosNet, which was based on the same concepts: Everything is a relay, and if there's a data path, the data will be delivered. We did a few experiments chaining together machines with RS-232 crossover cables, firing up the "chaos" drivers, and watching the last node on the chain connect to a remote machine. I don't recall how long a chain we had, but we got it so the last one was pretty slow.

    Lots of us have been disappointed for some four decades now, that we don't yet have total wireless interconnection with everything acting as a relay as needed. A while ago, I played with some OLPCs, and sure enough, they've implemented this idea. If you carry an OLPC into an area where there are others, it becomes part of the local mesh, and if any of them has access to the Internet, they all do. Most of us don't have this, because the commercial world is still dragging their feet on such concepts after all these decades, and only a few groups of people here and there actually have software that does it. (I have wondered whether the OLPC really does a good job of this, but none of my neighbors have one, so I can't experiment with it easily. I did one test of a chain of 4 machines, where the first could see my home gateway, and the others could see at most 2 neighbors. The last one could use the Internet, and was visibly slow but usable.)

    And in other places, people are trying to implement this, not knowing (or caring?) that others have worked on it before them. And others continue to argue against the practicality, with the same arguments we've heard before. Yes, we need better batteries, but that's no reason we can't work on full mesh networks now (or 30 years ago). Yes, we need to encrypt everything; the security folks have been recommending end-to-end encryption for decades and we have software that can do it. We (or more often the commercial suppliers) just refuse to supply systems that put it all together. Part of it is the comm companies, who don't want total interconnection; they want everyone to pay them for data transport, and they want to be able to see all the data as it passes through their relays. Part of it dummies who don't want their computer to forward packets for others, and aren't smart enough to understand the result of others behaving the same way.

    Amongst all the wide-eyed discussions of the miracles of modern technology, we occasionally are reminded of things that we could have had long ago, if we'd been smart enough to force the vendors to include them.

    (And I expect replies that mention flying cars ... ;-)

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