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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Potential Advances & Research Agenda For Communications Industry -Part I

The communication world amplified the power of computing unleashing a global digital revolution - much of the future advancements in the converged digital economy in large measures shall be dependent on the advances in the communication technology which in turn would be an output of the research agenda for the industry.Making the world (of communications) a different place, is the report of a working session of the End-to-End Research Group, which is part of the Internet Research Task Force. The report slashdotted currently focusses on the research agenda for the communications industry-How might the computing and communications world be materially different in 10 to 15 years, and how might we define a research agenda that would get us to that world? Excerpts with edits:

The Internet itself arose because of a visionary answer to a question such as this one. Through an alignment of visionary leaders, the research community, and funding agencies, there was a coherent, long-term effort to build a running prototype of a major new communications system. That effort led to a number of new research results that substantially expanded and changed our understanding of the communications field.- The networking field does not have a shared vision of the future today. Much of the research we see today lacks a motivation to deepen or broaden our understanding of communications. Much of today’s research is felt to be incremental (in the sense of "least publishable increment") and lacking a long-term motivation.
- Technology at the edge — an access infrastructure for next generation devices.
The current Internet was conceived in the era of main-frame computers and has matured in the era of workstations.The most common wireline edge technology is Ethernet, and the wireless technologies, such as WiFi, mimic Ethernet. The evolution of Ethernet is marked by improvements in speed at constant cost. In 10 years, we expect the most common devices on the network will be embedded processors, such as in sensors and actuators. An ambitious goal would be hundreds of billions of such devices capable of communication marked by dropping costs rather than increasing speeds. In 10 years, there should be a ubiquitous, low cost, open infrastructure suited for communication with low-cost computing devices such as sensors and controllers.

- A universal system for location - The GPS, has revolutionized the practice of war; navigation for movable devices, emergency services; even accurate timekeeping. GPS technology is now small & cheap enough that it can be embedded in wristwatches and cell phones. However, GPS only works when the receiver is "in the open", and able to receive signals from satellites. Imagine a world in which any properly equipped device can "know where it is" anywhere - outside or inside, in buildings, tunnels, and other shielded places. Imagine a world in which the precision of the location is variable - inside a building it might provide location to a room level, and inside a room it might provide even more precise location. In 10 years, there should be a ubiquitous, open infrastructure that allows any properly equipped device to determine its location, both inside and outside, to a suitable level of precision.
- A new design for secure, robust operation. - The Internet was designed in simpler times, when the user community was smaller with trust and traceability issues were simpler. Today’s internet, like the real world, includes a population of malicious users. Policing is difficult since the Internet crossed jurisdictional boundaries. War in cyberspace is a possibility, and terrorist manipulation of the Internet is likely. Greed is leading to a range of anti-social behavior, including spam, spyware and adware, and phishing.A great deal of effort has gone into improving the security and robustness of the Internet. In 10 years, our communications infrastructure should be based on an architecture that provides a coherent framework for security, robust operation in the face of attack, and a trustworthy environment for services and applications.
- Operation in times of crisis - The Internet be robust to attack, it should be designed to support those special needs that arise in times of crisis, both big and small. Today, the Internet has no mechanisms equivalent to an Emergency Broadcast Service, no ability to dedicate resources to first responders, or to provide something similar to 911 access. To the extent that the Internet is becoming the communications infrastructure of the future, we should make sure that it meets the needs of the individual, the region and the nation in times of emergency. In 10 years, the network itself, and critical applications that run on it, should address the special needs that arise in times of crisis.
- Anti-Scale: small networks - A major theme of networking research over the past twenty-five years has been on network architectures and protocols that scale seamlessly over ever-larger distances and ever-larger numbers of attached devices. This represents both a positive desire to create a global, interconnected, network and a backlash against work on localized networks that proved completely unable to scale. A few straws in the wind that illustrate the potential:
- The rise of Bluetooth.
- The demise of the backplane.
- Sandwiching optical or wireless devices on CMOS.
In 10 years, we should have local communications architecture that allows the
local interconnection of dozens or hundreds of small (e.g. chip size or slightly
larger) devices, with price-performance ranging from very low cost to very high
Part II shall follow.

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