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A Mobile Phone Mesh That Can Survive Carrier Network Failure

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the use-the-unbroken-bits dept.

Cellphones 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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131 comments

T-Mobile Doesn't Even Work (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610629)

Stuck on a contract with T-Mobile.

Unexplained undocumented outages. Dead zones where I live and work even though AT&T works fine.

Never use T-Mobile, America's worst cellular company.

Re:T-Mobile Doesn't Even Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610775)

They are horrible at consistently provisioning accounts. I have a G1, my father has a G1. We were sitting in the same vehicle. I had T-Mobile service and EDGE. He was stuck on Joe Bob's GSM Network with no data. T-Mobile wasn't even available on his available networks list. The customer service droids are worthless and refuse to help.

Re:T-Mobile Doesn't Even Work (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29613821)

Hey! Joe Bob runs a fine service and the only time there is any issue is if both circuits are busy.

Re:T-Mobile Doesn't Even Work (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610813)

I've got a Virgin phone and that network has an annoying hole right here on the farm where I've been all summer. At least it's well documented on the coverage map. And I'm going home next week. Just thinking, I could string some connecting nodes down the driveway using a mesh network, or how 'bout connecting to a landline.

Re:T-Mobile Doesn't Even Work (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#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).

Re:T-Mobile Doesn't Even Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29612111)

Wow, I guess it depends on where you live. I think I've gotten to the point where I wouldn't want to use anyone but T-Mobile. I mean seriously, fuck everyone else. And no, I'm not a shill, just someone whose life stopped getting interrupted with occasional getting-fucked-overs.

bike, nigga stole my bike!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610633)

adddriaaaaaannn

Aim Higher (4, Insightful)

shadowofathief (1348245) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610651)

Screw only for emergencies why don't they just put the providers out of business. No more monthly fees.

Re:Aim Higher (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610721)

Indeed. Even a 5000$ cellphone would be cheap if there were no monthly fees.

Re:Aim Higher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610777)

because you really want me to be reading your data in transit. Really, you do. The trust relationships are dead simple. Either you've got a good authentication from their sim card, or you don't. Sure, there will be hacked devices. However, you're only going to transmit what you're okay with people seeing. I think it should be text only, though, since the voice bandwidth will quickly eat battery life and the latency of multiple hops will be brutal. Just my 2 cents.

Re:Aim Higher (1)

MaerD (954222) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610955)

... so encrypt the packets? utilize "phone to phone" until you get to a wifi connected phone and push it to the internet? I mean the idea that "everyone will be able to read your packets, ohnoes" was solved some time ago.
Otherwise, there'd be nothing like VOIP or websites that take your credit card...etc.

Re:Aim Higher (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612171)

Almost everyone I regularly talk to on the phone, is someone I regularly see in real life. If our phones didn't suck and let us use reasonably good crypto, there's no reason we couldn't have securely-exchanged public keys. Shit, with today's huge/cheap flash storage, most of us could be using OTP. Let the phones exchange a few gigabytes of random crap while they're physically next to each other on the nightstand.

Today's phones are still stupid. I mean really, really stupid. I don't know when, but some day, that's going to change.

Public-Private Key Encryption: (1)

TGOT (849539) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612481)

Couldn't a creative individual develop an algorithm to create a public-private key system based on phone numbers. There is a possibility of backdoors (through manufacturers) but no more than the existing GSM system. One could simply place this information onto SIM cards. Of course a peer to peer network has faults but I don't see encryption being a difficult issue.

Re:Public-Private Key Encryption: (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612545)

Couldn't a creative individual develop an algorithm to create a public-private key system based on phone numbers.

No. Well, ok, you could use phone numbers as a key in some public database (analogous to looking up someone by their email address on openpgp keyservers), and use a WoT or a CA to measure how much you trust a public key to be correct, but at some point you still have people somewhere, having to securely exchange keys. There's no getting around that. But fortunately, like I said, I mostly talk to people I've met in person, so doing that is possible. Don't even need a WoT or CA; you can cert 'em yourself.

Re:Public-Private Key Encryption: (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612945)

But fortunately, like I said, I mostly talk to people I've met in person, so doing that is possible.

That wouldn't be practical for people who regularly take sales or service calls from the public. They'd have to rely on the phone company as a CA, just as web site operators often rely on their web host's affiliated CA.

Re:Aim Higher (5, Insightful)

SpudB0y (617458) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610953)

How long does your battery last now? How long do you think it would last if your phone was a repeater?

No thanks.

Re:Aim Higher (3, Insightful)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612369)

At worst, a phone in repeater mode would last as long as the normal talk time. However, if it's acting as a repeater in a dense mesh, it probably wouldn't need to (and shouldn't) transmit at as high a power as it would to reach a tower a mile away.

Re:Aim Higher (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612683)

Which is why this should be limited to emergencies (i.e. only to calls to/routed through emergency services). For everything else, it would be better to just replace the disjointed/overlapping commercial cellular networks with a nation-wide open wireless (wi-fi, wi-max, etc.) network. Then you could just use a VoIP phone and not be locked into any one provider. You wouldn't need to get a special sim chip (or risk paying outrageous roaming fees) when you travel to another country, and text messaging would essentially be free, just like e-mail/IM; not to mention all the other benefits that come with ubiquitous wi-fi access (portable internet radios would finally be of practical use; having access to your home mp3/video/ebook collection wherever you go, without needing to lug several terabyte hdds around, etc.).

Alas, I don't think that the telecoms or ISPs would ever let that happen. And it wouldn't just threaten them, but also cable providers and conventional TV & radio networks.

Re:Maybe 10* the battery life!!!! (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612975)

my current cell phone battery is 7W*hr, cell network uses transmit power in the ~1 watt while talking. Bluetooth is in the .1 watt category. So 7 hours of active use without this, or up to 70 hours of active use as part of a bluetooth hub. So if we have a bunch of smart phones wanting access, and one of them is plugged in and thus designated host, as long as a plugged in phone is within 10 bluetooth hops then it would be a huge net savings of power.
Basically this would be really sweet if we can put a hop in a car, house, offices, laptops... then your smart phone battery can last 10* as long while in use (ie talking or networking)
sure my phones standby time might decrease 10*, but my talking/email battery life goes up 10*. So a pure cell phone for a occasional talker it would be a net power drain. For the upcoming common use of phones, it is up to a 10* power savings.
would be really nice if my laptop cell card is on, so my cell phone is real low power. The laptop has plenty of spare juice for repeating (and is not transmitting through my head.)

Diamond Age? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611247)

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. At present, I doubt that the second condition is true, however. Constantly sending and recieving other people's data is going to tax your device's already too small battery, which will of course cause people to turn the feature off, which will severly hamper it's usefulness.

Re:Diamond Age? (5, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612617)

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 ... ;-)

Re:Aim Higher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611415)

Yay! Just what I've been waiting for...a wi-fi only phone with no monthly charges. I'm already paying $50 a month for network connection, and have wi-fi at work; what else do I need?

Re:Aim Higher (3, Insightful)

sn00ker (172521) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611779)

umm, maybe because a phone that can't reliably make connections to anywhere is useless?

Really, think this one through. What're you paying the carrier for? Dialtone. Which means that you're paying them to reliably (for values of reliability that vary with carrier, but here in NZ they're all pretty damn good) deliver your call data to the recipient. Take away that service, and how do you ensure that, when you need it, you'll have the ability to make a call, or send a text message? What if you need to make an emergency call and there're no other phones around to hop your signal into range of a network interconnection point? Or if the only phones that are nearby are in transit, and thus you lose your signal mid-call because your multi-hop path back into the POTS network has irretrievably lost a link?

You might wonder what you're paying your provider for, but I guarantee that if they dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, to be replaced by this conceptual system, you wouldn't last a month before you were begging for their return. And if you regularly make trips that take you to less-populated areas, I'd give you a week. This might work in the middle of New York City or some similarly heavily populated area, maybe, but even there you still need some way of interconnecting with both other mobile networks and with POTS. Those interconnects are what you pay your carrier for.

Re:Aim Higher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29613087)

Because routing dynamically in a mesh network, where nodes are severely power-constrained, can drop off the network at any moment or move around, and may be malicious, is a seriously difficult problem. It's probably solvable, but not without some serious theoretical advances to back up an implementation.

Battery Drain? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610655)

How is this going to work effectively when we already know how quickly wifi/bluetooth can drain your phone battery?

Re:Battery Drain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610801)

It's a valid point, I don't know why this was modded offtopic.

Re:Battery Drain? (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612271)

More important than the radio itself. I believe the biggest problem is if there is already a routing algorithm efficient enough to avoid draining the batteries of several cellphones just to find its way to the destination.

Re:Battery Drain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29612287)

There is a lot of research going on in the area of routing protocols for mesh networks and one of the variants I've seen uses current battery charge as one of the metrics when deciding the route. The higher the charge, the higher the probability you will be routing traffic.

Trust per DoD (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610663)

Trust = Ability to violate established security policy

Don't trust, only verify.

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.

Re:Trust per DoD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611167)

Hey! What do you have against pedophiles?

Re:Trust per DoD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611933)

In a mesh network you have no choice but to trust that others will co-operate. In particular, why would those low-lives forward all your packets if they have better uses for their bandwidth? As long as you (your network device) can't prove where the packets were dropped, you can't even effectively punish any particular low-lives. As far as I know, there is no theoretical solution to this problem that doesn't require some parts of the network devices to follow protocol rules and be tamper-proof, in other words to be trusted.

Inventions (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610671)

So they invented the internet?

It's good to know.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610679)

my social networks will stay intact after the apocalypse.

Why is this couched in terms of emergency communication?

P.S. the answer is money

Obligatory cynical comment (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610687)

Great. Just wait until the phone companies use this as a hack for when they refuse to upgrade towers and other infrastructure. Battery life suffers, data anonymity suffers, service suffers. It'll all be in the contract and there won't be a damn thing we could do about it...except go back to smoke signals.

Re:Obligatory cynical comment (1)

Drahgkar (945536) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611295)

Excuse me sir, do you have the proper FCC permit for sending smoke signals? I thought not, hand over your blanket and code key.

Re:Obligatory cynical comment (5, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611445)

As a matter of fact, I do carry an FCC General Combustophone Operator License and am certified for 3 types of fires with clouds exceeding 500 Kilo-cubic meters of output.

File sharing (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610733)

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.

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

Re:File sharing (2, Interesting)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:File sharing (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611225)

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.

That's a judicial problem, not a technical one. And it's solved by firing (or killing, neutralizing, or otherwise removing) the people who write vague and badly-defined laws to "look tough on crime" and wind up incarcerating people who are no real threat to society (or even themselves) and criminalizing behavior that doesn't have any tangible cost to those around them.

Re:File sharing (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611855)

I don't find the law inappropriate--merely that I want to avoid finding myself necessarily in that situation because of poorly implemented technology (or given your example, poorly implemented law).

The kids who bring drugs / alcohol / weapons to school bring the problems down on themselves. Badly defined laws should be addressed--and you are right to suggest that there are issues with some, but behavior should sometimes be criminalized.

With specific reference to the pedophilia issue, I don't want to have anyone find such a thing on my computer, because I find the behavior reprehensible. Such behavior affects more than those in possession of it since, obviously, someone had to take the picture / video whatever. Further, studies repeatedly show a link between those with a tendency to view such material and those who act out their fantasies.

Possession laws should be enforced, but carefully. This requires care on the part of the legal system to ensure that my computer isn't part of a botnet that I unwittingly/unwillingly joined (or my neighbor's borrowing of my wifi because his broke "temporarily")... and on the part of the technical community to ensure that my transfer protocol does not unnecessarily expose me to taking part in criminal activities.

Re:File sharing (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612065)

Possession laws should be enforced, but carefully.

That's the problem: You're counting on the good will of the prosecutor, judge, jury, police, and everybody else to realize "Hey, this person isn't really a threat, so we should look the other way." Sadly, it doesn't work that way. Maybe the prosecutor is up for re-election. Maybe the police officer made a mistake filing the paperwork. Maybe the judge just had an argument with his wife over his teenage daughter, ate a chili cheese burrito half an hour ago, and has nothing but death in store for you.

See, bad laws are a problem because they're enforced by human beings, who are prone to making errors in judgment. Stop the chain of misfortune at the source: Make sure the laws are well-written to begin with.

Re:File sharing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29612997)

Further, studies repeatedly show a link between those with a tendency to view such material and those who act out their fantasies.

I would like a reference on this. It sounds like a self-selecting sample for the study. Are there people out that that view such material but are careful never to get caught, and never act it out in real life? If there are such people, there numbers are unknown, and it's unlikely that they took part in such studies.

It's like saying that all criminals are stupid enough to get caught... then 'proving' your statement by saying that 100% of criminals are in prison which means that they obviously were stupid enough to be caught. Therefore there are no 'smart criminals' (or at least no criminals 'smart enough' to not get caught), right?

Re:File sharing (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29613329)

Many laws have been written assuming that police, prosecutors, and the courts will show an appropriate restraint and discretion.

However, a number of recent events suggest that they certainly may not be counted on for either. I would say that any possession law should require that it be willful and knowing. While it does make possession hard to prove, the law is supposed to be just rather than convenient to enforce.

Re:File sharing (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612673)

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

Not quite as easily as that - I've got an iPhone, but Apple has locked down the bluetooth to the point where it refuses to talk to my old Nokia. On the other hand, sending an mp3 of a local band performing at the pub from the Nokia to my friend's Sony Ericsson, easy as pie.

Old Tech (1)

Arakageeta (671142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610781)

Hasn't stuff like this been around forever? Certainly HAM & CB counts for something. Not to mention SINCGARS and EPLRS radio networks. And these are old. The military has been playing around with IP-based mesh networks for quite a while.

Re:Old Tech (1)

tompatman (936656) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611169)

This has been around for awhile. http://aprs.fi/ [aprs.fi] links devices sending messages via rf and also routes through the internet although the internet link is not needed. Doing it with cell phones is a good idea though.

Re:Old Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611195)

The interesting thing here is not two devices talking to each other. It's 1000 devices all talking to each other. In a city you have a 1000 phones all talking to the tower. Now you have 1000 phones talking 1000 other phones. There is orders of magnitude more communication happening.

The technological advance is sending all this data in a real world environment with a bunch of noise.

And yes, the math for this has been around for a while, the problem is now your phone is sending and receiving other people's information greatly reducing battery live and opening some security issues.

Re:Old Tech (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612319)

Hasn't stuff like this been around forever? Certainly HAM & CB counts for something.

But the CB or HAM operator has made a big investment in mobile/emergency power, antenna systems and so on. He will formallly or informally prioritize traffic - so that the essential traddic moves quickly and efficiently.

Sounds great. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610797)

When I can tell my provider to take a hike and just use this for calls?

Mesh networks in Aviation (3, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610859)

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.

Re:Mesh networks in Aviation (3, Interesting)

langedb (518453) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610967)

The HAM community already has this sort of thing. It's called APRS [aprs.org], 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.

Re:Mesh networks in Aviation (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612797)

There's a similar system proposed (available?) for ships. Periodic broadcast of GPS coordinates, heading and speed. But ships have an advantage that aircraft don't. You can mandate such a system (its relatively inexpensive) for cargo ships, tankers and the like. If smaller pleasure craft choose not to participate, its no big deal. A supertanker will make kindling out of your ski boat and never slow down.

Not so for aircraft. All it takes is some group to drag their heels, either due to cost or the adverse impact a change would have on traditional ways of doing things and all bets are off.

Re:Mesh networks in Aviation (2, Informative)

jp102235 (923963) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611819)

TCAS: Traffic Collision and Avoidance System
each plane has an active TACAN and they peer -to- peer negotiate away from each other..... been available for a while now...
when coupled to an autopilot it even lets you sleep through your daily commute up the Hudson... ok not really...

John
3000+ hours Commercial Multi Engine Instructor Pilot

Re:Mesh networks in Aviation (2, Informative)

StrategicIrony (1183007) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611843)

There is such a system for ocean-going shipping, known as AIS. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Identification_System [wikipedia.org]

It's short-range (VHF radio based), but it effectively informs other AIS capable ships of GPS coordinates, direction, speed, rate of turn, status, name, weight, destination, etc.

I think it has something to do with stubborn FAA policies that are more interested in CYA than pushing the technological forefront.

This DOES exist already... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29610875)

... it is called TETRA.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrestrial_Trunked_Radio

Trust? It's in There (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610929)

The SIM card has cryptographic functions. Now, the bazillion dollar question is there a vaguely consistent cryptographic hook at the phone application layer?

The follow-on statement for us Yanks is this will never happen. Any attempts to make it so will be summarily ignored by the carriers. Why? Because it contributes to the idea that the carrier is not necessary.

Dear god the apple, it burns (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610983)

Has the ubiquity of Apple really gotten this bad?

It is "itnews", or "ITnews", not "iTnews".

Re:Dear god the apple, it burns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611137)

Has the ubiquity of Apple really gotten this bad?

It is "itnews", or "ITnews", not "iTnews".

Kinda OT but...

Lower case i's came from 31337 hacker's, not Apple.

Thank you very much. ;)

Nice follow-on! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29610995)

A nice follow-on to Wireless Network Modded To See Through Walls [slashdot.org] , it seems like pairing ZigBee [digi.com] with some cheap GPS chips (say, SiRF Star III) would pretty much do the job. Maybe you could put three of them in there for failover to satisfy reliability requirements, the whole thing would still come in under two hundred bucks for a prototype. :)

Battery life (3, Informative)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611027)

This idea is as old as the hills (or at least mobile phones). It will never really work well though because who wants to waste their phones battery on relaying other people's data?

Re:Battery life (3, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611157)

I dunno ... about as many as those who "waste" their bandwidth seeding torrents?

Re:Battery life (3, Insightful)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611257)

Unless you're up against a monthly transfer cap, seeding while you're not otherwise using the network doesn't cost you anything. On the other hand, running the WiFi and Bluetooth radios (and the CPU) may significantly reduce your mobile's battery life, which is already much too short for most people's tastes already.

Re:Battery life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29612209)

That would be why they deliberately mentioned a crisis. If the cell towers are packed and no one can get through, it will take about an hour for everyone to flip their mesh settings on in order to try to get through that way. Battery life has no relevancy in the face of panic. The real problem would be that while it would work (kind of) in a city, bridging the gaps beyond is next to impossible without long range repeaters... not to mention bridging the gap in mobile makers and getting a feature like this common enough it could actually be useful.

Re:Battery life (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612927)

It costs you in that your power bill is higher (and unless you're entirely solar, the local power plant puts out more pollution).

Re:Battery life (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612989)

If people would care about their battery life, they wouldn't buy iPhones, right?

But the point is valid, battery drain is pretty much the only limiting factor. Security can be solved by public-key crypto (even self-managing systems like this one [ieee.org]).

Store-carry-forward networks will work best for delay-tolerant traffic of low to medium throughput (email, txt messaging), but why not push-to-talk too? Speex doesn't produce large files for a minute of talking. The thing can be extended to VANETs too.

I'd love to see some practical research done.

Re:Battery life (1)

rabble (22388) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611303)

Answer: Those who are plugged into a power outlet and can charge (or get some sort of credit) for the service.

Most of the MANET routing stacks provide for optional routing anyway. So, if you don't want to forward for someone else, don't.

There has been a lot of work done on MANETS. Just search almost anywhere for "mobile ad hoc networking". Wikipedia has a short article that looks like a good starting place for a beginner.

Re:Battery life (2, Informative)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611781)

There are a lot of network protocols designed to save as much energy as possible. Check Low Power Listening. This is actually an interesting idea and there is much research from Cambridge UK too (see Pocket Switched Networks). In the end yes, there is more energy usage, but technology will progress:)

Re:Battery life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611927)

Since both Bluetooth and Wifi are not specific to handsets, dedicated linux routing daemons for handset device clients could be running to help support and extend the network without a drain on "Battery Life", and could also function as "Outside world" gateways.

Additionally, this kind of functionality could be implemented in something like a modified Sheeva Plug that goes into a 12v car cig adaptor.

The problem comes from the FCC and it's insistence on the extreme low broadcast strength of such devices, which greatly limits broadcast distances. If they became popular however, highways filled with vehicles would become data conduits of actively changing peer nodes.

Interesting concept.

Trust? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611141)

We are addressing how you would quickly establish trust between devices...

In a word, don't. GSM phones today already have a PRNG built-in, which is specific to that SIM card. Use it! The only pieces of information any device in between the clients is source, destination, and maybe some QoS bits, and a few other transport-related fields. The content should be end-to-end encrypted, just like it would with IPv6.

Cell phone networks don't have strong trust models as it is right now -- so there's little point in making your "ad hoc" network more secure than the real one. Realistically, you just need to make it as secure as it is today (a low bar to beat). The goal here is rapid communication, not rapid secure communication.

I know of only one really (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611175)

faggots suck the shit out of other faggots asses. they lick their own shit off of other faggots dicks. they spread diseases and molest children. do you want this in your neighborhood?

Re:I know of only one really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29613069)

No i dont want your twisted sad attitude in my neighbourhood. Do you find making up these sorts of bullshit posts make you feel better about your latent homosexuality?

It's called MANET ... and it can be secured (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611177)

Research into Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks (MANETs) has been going on since the 90s. This is one of the perfect applications that will likely never come to pass due to commercial interests. There are so many options for securing it that it'll make your head spin -- choose your desired use and there's a security scheme for that. And yes, the military is looking into deploying such networks at various levels of device capability because its far more practical than an infrastructure based network.

Re:It's called MANET ... and it can be secured (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612759)

If you dive into MANET research, you'll find that the field is almost completely based on unrepeatable simulations (partially of custom, unreleased/unverified simulators). There are almost no experiments. Maybe it is too hard for researchers, or they give up because of energy and reliability problems.

We need more of this sort of thing (5, Insightful)

moxley (895517) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611227)

I think this sort of decentralized network is a great idea - it's something we need to see more of, and has tons of uses.

Can you imagine if an application was released that created just such an "off of the network" mesh and would work with most phones and it caught on like Napster did? Can you imagine how the mobile providers would go apeshit if large groups of people circumvented their network and were able to communicate on their own?

Re:We need more of this sort of thing (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611771)

The mobile providers wouldn't even notice such a mesh. It doesn't cover long distance (without using the providers networks), lacks the bandwidth to support a significant number of users (without using the providers networks), can't allow significant internet access without somebody paying the bills for the connection...
 
And sure as hell a people aren't going to tolerate the loss of battery life and increase in their bills to support 'freeloading'.

Re:We need more of this sort of thing (1)

moxley (895517) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612881)

I'm aware of the practical limitations and not suggesting that it would be a practical thing to compete with provider service now - but if there is ever a serious civil emergency (and I can think of several that are likely to happen at some point, unfortunately) something developed along these lines could be incredibly.

I can also see certain scenarios where something like this could develop over a period of time...Someone does a proof of concept, people who like to tinker start playing around, something gets developed and refined and then a use is found among a niche or subculture which later expands..you know what i'm getting at I'm sure.

I think the idea of decentralized communications is something that sounds great to a lot of people in this day and age....

Re:We need more of this sort of thing (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612837)

I simulated such a network based on WiFi (with up to 40 meters distance). The aim was that users can exchange content (flooding) and WiFi hotspots are used to relay to the Internet. I came to the conclusion that you'll need 300 access points and 200 users in a 5000mx5500m area, but then everyone would have a network where emails can be sent from anywhere and are delivered reliably and quickly. Find the flaws here: paper [jakeapp.com].

Re:We need more of this sort of thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29613223)

Can you imagine if an application was released that created just such an "off of the network" mesh and would work with most phones and it caught on like Napster did? Can you imagine how the mobile providers would go apeshit if large groups of people circumvented their network and were able to communicate on their own?

Mobile providers? You mean the Dept. of Homeland Terrorism would not be able to eavesdrop so easily. Oh no!, the people are exercising their right to be secure from illegal search! We can't just partner with corrupt corporations to violate the law anymore! If this keeps up people will expect to exercise more of their Constitutionally guaranteed rights!

A Skype-like handset can't replace a carrier (yet) (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611311)

So...they're talking about a Skype-like protocol that operates full-time on existing handsets?

For those of who who are unaware, Skype operates as a P2P client, with your voice chats being routed through other Skype clients within the network. Some nodes (particularly long-lived ones that are well provisioned for bandwidth) are designated for taking more of the routing duties than others. Basically, they're talking about doing the same thing here.

Essentially, all they're suggesting is a version of that client that runs as a background process on a handset so that it can forward and route calls between other users of that handset. I'm certainly in favor of the idea. As others have pointed out, it has the potential to negate the need for carriers altogether, but it would also have a few severe drawbacks if it was used as the sole means of connecting handsets.

For instance, in geographical areas that are sparsely populated, if a small number of handsets exist on the border between two neighboring areas that are densely populated, those handsets would get routed a significant amount of the traffic. As such, people who live, say, halfway between two major cities might find that their batteries drain incredibly fast since they're constantly having to route calls between other users. That would only exacerbate the problem, since those routes would then go offline as the handsets powered down, leaving even less handsets to take the load. Problems like that are avoided with the centralization that we currently enjoy with cell phone towers, but would have to be addressed if we wanted to switch to only using a mesh.

There's also the issue of guaranteeing connectivity. If we're relying solely on this mesh, it's possible that you're not in range of anyone else's handset. While that issue also exists within a current cell network, the problem here is that dead zones cannot always be foreseen in advance, since people entering or exiting your vicinity could create dynamic dead zones. The nice thing about the current cell network is that coverage is supposed to be guaranteed, whereas no such guarantee could be made with a mesh; your service might cut out at any time, particularly in rural areas.

There's also the issue of reaching critical mass, since the mesh would be utterly worthless if you didn't have other clients in your locale with which you could communicate and route. If you established a transitionary time to switch from cell to mesh, you might have some success, but you couldn't do it immediately.

As for mixing the mesh with the existing carriers...seems like a good idea for emergencies and what not. I know that when hurricane Ike struck here a few years back, things were really spotty for a few days simply due to the networks getting swamped and some of the towers being taken down outright by the storm. This sort of thing has the potential to supplement the existing network and take some of the burden off of it, especially during difficult times.

Re:A Skype-like handset can't replace a carrier (y (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611753)

Rural areas was the first thing I thought about I imagine a line of farmers stretching between two big cities, and having to carry the entire load between them.
 
Would you be able to support this with some fixed nodes around the outskirts of densely populated areas that then connect to each other by a fibre? (I'm thinking like the internet, you need to have your backbones for the network to be anything resembling reliable.)

Re:A Skype-like handset can't replace a carrier (y (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612353)

I think you'd really have to work off of a plan like what you suggested. Not only would it serve to alleviate traffic (if a backbone can take the traffic, that means that you don't have to route it through a few dozen or hundred handsets), but it'd also be more reliable. The Internet is a great example of how something like this can be made to work, but again, we'd still be relying on some level of infrastructure, rather than being able to do away with it altogether. Until wireless is more ubiquitous, which may just be a few years away, I believe that we won't be able to implement a full mesh effectively.

Re:A Skype-like handset can't replace a carrier (y (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29613361)

You know though... in rural areas privately owned antennas aren't unusual. They are usually for TV, but increasingly used for point-to-point wireless broadband to a local ISP. If we could add a permanent backbone, either using an internet connection or continuing the mesh theme connecting to other towers, or both that could be enough to cover the whole little town with some solid connections to nearby towns. Seems somewhat doable, but I would worry about permits, regulations and such.

They've been researchin this in Japan for year (2, Informative)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611387)

Forget independent scientists, Japan's government has been testing this for a number of years. It would be mandated in all new handsets so once there was a major disaster (and Japan loves it's natural disasters) emergency communication would be possible. Like the Emergency Broadcast System only not unidirectional.

Several years ago I saw a demo where text messages were relayed from phone to phone across most of Tokyo without ever connecting to the infrastructure. It wouldn't be fast, but it would be invaluably helpful with rescue and recovery efforts.

Re:They've been researchin this in Japan for year (1)

atheistmonk (1268392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29613181)

We've been testing them across the ocean by embedding the devices in whales. We have peculiar areas of downtime in the waters around Japan and Australia...

Battery Life (2)

mungewell (149275) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611515)

Just one comment... battery life. If each user's cell phone had to relay messages on behalf of the 'mesh' it would probably be flat in not much time.

The HAM radio community already have active emergency planning groups and ideas about setting up disaster communications, the most important aspect is to moderate what makes it onto the airwaves. Watching streaming video of the disaster is probably not needed when a simple broadcast SMS would do.

Discussed at DefCon 14? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611635)

As far back as DC14, Riley "Caezar" Eller gave a talk on MANET [wikipedia.org], the possible uses such a network (or an analogue) could have if used for ad-hoc cellular networking, and possible attacks against it. I recall the example he gave was of a bar in Seattle which is constructed of materials that attenuate or completely block cell coverage... except near the door. He suggested that a hybrid cellphone, one that could use regular cellular infrastructure and fail over to ad-hoc networking would allow phones near the door to act as conduits for phones inside... or something like that. I'm too lazy to find the actual talk, but the DefCon website [defcon.org] has a brief synopsis.

It was definitely an interesting talk, and apparently well before its time if this is just making news now.

Nextel's got your back in an emergency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29611639)

see the Direct Talk feature on most of its iDEN handsets.

http://www.nextel.com/en/services/walkietalkie/offnetwork.shtml

similar post after 9/11 (1)

SpaceGhost (23971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29611765)

This posting [slashdot.org] on Slashdot from October 4th 2001 really hit home, describing a "P2P SMS technique where individual handsets act as autonomous SMS relays". And why can't we do this? Would it require independance from cell carriers? With wednesdays report to congress [npr.org] on the failure to upgrade the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, maybe we do need an ad-hoc alternative.
  (After feeling useless after 9/11 the October 2001 post got me thinking. By the end of November 2001 I had my first ham radio license, now I'm and Extra class and now when something happens I've usually been at an EOC, although the last couple of years have been supporting Red Cross.)

Compensation (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612213)

How much is AT&T or $PROVIDER going to compensate me for the use of my bandwidth and electricity?

Are they going to respect any bandwidth caps I wish to impose, even when I do not disclose them beforehand and instead insist that I am allowing them UNLIMITED MESHING through my phone?

Are they going to agree to forbid the routing of packets from VPN and tethering through my phone, even though I will be heavily advertising those features as benefits of my providing a connection point in this mesh network?

If not, then make joining the mesh network opt-in, please! Fair is fair!

Why not use this for an Open Source network? (2, Interesting)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

This is a test of the emergency broadcast system.. (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#29612669)

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.

The emergency scenario implies extended and widespread power outages. When you battery dies, it dies, and it just might take you with it.

The cell phone designer makes certain simplying assumptions: that you will be well within range of a commercial grade repeater mounted high and with a relatively unobstructed line of sight.

That you aren't trying to hop-scotch your way at street level across midtown Manhatten in a sleet storm.

You are going to need one hell of an algorithym to manage the load if you allow unrestricted traffic in photos and video under 9/11 conditions.

What's needed here most is the ability to send a brief - meanignful - text message.

Perfect for the iPhone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29612701)

Perfect for people with the iPhone since AT&T's network almost never works!

Are they reinventing HAM radio? (2)

woolio (927141) | more than 4 years ago | (#29613559)

Are they reinventing HAM radio?

HAMs (amateur radio operators) invented the mobile ad-hoc network about 50 to 75 years ago [at least].

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