The frustrating days when you had to curse Internet are soon to be over because if this new technique gets implemented, you could very well be witnessing internet data speeds increasing ten folds. Imagine the possibilities then; limitless! This has been achieved by researchers at Aalborg University, MIT and Caltech who have come up with a new technique that is based on mathematics. In a nutshell; this is achieved by upgrading the nodes of a network into smarter nodes. This will also improve the security of the connection and may very well be integrated into 5G mobile networks, Internet of Things and satellite communications.
As of now, TCP/IP is being made use for internet data transfer. The data transfer over internet occurs in packets or small chunks of information. The format of this information and how it is delivered is described by TCP/IP that is basically a suite of protocols. This suite was designed back in the 1970’s and was quite a gigantic leap back at that time. However, it is now high time that we upgraded this system because as great as it was at the time when it was conceived the system sure has its flaws; if any packet goes missing the transfer rate slows down and the speed has to build up again from half the speed. This, while proving useful at times, is a great hindrance when it comes to speed of transfer. The other issue being the fact, that despite having infinite route options the packets always travel along the same path and this allows for the transmission to be intercepted quite easily.
The upgrade to this setup comes via another approach known as Network coding that relies on mathematics to improve the nodes of the network. The nodes in network coding are capable of re-routing, re-encoding and elaborating packets as and when needed. This smartness imparting to node results in flexibility that is unparalleled. The system allows for far better speed and security as compared to TCP/IP.
The implementation of this protocol, Network Coding, comes from the team of researchers from Aalborg University (Denmark), MIT and Caltech. Professor Frank Firzek who led this research stated; ‘In experiments with our network coding of Internet traffic, equipment manufacturers experienced speeds that are five to 10 times faster than usual. And this technology can be used in satellite communication, mobile communication and regular internet communication from computers.’
How it works is quite simple; each node deals every packet as a number (binary number of course) and a set of linear equations is made by making use of the numbers that have been extracted from the data and randomly generated set of coefficients. So each linear equation will represent a coded packet where the header will be composed of the coefficients and the variables will be the content of the packet. So, in essence, each coded packet will have partial information on a number of the ‘unaltered’ packets at once but multiplied with different coefficients.
We know, or at least we knew, from high school math that in order to solve for N number of variable you needed N number of variables. So the recipient must have N packets before the data can be decoded. This implementation allows for secure connection since anyone attempting to hack the data stream would need to possess all the packets in order to decode the information.
The best part about this setup is the fact that now the order of packets does not hold any significance, therefore, packets travel in different paths to the recipient and this translates into a much more efficient system that is speedy and secure.
In words of Fitzek; ‘I think the technology will be integrated in most products because it has some crucial and necessary functions. The only thing that can stop the development is patents. Previously, individual companies had a solid grip on patents for coding. But our approach is to make it as accessible as possible.’
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