Apple introduces the latest “i”-gadget; Samsung takes the reins as the world’s leading smartphone provider; Blackberry mounts an all-or-nothing comeback.
Just a typical day of tech headlines, right? Dig deeper, however, and you have to wonder what impact all of these new multimedia devices will have on the networks that give them life. Short answer: Real-time streaming video and other large-byte-size content are gobbling up bandwidth on the Internet, a network of networks originally designed to share documents and data.
Researchers working behind the scenes—away from the glitzy tablet computer launches and smartphone marketing campaigns—are tasked with ensuring that the Internet and mobile networks can accommodate the exponential traffic increases that these new gadgets portend. In the June issue of Scientific American, Markus Hofmann, head of Bell Labs Research, the research and development arm of Alcatel–Lucent, describes how he and his team of engineers are developing ways to help the Internet more efficiently route information, a move that should free up network bandwidth and reduce traffic bottlenecks.
Hofmann provides some additional insight into his work in a July 2012 podcast that Bell Labs posted to YouTube. In the podcast Hofmann emphasizes the importance of not only pushing past current wireless bandwidth limitations—via small cells, optical antenna arrays and dynamic spectrum management—but also designing new networks in a way that can manage a variety of mobile uses, such as the explosion of smartphone and tablet apps or simply uploading/downloading video on the go.