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#263Tech: What is the future of the Internet?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept which took the world by storm in the wake of Internet accessibility reaching all corners of the globe. IoT is a generic term for all the devices and systems used online and is powered by the resilient networks built across the world.

Zimbabwe on its own has recorded an Internet penetration rate of 50% in 2016 with reference to the 4th quarter sector performance report released by POTRAZ early this year. This figure is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years due to the coming on board of devices that require access to internet, from mobile phones, smart devices and robots among other things. 

Network is a very complicated and fiercely built infrastructure which gulped billions of dollars for Internet Service Providers in setup costs, licensing, special skills training for personnel and other related costs. 

From Dial-Up Modems in the 2G era to 3G, and now 4G under the Long Term Evolution(LTE) age, it has not been an easy road in the battle of promoting an open Internet evolution which is now being overseen by senior boards such as the Internet Society Board (ISOC) and its sister organizations. Today l will be taking you aboard the time capsule flight and have a look into the future of the network where the world has begun switching from hardware based networking to software based networking being powered by newly integrated technologies such as SDN and NFV. These technologies are taking center stage in the Next-Generation Networks.

Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), and massively distributed computing dominate the thinking of today’s network engineers as they plan “next-generation” infrastructure.

But what’s in the pipeline for next next-generation networks? Read on for a look at some of the coolest network research projects taking place right now and projects that could have a big impact on the network designs and careers of tomorrow.

  • Wireless datalinks for Drones

future of networking wireless datalinks for dronesThe aviation industry isn’t exactly known for being a wireless networking trendsetter. When we fly a commercial airline, we’re lucky if we can check email in-flight. Even if we can do that,bandwidth is usually pretty limited.

But Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) — or drones, as they’re more popularly known — stand to help change that. Academic and industry researchers are now working to make long-distance, high-speed wireless networking feasible. Their research is geared toward streamlining communication between UAVs and manned aircraft, which will no doubt be a hot topic as drones continue to explode in popularity, and take on a greater presence in the skies.

The work has broader implications in the aviation industry and beyond, however. For instance, it’s easy to imagine trains and cars (including those headless ones Google now has roving around), also benefitting from wireless networks that can sustain high bandwidth, across wide distances, at high speeds.

  • Ambient backscatter

On the topic of major advances in wireless communications, researchers at the University of Washington are working to open new doors in the Wi-Fi world by “backscattering” wireless signals. That means re-using existing radio frequency signals instead of generating new ones. Because the devices don’t generate their own radio signals, they also don’t need any energy to operate.

Imagine being able to use wireless signals for networking where access to power is limited or non-existent and you get a sense of the tremendous possibilities for this new technology.


  • 4D Network

This research project, hosted at Carnegie Mellon University, has a hugely ambitious goal: Replace the Internet Protocol (IP) as the basis for computer networking. (Here, 4D refers to four network planes: decision, dissemination, discovery, and data.)

It’s easy, of course, to complain about the inefficiencies and complexities that now plague IP as a result of all the networking applications that have been grafted on to it — applications that were barely conceivable when the protocol was developed decades ago. So these researchers are examining how it could all be done better, especially when it comes to security, one of IP’s weaknesses.

We don’t recommend betting against the venerable Internet Protocol as the basis for real-world networking for a long time to come, but we like some of the concepts behind 4D.

  • eXpressive Internet Architecture

In a way, this is a more realistic take on the work the 4D network researchers are pursuing. The eXpressive Internet Architecture, or XIA, project aims to build “a single network that offers inherent support for communication between current communicating principals, including hosts, content, and services while accommodating unknown future entities.”

In other words, the researchers want to engineer a new one-size-fits-all system for network communications that does away with the convoluted and ad hoc mechanisms on which modern networks often rely. Like the 4D network project, XIA also has a strong focus on providing better security than existing standards can provide. See a trend here?

  • Quantum Computing

future of networking quantum computing
While it’s not strictly network-related, quantum computing is fast becoming a more realistic prospect for practical applications. For now, a few laws of physics still stand in the way of unlocking the unfathomable computational speed that quantum hardware stands to deliver. But don’t discount it as the foundation for the IT world of the future. With Google, among others, investing heavily in quantum research, it might only be a matter of time before humanity unlocks the secret to rocketing away from the zeroes and ones of present-day microprocessing.

  • The Machine from HP

Speaking of nano-age super-computers, HP engineers are also hard at work on new hardware and software that stands to revolutionize the way computers think and communicate.

Called simply the Machine, the platform brings three new computing components to the table: nanoelectric memory called memistors, ultra-fast phototonic buses, and an operating system tailor-made for the device.

What’s more, HP says the Machine, which will be an alternative to the x86-based computers that predominate today, will come to market within the next few years. So this isn’t a nerdy experimental project, but something that’s very likely to be a real and present part of our world in the next decade.

  • Time cloaking

The goal behind this Purdue University project is to create “bubbles in time” by tracking gaps between photons. If that works, information can be encoded within the gaps and transmitted by laser lights and fiber optics.

The big deal here isn’t communicating with light — that solution is already at the core of modern network infrastructure. The real excitement is the ability to conceal data by making it impossible to detect that a message was even sent.

For now, this remains highly experimental stuff. But it’s easy to see the value in a successful implementation of time cloaking, especially as a way to add new levels of security and privacy to network communications.

  1. Diamond semiconductors

    future of networking diamond semiconductors
    No one is talking about Diamond Valley yet, but those precious stones that most people currently encounter only in jewellery (or maybe during home improvement projects that require diamond-studded saw blades) may soon take the place of silicon as a core component of computer hardware.

    Smaller than silicon wafers, 20 times better at displacing heat, and more efficient as a conductor of electrons, diamonds are already helping to build new generations of devices. As a bonus, synthetic diamonds work just as well in constructing semiconductors as the ones dug up in mines, meaning this new computer hardware technology is also cost-efficient.

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