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Fastcompany reports about the novel type of network design could make wireless networks more efficient and more secure, "whereas traditional networks leave packets of information undisturbed, a technique called "network coding" mixes the contents of different packets together." MIT researchers found that the method could increase the data capacity of a network threefold. And since the packets are scrambled, the method also has built-in encryption.
Médard and Montpetit at MIT believe that network coding can help with all three challenges:
So conceived, social TV poses a number of technical challenges. One is the allocation of bandwidth, as AT&T discovered when the popularity of streaming video on the original iPhone threatened to overwhelm its network. Another is the synchronization of video streaming to different devices. And a third is the protection of both providers’ content and the privacy of consumers’ comments.
Demonstration at NBC
In the demo at NBC, a small group of people watched the same streaming video on handheld devices. Only one of the devices, however, was connected to the cellular network. It broadcast hybrid data packets to the other devices, which in turn mixed them together and passed them along. So network coding reduced the burden on the cell network. And since all the devices were broadcasting data to each other, and the researchers’ algorithms were able to descramble coded packets so efficiently that the synchronization between the devices was nearly perfect.
Sheau Ng, the head of technology R&D at NBCUniversal, says that the technology the researchers demonstrated could have applications in cases in which, for example, several family members in a single location were using separate devices to teleconference simultaneously with a distant relative. But, he says, “That’s not as interesting a scenario as the one where users are in entirely different parts of the physical world.” He believes, however, that network coding is applicable in that case as well. “It’s a multiyear project, and we are just now in the first stages of it,” he says. “We’re quite excited about seeing what the team can come up with.”