Data, data everywhere

The mobile internet is booming. For example, when was the last time you had a ques­tion and a cell phone at the same time and not looked up the answer imme­di­ately? We are fiends for imme­diate infor­ma­tion. Like­wise, we are fiends for sharing infor­ma­tion with others. I went hiking this weekend and have already uploaded dozens of cell-​​snapped photos of the trip to share with friends and family.

Our mobile internet activity makes up 10% of all internet use. According to recent reports, 250 mil­lion photos are uploaded to Face­book every day, more than 72 video hours are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 325 mil­lion files are saved to Dropbox every day. As if this weren’t a lot already, mobile internet activity is expected to increase 18-​​fold between 2011 and 2016.

But have you ever seen the Louis C K YouTube video of Louis C K on Conan, “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy”? We already get frus­trated that our emails don’t upload and our images don’t down­load fast enough. What’s gonna happen when there’s 18 times more stuff com­peting for the airwaves?

Tao Jin is a grad­uate stu­dent in the Col­lege of Com­puter Sci­ences here at North­eastern and together with his fac­ulty advisor, Gue­vara Noubir, he is working to solve this problem by lever­aging the res­i­den­tial Wi-​​Fi net­works that are already avail­able but are rel­a­tively underutilized.

In a project called Open Infra­struc­ture, the CCS team has deployed 28 routers in urban areas in Boston and Houston, serving about 100 users, he said. With cus­tomized soft­ware run­ning on each router, they’ve car­ried out a variety of mea­sure­ments since Feb­ruary 2011 to col­lect over 72 mil­lion res­i­den­tial net­work usage data points.

Their ini­tial data shows that the res­i­den­tial net­work is very inter-​​connected but under­uti­lized. As such, it could be used to improve the effi­ciency of mobile internet use. The team is working on new net­working mech­a­nisms to har­vest the idle band­width resources in local neigh­bor­hoods, and pro­vide indi­vidual users with boosted performance.