Feds offer $15M for research on the next Internet

National Science Foundation eyes new architecture that can handle IoT, mobile, video and medical apps

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is investing $15 million to create a more robust, agile and secure Internet.

The NSF announced on Monday it is splitting the money between three projects that are all aimed at developing better Internet architectures that are able to handle new technologies like the Internet of Things, smart cars and nano devices that are straining an old architecture.

The funding is expected to move efforts from the design stage to pilot programs in large-scale, realistic environments.

"NSF-funded research has been instrumental in advancing network technologies, beginning with the first large-scale use of Internet technologies to link researchers to the nation's supercomputing centers..., and along the way, helping to transition the network into the self-governing and commercially viable Internet we know today," Farnam Jahanian, head of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at NSF, said in a statement.

The three projects receiving the funding are led by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California-Los Angeles and Rutgers University.

According to the NSF, those projects are focused on developing new network architectures and networking concepts, such as communications protocols. The projects also are researching societal, economic and legal issues connected to the Internet's affect on society.

"These investments are all about developing the next generation of the Internet that encompasses mobility, the Internet of Things and improved quality of service for applications like video and medical applications," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "The Internet was initially created for universities sharing text-based data between mini-computers and mainframes. We are now in a world of billions of connected devices, some small enough to be digested and some delivering real-time video that need a different form of Internet connectivity."

Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a professor at Rutgers University and principal investigator with the Internet research project there, said the Internet is at a crucial juncture.

"The Internet is at a historic inflection point, with mobile platforms and applications fast replacing the fixed-host/server model, which dominated the Internet since its inception," Raychaudhuri said in a statement. "This fundamental shift presents a unique opportunity to develop an efficient, robust and secure next-generation Internet architecture in which wireless devices and mobile applications are primary drivers of a new design."

In the next phase of the three research projects, each is expected to test its system in real-world settings. For example, Carnie Mellon is set to test its new architecture in two network environments -- a vehicular network being deployed in Pittsburgh and in what the NSF describes as a large-scale video delivery environment.

The UCLA team is partnering with Open mHealth, a non-profit healthcare ecosystem, and with UCLA Facilities Management, which is operating a major monitoring system for energy-efficient and secure buildings on the West Coast.

As for Rutgers, researchers there are expected to hold three tests of the architecture, including one with a wireless service provider in Madison, Wis.; a content production and delivery network trial; and a context-aware public service weather emergency notification system with end-users in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Moorhead said he's glad researchers are working on new architectures to support the Internet's new uses.

"To better support those applications, the Internet needs to identify the type of end point, the type of content and apply the right path -- cached, replicated or direct with the appropriate level of security and fallback addressing for reliability," he added. "To increase agility, they want to improve quality of service for end points that are changing conditions during the connection, like a connected car as it races down the highway transmitting and receiving different kinds of data. Prior generations of the Internet relied on the connection and content remaining stable."

Moorhead said he doesn't expect to see new Internet architectures in real use for about 10 years.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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