Research into a new technology is underway which could see mobile phones communicate to form what is in effect a temporary, highly local version of YouTube.
The research – being carried out through a partnership between National ICT Australia (NICTA) and Singapore’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) – seeks to allow smartphones in the same location to share content in real time via bluetooth, WiMax or WiFi without the need for telecommunications infrastructure.
The research is in a large part a response to the rise of social networking, according to NICTA project leader Dr Roksana Boreli, and will seek to address specific technical problems such as how devices are able to recognise each other, and how the same devices can verify that another device is secure and trustworthy for data transfer.
“It’s really important to [create] personalised information you are really interested in and be able to share that information within a group,” she said.
Applications for the technology include communicating in disaster recovery areas and sharing video shot at a concerts and sporting events, such as the Australia Open tennis tournament.
“If this [research] was made into a service, it could be used at the tennis to provide a 360 degree view of all the courts [via shared content] rather than just the official courts covered by a sponsor streaming the event to your mobile device,” Boreli said.
Given the temporal nature of mobile social networks, the research was also concentrating heavily on data-centric trust as a method to securely transfer data between devices which did not previously have security keys or certificates.
“In an ephemeral environment you have very short data connections with devices you have no prior information about,” she said. “So, we will look at the data itself and how we can combine it using a variety of methods which will give us confidence in the data you receive. We also want to make sure there are no privacy issues by sharing the identity of the devices which is not share in an organised infrastructure way.”
Rather than replace existing telecommunications networks with a free sharing service, the research would likely complement existing paid-for services and content, Borelli said.
“Existing [networking services] let you upload data to a central site then download it [over a wide area], whereas this technology lets you see more things and in real time – on-the-fly – with faster data transfer rates when you are in the vicinity [of the event],” she said.
An initial demonstration of the technology was expected in about a year with a full demonstration in about two. A prototype and commercial availability could be expected in three and four years.