Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mesh Networks and Traffic Jams: A Double-Edged Solution

Intro
Being stuck in traffic jam is horrible. Being stuck in traffic jam with only a radio & nothing to listen to but rap music, is terrifying!

What if you could see traffic flow in real-time, before you leave and while driving? Sounds great, right? But what if you could see traffic flow AND be able to surf the Internet using the same inexpensive solution? THAT'S FREAKIN' AWESOME!

Background
Let's get realistic: In the United States, it's possible to get traffic reports using GPS units. This is done by attaching an antenna to receive radio transmissions from the respective service provider (either for free or by subscription).

This solution has been debated to not provide information security, as the FM radio transmissions can be spoofed and forged, producing false reports. There's also the monthly fee you have to pay to the service provider.

Proposed Solution
What I propose here, is creating a distributed mesh network, which can be tracked in real-time and provides Internet access at the same time. Each node is a mini-router that is configured to search for similar nodes of the same network, forming a bond and a redundant, anonymous, decentralized network.

Real-Life Application
Deploy a mini-router from Open-Mesh.com in each car and let it be pre-configured to join a network of the name "adrenalin" -- And let there be edge nodes (houses/flats/shops) with also a mini-router, but connected to the Internet.

Assume you're driving on an empty road and no one is in sight. Your router will not be able to connect with any node since none exist, and thus your path is free and there exist no traffic jam! (And unfortunately no Internet :( )

If you're driving in the city, there will be both cars and edge-nodes, hence your router will connect to one of these and you'll be able to see a topology representing the scatter of cars around, and you can determine congested routes and steer away from it, while at the same time, you gain the ability to access the Internet, thanks to the edge-nodes.

And guess what, the more jammed the traffic is, the more bandwidth is available for you to surf the Internet!

Open-Mesh.com provides a web-interface to see and manage all these nodes, and there exist projects to further enhance the application of these networks.
Go to the Network Status page and enter the Network Name as "test" (without double quotes). Leave the password field empty, and click sign in.

All mobile nodes (cars) are anonymous, and the edge-nodes can choose to be anonymous as well, protecting the privacy of people.

Solution Feasibility: Technicalities
* Each router has 2 interfaces: A public one and a private one. This means while your router is hooked to other routers, you connect to your own only, using a laptop or a PDA. The router has built-in firewall and encryption.

* The router runs on 5 volts only, and any car battery can handle it easily.

* If you have a computer in your car (carputer), you can hook it through LAN.

* The antenna is detachable, so it's easy to upgrade or relocate it.

Solution Feasibility: Mass Deployment
Let's assume this is a government sponsored project. When buying a new car, the person pays a subsidized sum to implement the mini-router along with the license plate fees.

According to open-mesh.com, a pack of 20 routers cost $799; that's $39.95 per mini-router (almost 11KD). The government could sell it for 4KD, and 1KD fee for the license plate, so the total is 5KD!

Local ISPs can join the party by offering free edge-nodes that allow Internet access. They make profit by displaying advertisements in a frame at top of the page. The profit made can be split with the government, to make up for the cost of the devices.

2 comments:

Nosayba said...

Interesting project. And I like how you structured this post.
I'm thinking, until a sufficient number of cars/edge-nodes adopt the solution around the country, the topology you'll be seeing could be deceiving. Routes with more geeky people who have their PDAs connected to the mesh network will seem to be falsely more congested than others; you steer away and oops!, a traffic jam of boring drivers who haven't logged into the network, yet.

MBH said...

I think you misunderstood some points.

The router is inside the car and is always on whenever the car's engine is on. Whether you are connected to the router or not, is irrelevant.

The router must connect to another router, and will always be looking for nearby nodes of the same network (in this case, the global network of Kuwait), until it connects to a node, be it mobile or edge.

True, this makes no true value, unless deployed at a massive scale.