|iNetS: Looking Towards Future Networks and Networked Systems |
The Center for Intelligent Networked Systems (iNetS) was established in 2006 as a Stevens Institute Research Center focussed on the systematic embedding of intelligence through networked systems to achieve capabilities extending well beyond the primarily end-to-end data delivery services of today's networks. Today's network infrastructure is a highly heterogeneous collection of connected networks, ranging from simple low level networks such as sensor array networks through local area networks serving a modest number of end users to backbone networks providing service across long distances. Most of these types of networks have evolved from earlier versions. The backbone network evolved from the traditional telephone long-haul telephone system, transitioning from voice-dominated to today's data-dominated backbone networks with extraordinary data transfer rates and performance driven metrics. The local area networks have evolved from the earlier Internet technologies to handle the far wider range of data types being transmitted and the far wider use throughout industry and the public. Wireless networks have evolved rapidly from rather primitive and bulky units to today's compact and highly flexible transceivers. The emergence of wireless communications as a major disruptive change in personal communications is clear to all. Less clear to many are the powerful new applications enabled by allowing communications without physical wires. The overall system of networks seen today reflects the distinctive advantages (and disadvantages) of the three types - wireline, optical, and wireles. It is unlikely that the future will see a convergence towards a single type, leaving the overall network as heterogeneous not only in performance but also in the physical links over which data travels. New applications are quickly emerging as the transition from primarily voice communications to the rich combination of voice, data, multimedia, and other types of information continues to expand in types and in uses.
A major challenge facing future networks will be how to establish a cooperating and intelligent infrastructure of networks and attached equipment such that networks are highly interoperable and communications services are readily adaptable to a wide range of different needs, including issues related to security of information flowing across the network; security of computers, PDA's, cell phones, and other attached computing/information units. The Center for Intelligent Networked Systems envisions a future in which the many levels and types of networks are endowed with significant intelligence through which they can operate to provide security, reliability, interoperability, customization, and other features as an intrinsic feature of the network itself, rather than expecting such capabilities to be provided by the end users. Embedding of specialized hardware, software, or a combination of hardware & software throughout the network infrastructure provides a smooth pathway for evolution from today's networks to the more intelligent networks of the future. Retaining the well-established foundation for delivery of information/data, this evolutionary path provides a rich area for investigation as well as application to real networks (without having to replace the existing network infrastructure). Although such capabilities for embedded intelligence would not have been possible earlier due to the limited capabilities of microelectronics and computers, today's advanced microelectronic systems, software systems, and sophisticated protocols combine to provide a clear path into the future.