2067: “Every square centimetre will produce data”
© Inria / Photo H. Raguet
Hervé Rivano is head of the Agora team, at the Inria centre in Grenoble. His field of study: autonomous networks in an urban context. As the institute celebrates its 50 years, he gives us his vision of the future of this subject.
Hervé Rivano:“Up until now, we had always asked ourselves how we could do more: more throughput, more speed, more users...For example, we need very powerful networks for virtual reality or augmented reality.
However, with the arrival of nano- and micro-technologies and the Internet of Things, all of this is now changing. We have a high density of connected objects or entities that do not require a lot of throughput. In the end, instead of having a few users asking for network access for considerable resources, we will have a lot of users requesting access to a bit of network.
We are currently still witnessing the early stages of the Internet of Things. We are trying to get something that is very dense and transmits a small amount of data to work. The next stage is more than a question of density, it is about continuity.
Researchers have already succeeded in producing nanosensors that are embedded in concrete. Ultimately, we will create materials that will generate and transmit data without any additional equipment.
Subsequently, how do we take this data, transmit it, and manage it? And what would become of the network? We are currently modelling networks using discrete mathematical tools, such as graphs. With a continuous network, we will have to use other types of mathematics, other objects with totally different uses.
Tomorrow, each square centimetre of the world will therefore be in the process of producing or transmitting data.
This boom of the Internet of Things raises questions that are still far from being resolved, such as the issue of security.
And, if we really want to increase the number of connected objects, we will also have to ask ourselves about energy optimisation. Today, a developed country already spends between 1 and 3% of its energy on telecommunications. If we continue in this way, we are going to have to build nuclear power stations solely for the Internet of Things.
Finally, the major change is that we are going to make the transition from a network with external users to a network that is intrinsically linked to human activity. Thus the analysis and design of solutions will no longer take place without taking the human aspect into account. For each network deployed, there is specific town planning, population density, mobilities, flows and cultural choices that mean people use the network at a particular moment...From a methodological perspective, this will change quite a few things.”
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Agora: a focus on urban networks
The Agora team focuses on autonomous networks. In particular, it is looking to put in place mechanisms enabling their easy deployment.
“We are looking to make networks operate in difficult, dynamic or high-density contexts”.
To do this, the team is studying one applicative field in particular: cities. “This is an interesting field for several reasons. For a start, because the majority of the world's population lives in towns and cities. That is where we find the highest density of technology users. And then because smart cities are developing. This requires having the most efficient network solutions possible.”
At Agora, the researchers take into account data that are carried in the way networks are studied. It is an innovative approach. “Normally we take the network into account, disregarding what it is carrying. Here, the idea is to optimise it depending on its use.”