The Promise of a Better Connected Digital World

Burt Kaliski | Jul 02, 2012

Earlier this year, Verisign announced its 2012 Internet Infrastructure Grant program, which called for proposals for basic research with “potential to improve the availability and security of Internet access in all parts of the world.”  Two proposals would be selected based on criteria of relevance, innovation, feasibility, and overall quality.

It’s my honor now to announce that the program’s distinguished judging panel has reached its decisions.  The awards will go to:

  • Converged, Secure Mobile Communication Support Through Infrastructure-opportunistic, DHT-based Network Services led by Prof. Z. Morley Mao, University of Michigan (United States) and Prof. Cui Yong, Tsinghua University (China)
  • Downscaling Entity Registries for Poorly-Connected Environments led by Prof. Dr. Philippe Cudré-Mauroux, Director, eXascale Infolab, University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and Dr. Christophe Guéret, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
The panel’s decision was not an easy one, as there were many excellent proposals among the 24 submitted for the grants – a good illustration of the importance that some of the Internet’s top researchers are placing on the challenges of global Internet access. 

I’m pleased to see that both proposals involve collaboration across borders, an arrangement Verisign had encouraged due to the perspective it could offer on broadening Internet access globally.  The participation of Tsinghua University, in particular, offers direct insight into the large rural regions of China that are now coming online.

Both proposals challenge assumptions about what it means to be “connected” to the Internet.  Among several topics, the first proposal considers the case where mobile users only occasionally have high-speed data connections.  To compensate, the communications need to be “opportunistic,” anticipating what the user will need to send or receive in those occasions when the user can acquire a high-speed connection.  The second proposal looks at a related case where mobile users can connect to one another’s devices, but not always to the global Internet.  In that case, the users also need a local registry for the objects and services they are sharing.

The research is important because it follows a trend that is likely to continue as more users throughout the world become part of the “virtual neighborhood” enabled by the Internet.  Users, especially in more remote regions, will be connected, but not necessarily the same way all the time.  And they will want to connect to others in their communities, regardless of whether that connection goes through the traditional “Internet.”

The remarkable success of the Internet is a result of many years of basic research in communications, networking, computer science and other fields.  These four leading researchers and their students will continue that legacy as they study and recommend new techniques for expanding Internet access over the next year under these awards.  Their findings will be presented at a Verisign symposium planned for Fall 2013.

Congratulations to the two awardees, and thanks to each of the submitters who took the time to prepare summaries of their research and participate in the process.  A special thanks to the judging panel for the many hours of thoughtful review and deliberation, and  to Verisign Labs Research Director Scott Hollenbeck, who coordinated the submission and selection process.  All these contributions play an essential part in the pursuit of this research, and thus in the promise of a better connected digital world.