The intersection of cognitive radio and social networking
I am becoming increasingly interested in the intersection of cognitive radio and social networking. By this I do not mean I am interested in which social networking applications may be enabled by cognitive radios. Rather I am interested instead in how cognitive radios might form their own social networks – have their own ‘digital lives’ so to speak. To tease this out I am working on the concept of two fictitious applications called Flitter and Spacebook. In my world cognitive radios would have Flitter and Spacebook accounts.
The Spacebook account is easiest to describe so I will begin with this. Every radio would have its own database (Spacebook) in which it would store everything to do with its functionality, its likes and dislikes, its history etc. This is not a big step from what happens today – as was well publicised recently the iPhone has been tracking every move it makes! This information can be used to help the phone configure itself appropriately for the circumstances in which it finds itself. Phones of the future, rather than be created for use in a specific set of circumstance (e.g. specific frequency bands, power levels, waveforms) , would reconfigure to suit whatever conditions they encounter. Self-knowledge (in terms of hardware and software capabilities and limitations) would be important in this process.
The description thus far is a description of a Spacebook account that might be privately used by the radio itself to carry out unilateral actions – in other words to do what suits that radio itself. However the real value of Spacebook is for communicating with ‘friends’. Your Spacebook account can help you communicate your status and feelings to the wider world.
I am a real fan of service and technology neutrality. For those who might not be familiar with this phrase, technology neutrality means that no frequency bands are set aside for specific services delivered by specific technologies. Hence the phrase TV Bands would make no sense in my world or 3G spectrum or Wifi bands. Spectrum would just be spectrum. There would be no singling out of bands for ‘uplink technologies’ and ‘downlink technologies’. There would be no need to refarm spectrum as technologies and services become obsolete. In this world any two networks can be spectral or spatial neighbours. Convergence is driving service neutrality in so far as we all watch TV on the Internet or make phone calls from a myraid of platforms using all sorts of different frequencies. So there is movement on the service neutrality front but technology neutrality has a long way to go. Regulators increasingly make spectrum available on a technology neutral basis now of course which is great BUT at the same time we are still stuck in the old ways – for example there is much talk of LTE bands these days. Which LTE bands will be released next and where??
Back to Spacebook and away from the tangent! In my opinion true technology neutrality can only be achieved at the cost of being open about your feelings. You will need to expose how sensitive you are, whether you are in a committed relationship or whether you are up for playing around, who you can tolerate as neighbours, your flaws and your tastes. This is were the real value of Spacebook emerges. It allows this kind of expression as part of a negotiation process in the formation of networks and more importantly in the growth of neighbouring networks. You take account of the sensitivity of those around you, you negotiate with those in your own network and in neighbouring networks to make the best use of whatever spectral resources you find yourself exploiting – whether those be resources you have long term or temporarily. You make sure that you do not unnecessarily hurt the feelings (cause interference) of others. Or of course you block radios with incompatible features or who are oversensitive from becoming part of your network (of friends). Used in this way, Spacebook facilitates multilateral actions – actions that involve many parties and need to take account of different perspectives. It allows for the process of learning from the neighbours.
In general phones are increasingly making use of more and more information. Information about the phone itself and the environment in which it finds itself. Baris, one of the researchers in my group, was in fact just discussing with me how LTE phones will require the collecting of way richer statistics about their environment in the future. There are many imaginative possibilities for making use of a rich database. Afterall we humans spend much of our lives accessing one database or another or actively and passively creating the databases we access. Why should the radios of the future not be more like us?
I will get back to Flitter another day …