Jonathan Zittrain on Mesh Networks

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on July 10, 2012

Jonathan Zittrain says our phones are basically two-way radios in his discussion with John Moe about mesh networks. In the America Public Media’s Marketplace story, “What if you used other people to connect instead of Verizon or AT&T?,” Professor Zittrain of Harvard University suggests “we could use those radios to talk to one another, and kind of like the way you pass beer at a Red Sox game, across the row from one person to another, we could get data moved that way too.”
Though Professor Zittrain doesn't see mesh networking making mobile carriers obsolete, in some scenarios it could come in handy.
Zittrain: If a tsunami should come through or a hurricane or some kind of attack, and the usual networks are down – you can't get a cell signal or you can't get broadband anymore the usual ways, we still all have our two-way radios.
Moe: So how do we use them in that scenario?
Zittrain: Suppose your phone had a copy of your Facebook credentials on it. And if trouble comes through, and there's no easy way to communicate, you either have a brick in your hand – it's just useless, or you can talk to other people near you, who in turn – their phone can talk to other phones near them, and you get this sort of local net going. And then you say, "are any of my Facebook friends nearby?" You could see that as being very useful in times of trouble – to communicate and to locate people who want help.
Read or listen to the full story.