Wireless network fixes itself

US researchers are to develop software to reconfigure autonomous networks in the wake of an unexpected problem or system error.

To help out, the Boston University researchers, Prof Christos Cassandras, Associate Prof Ioannis Paschalidis and Computer Science Prof Azer Bestavros, have been awarded a four-year, $2m Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) grant from the US National Science Foundation.

The grant, Cassandras said, will enable the researchers to develop software that will allow a network to reset itself after an unexpected technical problem or sudden changes in operating conditions.The main test bed for the research will be OpenAir Boston, a private, non-profit organisation that will oversee the impending wireless network over the city of Boston.

‘The goal is to develop a network that has the ability to automatically reconfigure itself,’ said Cassandras, the project’s principal investigator. ‘If a transceiver breaks down, a battery runs out or something fails because of weather, the network will have the capability to reconfigure itself and continue supporting its mission without anyone physically having to correct the problem.’

The opportunity to apply this research to a major urban environment like Boston impressed the National Science Foundation, Cassandras said.‘The fact that we had a test bed over the city of Boston was a unique idea,’ he said. ‘The idea itself is certainly different and ambitious, as is the collaborate effort of Boston University and a private industry like OpenAir Boston.’

Because the OpenAir Boston system will initially incorporate only basic capabilities of a wireless network, the grant will allow the network to add a reconfigurability feature that will incorporate extra intelligence otherwise difficult to do when the wireless network is fully operational.

‘This will help make the design robust from the beginning,’ Cassandras added.

Much of the grant’s research will be conducted by the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), a systems engineering collaboration between faculty from the College of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Management. CISE will be the main point of collaboration between Boston University and OpenAir Boston.