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A New Language For Phone Networks

By Technology Review

August 31, 2009

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University of Cambridge professor Jon Crowcroft is leading a research effort to change how cell phones send information by creating peer-to-peer mobile device networks, or pocket-switched networks, that would enable cell phone users to send information directly to each other. This type of ad hoc network could allow victims of a natural disaster to continue to communicate even if cell towers are knocked out, for example. Crowcroft hopes that people will develop a wide range of applications should the technology take off.

The University of Cambridge researchers recently unveiled the D3N programming language, which is designed to capitalize on the inherent characteristics and simplicity of pocket-switched networks, including asynchronous communications and simple-to-express queries. The declarative language allows programmers to focus on the application logic instead of the algorithms that are unique to pocket-switched networks. "One of the goals is to keep it very simple so that people can make very complex, very interesting applications easily," Crowcroft says.

D3N is based on Microsoft's F# project, and adds concurrency control to handle the ad hoc nature of sending data between a variable number of asynchronous nodes. Unlike other cell phone ad hoc networking languages, D3N includes knowledge on how pocket-switched networks operate, making programming for such networks simpler, and making it easier to test applications written in D3N, Crowcroft says.

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