Many of today’s civilian communication technologies had their beginnings in battlefield communications. So it is always a good idea to keep an eye on what’s being developed for the military. Here is one that does away with the need for hubs.
MOBILE armies need mobile communications. Those communications, though, must be secure—and not just from eavesdropping. They also need to be uninterruptible. And that is a problem. Many mobile networks (think Wi-Fi routers or mobile-phone towers) operate via hubs. Destroy the hub and you destroy the network. Even a peer-to-peer system in which messages travel in a series of hops between nodes (in the form of the devices that comprise the system) rather than via a hub, can be degraded by a loss of nodes. Existing versions of such systems, which are usually static, rather than mobile, require each node to be set up individually, in advance, to talk to particular other nodes. Mobility brings a need for constant reconfiguration.
In theory such a system is possible. It is called MANET, an approximate acronym for mobile ad-hoc network. In practice, though, a workable MANET has proved impossible to design—until now.
First applications are likely to be in post disaster situations.