Urban sensing, community (wireless) networks, intelligent edges & social tagging (Part IV or X)


Wireless AP feature set for an Intelligent Edge for a flexible sensor information fabric

Now, we come back full circle, idea to social dimension to architecture back to technology! From a technological capability point-of-view, we need a few well chosen “intelligent edge” primitives embedded in a device.

In a wireless community network, the AP is the best choice; or an embedded system which hangs off of the AP would suffice.

Let us look at them in random order ;o)
a)An Intelligent Edge should participate as a first order sensor network device
While a gateway could pass as a conduit, it will not be able to understand, and act as a control/management plane for a sensor network. This is essential when we are looking at “native” interfacing between the internet and the sensor network fabric. As we discussed earlier, an intelligent edge need to perform functions like sensor clustering, data-centric routing and Local collaborative in-network information processing.

Of all the feature sets this is one of the toughest ones – the device needs to talk many wireless protocols like 802.11, 802.15.4, 802.16, … It also needs to understand Layer 2 and Layer 3 variations of the above and be able to converse the static and mobile network protocols with all the security primitives thereof ! I am hoping for a single chip with all of the above! Of course, seriously, we might not be able to get a single chip, but a set of chips that address groups of the functionality and then we can mix and match. Also we could implement some parts, either in firmware or as software overlays.
And we need to get all in a $100-range for consumer-class and as a part of bigger offering for the enterprise-class and carrier-class devices.

b)An Intelligent Edge should be capable of injecting context information into the fabric
The figure 1 in CENS Research project TENET (http://research.cens.ucla.edu/projects/2006/Systems/Tenet/default.htm) depicts the intelligent edge concept. The Urban sensing project from REMAP http://research.cens.ucla.edu/projects/2006/Systems/Urban_Sensing/ has some very specific requirements for an Intelligent Edge.
b.1) Location & time
The two pieces that an edge device can authoritatively declare are location and time ! As the Urban Sensing proposal eloquently says “location and time are key elements of context that can be attested to by the network itself. Essential to building space-time semantics into the network fabric is the ability for the network to verifiably measure location and time of a device when it injects a packet into the network”
b.2) Cloud functionalities – discovery, naming, resolving end point location
There will be thousands of sensors distributed over a geographical position and it is impractical to visit each one of then for configuration and command control. Moreover, if we want to address the sensors for policy enforcement, we need naming, discovery and related primitives.
c)An Intelligent Edge should be able to act as an edge policy intermediary
A policy intermediary is a big word, with lots of nuances – even the word policy will bring an army of folks with different interpretations … From this perspective, I defer to my esteemed colleague John who says :
“The key is packet/message classification i.e. be able get info all the way from MAC address and VLAN to SOAP Header/Xpath. Provide the ability to use the classification by a declarative policy framework that works with the message classification (abstracted such that new protocols can be seamlessly added), with an interface to allow applications to inject policy into the network. Add an extensible services framework to allow the addition of execution elements to the policy ( the E in PEP) and we are home free.”
d)An Intelligent Edge should be able to implement policy based context derived privacy
A major concern of any sensor network information fabric is privacy. An essential feature is the resolution control of data publishing, enabling selective sharing of information. Quoting from the Urban Sensing project “the edges of the proposed architecture must be capable of deliberately reducing the fidelity of the context information it measures (location, time) or derives from sensor values, and it must do so differently for different subscribers.
e)An Intelligent Edge should perform all these functions with primitives native to sensor networks – including power conservation, power awareness, optimum verbosity, Self-forming and self-organizing, self-healing, …
f)An Intelligent Edge should be an orthogonally extensible platform
Finally, we cannot achieve #a) thru #e) above with out the flexibility and capability to add things over a platform. It definitely is not an unbounded server platform but a facility to add behaviors either influenced by policies or activated by some form of scripts. Any involved functionality would need to be added outside the platform based on some network protocols and leveraging existing capabilities. Again referring to our esteemed colleague John “Focus this on open protocols and allow new protocols to be added using a descriptive language. With the basics you can start addressing most problems – the key is to get the basics right and then build on it with application partners in both industry and academia.”

  • I think we have discussed the essential fundamentals of what an intelligent edge would like in many dimensions and how a wireless AP can be one.
  • Intelligent Edge = Network protocols + Algorithmics + Context + Declarative Policies
  • Thoughts ?
  • Insights ?
  • Counter-arguments ?
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