Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wireless Grids

I originally wrote this entry on August 9, 2004 and published it on

The July / August 2004 issue of the Internet Computing focuses on wireless grids. (You need to have a subscription to view all the articles but the guest editors' introduction is available online.)

Just like other grids, wireless grids are a type of resource-sharing network. As the introduction points out

Following Metcalfe's law, grid-based resources become more valuable as the number of devices and users increases . . . In some ways, wireless grids resemble networks already found in connection with agricultural, military, transportation, air-quality, environmental, health, emergency, and security systems. A range of institutions, from the largest governments to very small enterprises, will own and at least partially control wireless grids. To make things still more complex for researchers and business strategists, users and producers could sometimes be one and the same. Devices on the wireless grid will be not only mobile but nomadic--shifting across institutional boundaries.

The guest editors identify three classes of applications:

  • Class 1: Applications aggregating information from the range of input/output interfaces found in nomadic devices.
  • Class 2: Applications leveraging the locations and contexts in which the devices exist.
  • Class 3: Applications leveraging the mesh network capabilities of groups of nomadic devices.

The authors also note three salient features of wireless grids that help distinguish them from wireline and traditional, computer grids.

  • new (grid) resources,
  • new (non-traditional) places of use, and
  • new institutional ownership and control patterns.

Most of these features exist because the vast majority of wireless devices are currently mobile devices. These devices may be geo-location-aware and can cross various geographic and institutional boundaries.

The guest editors' introduction is quite a good read. It outlines the types of resources wireless devices bring to networks and tracks the institutional changes, from centralization to decentralization, which have led to the evolution from the mainframe to the PC and to the handheld.

Note that this evolution, particularly the move from PCs to handhelds does not mean that servers are a by-gone conclusion. Much of the smarts in handhelds can only be deployed in real world scenarios if they are connected to a wealth of server-based content, applications and intelligent networks. So, servers are here to stay even if the "decentralization" process the authors hold as responsible for the evolution to mobile devices continue to persist.

1 comment:

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