Robert D. Poor
Personal Information Architecture Group
MIT Media Laboratory
Research in the Things That Think consortium at the MIT Media Lab focuses on the boundaries between atoms and bits. The work of the Personal Information Architecture group, of which I am a member, examines how everyday objects will find expression on digital networks. As an example, there are now Coke machines with 2 way pagers that can announce their inventory to the soda delivery van. This saves the delivery guy a huge amount of time.
As part of this investigation, we're developing "Hyphos," a self-organizing wireless network. Hyphos has been created with the premise that high-density, low-cost networking will become an important market in the next few years.
The technologies that are most important to us are those that touch our lives on a daily basis. In thinking about the future of computer networks, its instructive to consider another major network: the telephone system.
Telephones have made a huge difference in our lives, but the change didn't happen all at once. The advent of the first telephone in your home town might have made front page news in the local newspaper, but didn't significantly change the way you conducted business or lived your life. But now that the telephones are essentially ubiquitous, they've become part of the way we work and live.
The point is that it's the density, not the number of connections, that makes a real difference. The same is true of computer networks.