Get Ready for Social TV

A novel type of network design could make wireless networks more efficient and more secure.

Whereas traditional networks leave packets of information undisturbed, a technique called “network coding” mixes the contents of different packets together. “Because each hybrid packet in some sense represents the contents of more than one regular packet, the method can end up saving bandwidth,” according to MIT News.

MIT researchers found that the method could increase the data capacity of a network threefold. (MIT isn’t the only institution concerned with increasing the efficiency of the digital world; see our earlier looks at pioneers in “green software.”) And since the packets are scrambled, the method also has built-in encryption.

The new technology has friends in an unlikely place: 30 Rockefeller Plaza. NBC is interested in network coding because it has the capacity to solve several problems at once. Network coding helps ease the bandwidth strain on a network; it could help synchronize video streaming to several devices; and it could help protect both NBC’s (or another network’s) content, as well as the privacy of the end user.

Each of these are puzzles that need to be solved before we can usher in an era of “social TV”–a vision of multiple people on multiple devices, all streaming the same shows and chatting at once.

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[Image: Flickr user lazzarello]DZ