The Internet in its present form was originally conceived as a way of transmitting simple communications like email.
As Internet infrastructure has evolved ever more rapidly, we have gone from text to online video games and live video streaming in just a few short decades.
“We know the internet needs reinventing,” says Dimitra Simeonidou at the University of Bristol. “It was originally designed for basic communication like email, and now we want 4K video available to us standing on the street.”
So what is being done to give the Internet its much-needed makeover?
The Dark Age of Dialup
I’ve been fortunate enough to see mainstream consumer-level Internet pretty much from its inception.
I can still remember visiting an Internet café in London and paying for 30 minutes of dialup access; just about enough time to figure out how to navigate Internet Explorer and oh… so… slowly load up a few images on a Simpsons fan site.
Moving forward a few years and being able to stream videos – but not without having to pause and allow YouTube to buffer first – was nothing short of amazing!
Now in 2017 we’ve got researchers like Dr. Toktam Mahmoodi talking about combining emerging telecom technologies with robotics to enable remote surgery on patients.
“I work with a surgeon who takes a train to Leeds once a week to perform robotic surgery, but he wouldn’t need to go there if the internet was better.” says Dr. Mahmoodi, “He could do the same procedure remotely, saving lots of time and effort.”
Straight Outta Slough
Given the interconnectedness of the Internet, it is hardly feasible for us to start messing around with an infrastructure that just about everyone uses on a daily basis.
It is impossible to roll out 5G or high speed light-based Li-Fi on a large enough scale to know with any certainty that they will stand up to the demands and environmental variables associated with entire cities or even countries.
With this in mind, researchers are using a server in Slough, Berkshire as a base for testing new ideas.
Researchers from the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Lancaster, and King’s College London will run their experiments. “We’ve rented high-speed fibre-optic cables to connect all of the different institutions, controlled from a server in Slough,” Dimitra Simeonidou continues, “We will be connecting everything from smart cities to 5G mobile internet.”
This provides an isolated environment that researchers can test ideas on without the fear of, well, breaking the Internet.
The researchers are utilising technologies which for the most part already exist, but the difference here is the scale on which they can now be tested.
Whatever the results of these experiments, something needs to change.
The Internet infrastructure is well overdue for a big overhaul if we are ever going to see the dawn of remote robotic surgery and 4K live streaming from the beach.
We can’t wait to see what the next few years hold in store, especially as concepts such as the Internet of Things continue to develop.