Section: Overall Objectives

Overall Objectives

The INFINE proposal aims to design and analyse novel communication paradigms, protocols and architectures based on concepts of ultra distributed, information- and user-centric networking. The project is motivated by the recent and forthcoming evolution of Internet uses. Based on an information- and user-centric perspective, not only does it address issues pertaining to physical communication networks such as traffic routing, regulation and caching, but also issues about online social networks such as content recommendation and privacy protection.

INFINE team is engaged in research along three main themes: Online social networking, Traffic and Resource Management, and Spontaneous Wireless Networks. All these research activities encompass both theoretical research (on elaboration of models, algorithms, protocols and formal characterization of their performance), and applied research (to validate and/or experiment the proposed concepts against real networking scenarios). INFINE fits in the theme ”Networks and Telecommunications” of the research field ”Networks, Systems and Services, Distributed Computing” at Inria.

New challenging demands

Nowadays, we use networks not only to transport information from where it resides to ourselves but also, with online social networks, to determine what information might be of interest to us. Such a social recommendation functionality holds the promise of allowing us to access more relevant information. At the same time there is ample scope for improving its efficiency. Moreover it creates threats to user privacy.

At the same time, the physical context in which we access communication networks has drastically changed. While in the past, Internet was mostly accessed through fixed desktop computers, users are now mobile about 50% of their time online. In addition, while communicating machines used to be sparse and wired, with the advent of the Internet of Things we now evolve in a dense, interconnected environment of heterogeneous devices communicating via wireless and/or via wires.

This new context of Internet uses challenges several aspects of currently deployed networks. Some aspects pertain to the physical architecture of the Internet. In particular, at the core of the Internet, a drastic increase in volume of data traffic is anticipated due to the emergence of new applications, generalization of cloud services, or the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications. On the other hand, at the edge of the Internet, user mobility and today's pervasiveness of computing devices with increasingly higher capabilities (i.e., processing, storage, sensing) have a fundamental impact on the adequacy of algorithms and communication mechanisms.

Other aspects concern the logical architecture of the network. For instance, currently deployed protocols at layers above IP must now carry massive publish-subscribe traffic, preserve user privacy, be social-aware, and support delay tolerant communications and paradigms for which they were not initially designed. Concerning actual content distribution, the avalanche of data and privacy concerns puts more and more pressure on filter/push mechanisms to provide users with relevant information.

While considering physical and logical aspects of networks, the INFINE team will pursue research activities combining theoretical and experimental approaches.

Research agenda

Our general goal is to develop distributed mechanisms for optimizing the operation of networks both at the mentioned logical and physical levels of the architecture. Taking an information- and user-centric perspective, we envision networks as means to convey relevant information to users, while adapting to customary practices (in terms of context, interests, or content demands) of such users. At the logical level, online social networks (OSNs) allow users to choose what information to access. At the physical level, communication, computation, and memory resources allow users to retrieve some content eventually selected on the basis of the online social network.

The two setups feature scarce resources: for instance, in OSNs, these are the users' budget of attention, which must be used sparingly by recommending only relatively few potential content items. At the physical level this is typically the channels' capacity or networking resources, which cannot be oversubscribed.

Beyond a formal resemblance between the optimizations that one must carry at these two levels, there is a strong commonality in the methods adequate for conducting optimizations in the two setups. To illustrate this point, consider contact recommendation, that is a key objective in our agenda on online social networks. This entails automatically proposing to users potential contacts for optimizing the subsequent efficiency of social content filtering. We envision addressing contact recommendation by first performing some community detection, i.e. identification of similarly behaving users. Similarly, at the physical level, user-centric approaches, sometimes also related to community detection, have guided routing decisions in challenged network environments, where delay-tolerant networking is used. Still, associated with dynamic centrality metrics, community detection can guide the replication of a specific content in well-selected users, while exploiting the advantages of distributed decentralized storage and opportunistic communications.

As an additional example at the logical level, we consider content recommendation, whereby a list of potential contents is filtered before being presented to a user, with the aim of maximizing the chance this user finds an item of interest therein. This has an exact analogue at the physical level, where by taking an information- and user-centric approach, we intend to off-load communication resources via pre-loaded content replicas at various storage points in the network. The problem of determining which content to cache so as to maximize the chance of it being accessed in the vicinity of the corresponding cache memory corresponds precisely to the aforementioned content recommendation problem.

We now detail further our agenda along three main specific axes, namely Online Social Networks, Traffic and Resource Management, and Spontaneous Wireless Networks/Internet of Things, bearing in mind that we will develop generic solutions relevant to several of these axes wherever possible.