Can crowdsourcing be used to monitor the Internet?

Northwestern University researchers have developed a system that gives a heads up about traffic problems on the Internet, where there is no central management system.

Their Network Early Warning System (NEWS), which latches on to a popular BitTorrent client, is designed to spot problems by encouraging feedback from end users who are experiencing problems.

"You can think of it as crowd sourcing network monitoring," said Fabián Bustamante, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (He's working on the system with doctoral student David Choffne.).

Northwestern's AquaLab describes NEWS this way:

The main goal of this plugin is to reliably find problems in the network and raise alerts about them. As a user, you want to be sure that you are getting the service that you're paying for and be notified quickly about network problems, especially those that can lead to compensation for service interruption. For ISPs, this software helps to quickly localize and identify network problems so they can be fixed more rapidly and make users happy. 

More than 13,000 users have installed beta NEWS code. Bustamante has a good track record with BitTorrent users, who have already gobbled up Ono, a plug-in that speeds up peer-to-peer interactions.

The researchers are building a NEWS portal for network providers as well so they can see at a glance what issues end users are reporting.


More must-reads from Bob Brown:


* 25 radical network research projects you should know about


* What "The Sopranos" taught me about technology (plus our Sopranos tech quiz)


* Behind the scenes of MIT's network


* What makes Harvard's net tick


* The network industry's most colorful story ever

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