Columbia University – At its core the Internet has “waterfalls of bandwidth,” Bergman says, and should be able to handle the traffic. But traffic jams start as the volumes of information travel through narrower channels controlled by various Internet service providers.
The current optical fibers can’t recognize what kind of data is coming through; when congestion hits, they are not able to prioritize traffic.
Bergman’s alternative model would insert a sort of smart switching system—think of trains coming into a station and being routed depending on where they’re going.
In her Lightwave Research Laboratory, Bergman has set up circuit boards with fiber optic nodes designed to represent miniature slices of the Internet. The nodes are programmed to read data and direct it depending on what it is. In a perfect scenario, Bergman’s smart switching system could prioritize the hundreds of gigabytes carrying a medical video conference over the kilobytes of routine emails.
Bergman’s research has captured the attention of industry. Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs and AT&T Research are collaborating with Bergman’s team on modeling these in their existing systems to see whether it could work on a larger scale