Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 May 2011
Over the next ten-to-fifteen years, it is anticipated that significant qualitative changes to the Internet will be driven by the rapid proliferation of mobile and wireless computing devices. Wireless devices on the Internet will include laptop computers, personal digital assistants, cell phones (more than 3.5 billion in use as of 2009 and growing!), portable media players, and so on, along with embedded sensors used to sense and control real-world objects and events (see Figure 1.1). As mobile computing devices and wireless sensors are deployed in large numbers, the Internet will increasingly serve as the interface between people moving around and the physical world that surrounds them. Emerging capabilities for opportunistic collaboration with other people nearby or for interacting with physical-world objects and machines via the Internet will result in new applications that will influence the way people live and work. The potential impact of the future wireless Internet is very significant because the network combines the power of cloud computation, search engines, and databases in the background with the immediacy of information from mobile users and sensors in the foreground. The data flows and interactions between mobile users, sensors, and their computing support infrastructure are clearly very different from that of today's popular applications such as email, instant messaging, or the World Wide Web.
As a result, one of the broad architectural challenges facing the network research community is that of evolving or redesigning the Internet architecture to incorporate emerging wireless technologies – efficiently, and at scale.