As some of you who know me closely know — Tom and I have moved onto new things from Redtree. It was one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on — and I love robotics, but we couldn’t raise the money we needed to continue. Maybe someday I’ll write in more detail about that.
Since then, I’ve joined a great new company in Maple Ridge, BC called Left. I was sought out specifically because of my expertise in wireless networking. I have joined as the “Chief Networking Scientist” — a job title which I’ve never actually heard of before until I was offered the job — but it intrigued me.
I was also intrigued by the idea, the vision and team. The project I have joined is called Yo! and it was created to solve a problem felt by their in development team. Part of the team is based in Bangladesh and has regular calls with the Maple Ridge office. However, when one person in their office uses Skype, the connection slows to a crawl preventing everyone from doing basic tasks such as messaging and sharing files — severely hindering their ability to be productive. To solve their own problem they created an app that made it simple to create a local Wi-Fi hotspot and send messages and files directly without using the Internet like so many of the current tools require.
The biggest limitation right now is that everyone needs to needs to be physically close to the person who has created the Wi-Fi hotspot. Imagine if people could be spread out across a whole city and still communicate with each other without using the Internet. This is what I have joined Left to help build. There are many companies trying to connect people — to the Internet, and very few simply trying to connect people together.
For those of you who don’t know my background — I have spent years working on this type of technology. My MSc. was in wireless mesh networks, and I spent my time building simulations and implementing protocols that I designed on real equipment. I wrote a book chapter on green communications and co-authored one on autonomous and pervasive networking. I continued on to my PhD in heterogeneous wireless networks where my focus was on measuring and comparing the performance of all of the connectivity options available to us on modern devices — Should I use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 4G? Which Wi-Fi network? Can I use them all at once? I continued working on similar ideas for connected robots and machines with the work I was doing with Redtree. Now the focus is on connecting people.
There are some unique challenges now compared with what I’m used to. I’m used to developing where everything is possible. On computers running Linux, on a robotic platform that we were in complete control of. With the devices people use, however, things are necessarily more locked down. Working within the constraints of the Android and iOS platforms, there are a few goals:
Always connect to the best possible network. This might be the cheapest, fastest, lowest delay, most reliable, most secure, or some combination of a variety of factors depending on the application, the user, the network or some combination of these.
Connect people with other people, content, apps, ideas, services, payments & advertisements. This seems straightforward — but remember we are doing all of this within the limitation of not being connected to the Internet — or at least not being connected to the Internet all of the time.
Make it easy to use. Things should be automatic. As little configuration as possible. Intuitive to use. (From the network side — I can help — from the UI/UX side we have some really smart people doing awesome stuff here)
That’s really it — for now. There’s actually a lot to it underneath the hood and big things coming but I can’t give away any of the magic ;)