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News from the world of maths: Taking a leaf out of Nature's book

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Taking a leaf out of Nature's book

Computer networks, connecting people, organisations and places, are becoming increasingly complex. So complex, in fact, that many are starting to buckle under their load. The huge amount of information sent through networks and the increasing complexity of this information can overwhelm particular nodes in the network, and before you know it your files have disappeared or your printer connection has failed.

Nature, on the other hand, has no such problems: ant colonies and bee hives are networks of thousands of individuals engaged in complicated communal tasks, and evolution has made sure that these networks function perfectly. The BISON project, funded under the European Commission's FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) initiative of the IST programme, has been set up to learn from these little animals.

The project takes its inspiration from the techniques used by ants to find their way to and from food sources, and by fireflies' ability to synchronise their flashing. Using computer models of these animals' behaviour, the project scientists developed algorithms that can optimally route information through a constantly changing network, and synchronise important network functions.

Although most of the project's work is not yet ready for commercial use, initial tests seem very promising. Maybe a bug in the system isn't that bad after all. To find out more read the IST's news release.

posted by Plus @ 1:26 PM

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