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mobile mesh == ad hoc networks

Now, this really, really pissed me off.

Russ pointed to an article/press release on Mistubishi, about a technology they "developed". Here is an excerpt:

What Mitsubishi has developed, is the prototype of a relay-type mobile communications technology, called Mobile Telecommunications Radio and Relay Network (MOTERAN). The basic patent has been already granted in Europe and Japan and has been applied for in major countries around the world. Unlike conventional mobile communications, MOTERAN allows each terminal to act as a relay point communicating with other terminals without the requirement for infrastructure, such as base stations or switches. This could be known as peer to peer networking.
Russ's comments are good. My problem has nothing to do with his post of anything he said.

What pissed me off is the article itself, and Mistubishi's pretense that this is new, or innovative or whatever. In fact, what Mitsubishi describes there is an ad hoc network. (Disclaimer: part of my PhD thesis has to do with ad hoc networks.) Mitsubishi's work is derivative (friendly term for "outright ripoff") and they should acknowledge it, but of course they don't, going as far as using buzzword-terms to deflect attention and get media interest. On top of that, they got a patent on it! I wonder what the patent says. Here is the original press release from Mitsubishi, which says that "the technology on which their development is based was invented in Germany in 1996." Really? Here is a link from CiteSeer for a paper that described DSR (Dynamic Source Routing protocol), one of the best known dynamic self-organizing protocols for ad hoc networks. And the paper is... from 1996. This wasn't the first paper on the topic, no (See below).

Ad Hoc Networks have been under development for several years, both in universities and corporations such as Ericsson (as part of research efforts and commercial efforts as well). There's an ACM Conference, MobiHoc (which has existed since the year 2000), that deals specifically with the topic of ad hoc networks. Ad Hoc routing protocols have been under heavy R&D since the early 90s. The idea that any one person or company can get a patent on something as generic as what is described in the "article" is laughable. Sure, they might patent some work based on it, maybe even some particular algorithm (although my understanding is that actual algorithms can't be patented--only copyrighted, and that what you can patent is the process described by the algorithm if anything. I might be off-base with that). But patenting the concept? David Johnson, one of the researchers who created DSR, has a page with previous publications on the topic of ad hoc mobile networks that date back to 1994, which proves that the research was ongoing well before that date.

In fact, hey, why talk about "pie-in-the-sky" research at all? IETF has a group called Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANET) which has been working for years on standarizing protocols for dynamic, self-organizing routing. The earliest posts for IETF drafts date back to late 1997!

Okay, okay, maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe they never claimed to have invented the whole field. But they make it sound like it. It's disgusting when a company does that. It's even worse when trade publications repeat their news releases like parrots, confusing everybody, without even checking the facts.

Categories: science, technology
Posted by diego on March 2 2003 at 11:30 PM

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