University of Toronto Engineering professor aims to reimagine the internet

For J.J. Garcia-Luna-Aceves, the networks that make up the internet – both the physical layer of routers and switches, as well as the protocols and algorithms that distribute data – hold unused intelligence with the potential to foster major advances.

“The internet we are using today was designed 54 years ago. I mean, I wouldn’t drive a 50-year-old car. But that’s what people are doing,” says Garcia-Luna-Aceves, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Edward S. Rogers Sr. department of electrical and computer engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “There have been adjacent technological advancements over the years in radios, machine learning and the like. But the main algorithms used in the internet protocol stack haven’t followed suit.”

Garcia-Luna-Aceves was this week appointed a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Intelligent Digital Infrastructures, a position that will help him explore and tap into the resources that lie “under the hood” of computer networks. Awarded by the Government of Canada, the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) program aims to fund ambitious research projects that help position Canada as a global leader in innovation.

Garcia-Luna-Aceves points to the smartphone’s upward trajectory as a counterexample to that of the internet.

“Your smartphone is intelligent,” he says. “What makes it so? To act intelligently, one needs memory. Endowing network entities with vast amounts of memory capacity would allow us to rethink the routing protocols that are the backbone of the internet.”

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