Send in your ideas. Deadline October 1, 2024
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Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2021-02
End: 2022-10


Local P2P mesh discovery of devices and users

How can you search for wireless devices near you to interact with, without other infrastructure present? The Irdest project allows devices such as laptops and smartphones to create wireless mesh networks over Bluetooth and direct WiFi connections, rather than relying on internet access via mobile networks, and traditional internet service providers. It decentralises the routing and peering mechanisms used to connect people together, to allow users to have more control over their digital lives. In addition to this, direct circuits in a Irdest network are end-to-end encrypted, meaning that data privacy is built into the protocol at a fundamental level.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Users have a right to internet access and should be sure that the rights they have offline are also protected online. The internet is not just a technology or a communication medium anymore, as these declarations from the United Nations show, it has become a crucial building block of our society, economy, democracy and the way we work, live and come together. But in practice, the right to internet access is still a privilege because connectivity definitely is not global (yet). Search and discovery is also unequally distributed: if you want to use one of the major search engines, your computer needs to connect to a server operated by this service provider. But not every region or local community has a stable and uncensored internet connection, so a lot of 'free' advertisement-based online search services are then out of reach.

At their core, communities are built on networking. To be a part of a community, you need to know where you can get your daily groceries, who can fix your car, where to go to if you want to meet new people, how you can connect with your friends. Search and discovery in this sense fulfill basic human needs and should not only have to rely on centralized services, especially when the stable internet connection needed to run these services is not there.

One way to fulfill those needs in remote or harsh environments is to build ad-hoc mesh networks, where instead of everyone connecting to a gateway on their own, all devices interconnect and build a network together. Instead of centralized routing, everyone helps build a map of where everyone else is and how you can reach across the network to connect with specific people. And as these mesh networks are often used in environments with limited to no connectivity, Irdest allows for imperfections like connection drops, wait times and jamming. Contributing to the range of mesh and ad-hoc networking tools can help make internet connectivity more widely available, which it should be as a modern human right.

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This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.