BeHop, a Stanford research project that aims to better manage dense Wi-Fi networks, has proven successful in trials in Studio 5 of Escondido Village.
BeHop seeks to optimize network success in high-density areas — like Stanford’s campus — by allowing sharing of Internet access points in homes, colloquially called “hops.” Instead of encountering locked accounts, users can fluidly move between access points—whether they be their own or others.
The name of the project, according to lead researcher Yiannis Yiakoumis M.S.’09 Ph.D ’14, is a combination of the jazz style bebop and the last “hop” of the network in the home.
“If I am in my home and I’m far away from my access point, I can use my neighbor’s access point,” Yiakoumis explained. “We’re trying to research how we can put this together where on one hand we can have a network that is very easy for the user to set up and another that we can optimize infrastructure so that it is fast, reliable, not slow and etc.”
The concept for the project arose from the challenges present in large cities of crowded, dense networks.
“To give you some sense about density, we did some experiments in San Francisco and on average you get to see around 30 home networks from your own home,” Yiakoumis said.
Yiakoumis explained that the BeHop project would install an access point in the user’s apartment or studio, allowing them to access the user-intuitive network as they normally would. Those access points for the BeHop project support higher rates of connection than the existing equipment in Studio 5. In addition, the coverage is better for most students since the access point is directly in the students’ room.
“I have lived in Studio 5 for four years now and I remember that there were periods when I had to connect with the hardwire to get decent streaming speed,” said Alexandros Manolakos M.S. ’12 Ph.D. ’17, a BeHop user. “As far as I am concerned, I never had to do this after I installed the new router.”
“Also, they offer a free monthly subscription to Netflix,” Manolakos added.
In exchange for these services, the research team receives written feedback from participating students via a complaints form, but more importantly collects information on the network service and data transmission.
“We are seeing up to four times improvement in some basic networking metrics,” he added.
Yiakoumis stressed that there is no added privacy or security risk of BeHop given that the network is Stanford’s and all data information is anonymous.
“We do not collect any personal information — we just keep it low-level networking metrics and for this we’re anonymizing any sensitive information.”
In addition to providing the underlying network, IT Services have explored the potential for a broader rollout of the technology.
“IT Services believes this emerging technology holds a lot of promise for enabling innovative solutions to current network challenges and simplifying the delivery and operation of the overall network structure,” wrote Nancy Ware, director of strategic planning and communication in IT Services, in a statement. “We are actively exploring possible uses of this base technology and we will continue to assess its role in the future of Stanford’s production network.”
Yiakoumis said that he has similar goals, expressing hope that the technology would find broader use on campus and potentially in cities around the world.
“For the short term we want to increase our user base: we want to put more access points,” Yiakoumis said. “In the long term, some of the ideas can be applied to the way we set up home networks or networks in these dense areas.”
Contact Alex Zivkovic at aleksa ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.