intelligence The next generation of technology is modeled on insects
By: Erika D. Smith, Staff Reporter- Ohio Beacon
What if computers could make decisions for themselves?
if you dropped a batch of computer parts onto a deserted island
and they built a civilized communications network all by themselves?
if your doctor injected a swarm of microchips to attack a hard-to-reach
A few years ago, those were very big ifs. But a Chagrin Falls startup
named Bluetronix Inc. says it is closing in on the technology that
could make all of that possible.
there's no need for a gun-toting Gov. Schwarzenegger just yet. We're
not talking artificial intelligence -- just swarm intelligence.
the name implies, swarm intelligence is a scientific theory based
on the actions of ants, bees and other insects. It asserts complex
behavior can emerge from a group of individuals -- whether they're
bugs or computer nodes -- that follow simple rules.
intelligence isn't exactly new, but it's largely uncharted territory.
no one has developed a product that applies its principles. But
the founders of Bluetronix Inc. say they will do it by 2006.
Chagrin Falls company is writing the mathematical formulas for an
all-new, super-efficient wireless network for the military. From
there, company President Mark Heiferling hopes to parlay
their work into other industries, such as manufacturing and supply-chain
say the possibilities for swarm intelligence products are endless.
military has the funding, sense of urgency and need. It's a good
place to start,'' Heiferling said ``Later, we can bridge that over
to the commercial world.''
long ago noticed the amazing feats social insects are capable of,
but swarm intelligence is a relatively novel concept among computer
scientists and researchers.
termites, for example. Individually, they have meager intelligence
and work with no supervision. But collectively, they build dirt
mounds that can maintain a constant temperature and the right mix
of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
teamwork is largely self-organized and coordinated through the interactions
of individuals. Although these interactions might be primitive,
taken together, they result in highly efficient solutions to difficult
problems, such as finding the shortest route to a food source.
this efficiency that caught the attention of researchers.
the 1990s, companies such as McGraw-Hill, Capital One and Southwest
Airlines applied studies on swarm intelligence to their operations.
Some early adopters revamped their shipping strategies. Others reorganized
the way their employees work. Almost every company cut costs as
a result. Southwest alone estimates an annual savings of more than
inherent efficiency of swarm intelligence also has intrigued computer
Many have applied the concept to communications networking -- an
obvious choice because finding the shortest route to connect a phone
call or an e-mail is always the goal.
at Hewlett-Packard have already designed a program that would route
calls based on how ants forage for food. Their findings also could
cut down on network congestion, eliminating the kind of communications
bottlenecks that occurred in last year's blackout.
there's a bigger goal out there for computer scientists.
intelligence may be the key to managing the world's increasingly
complex network of computers. The systems are growing so big and
overlapping so fast that humans won't be able to maintain them directly
for much longer.
will get to the point that it will be impossible to do,'' said Ronaldo
Menezes, a Florida Institute of Technology assistant professor who
specializes in swarm intelligence. ``... I think people are pretty
much convinced that computer scientists are reaching the limits
of what we can do.''
modeling programming codes after social insects, computer scientists
hope a sort of self-organization will occur. That would take some
of the burden off humans.
For example, swarm intelligence could help route incoming traffic
to a Web site, preventing clogs or clearing them quickly. That way,
technicians wouldn't have to be called every time a slowdown occurs.
programming wouldn't be complex for the individual computer nodes
on a swarm network. Like ignorant ants, they would only have simple
rules, such as ``Don't route Internet traffic to this port when
this happens.'' They wouldn't know their goal, but they would make
decisions based on their programming and the goal should emerge.
hope the system will self-organize and conform to the optimum (solution)
without us having to program what the optimum is,'' Menezes said.
a network would have to be extremely flexible and able to adapt
immediately to changing environments, just as social insects do.
used to kill the ants in my house... and now I think twice about
the poor little things,'' Menezes said. ``It's really quite amazing.''
is determined to push the envelope even further.
are writing algorithms based on swarm intelligence
for a completely wireless network.
that may not seem like much to the average Web surfer. You might
take your laptop to Borders Books & Music every day to tap into
its wireless network. But the truth is, every wireless network in
use today is hardwired somewhere -- even if you don't see it.
hopes to change that.
Defense Department approved a $750,000 contract with the company
to develop a self-contained, self-sufficient wireless network. With
that technology, soldiers could communicate and transmit data in
even the most desolate areas.
For example, if the National Guard were deployed to a state where
an earthquake had destroyed all the wired infrastructure for 100
square miles, establishing a data network would be difficult.
If those same soldiers were carrying Bluetronix technology,
so-called ``swarm chips'' would automatically detect each other
and organize themselves into a network.
a network would have to be flexible and adapt quickly to keep up
with soldiers moving around the field. Neither are traits associated
with the current top-down, centralized approach to controlling computer
why Bluetronix turned to swarm intelligence.
taking something in nature and turning it into codes and algorithms,''
says it could have a workable product for the military within two
for the high-tech cancer treatments and other science-fiction solutions,
we may have to wait a bit longer.
papers on our products and technologies are available upon request.
E-mail us at email@example.com
or call 440.247.3434.