KSU Award 2007

FED Mentoring Press Release 2006

10 Homeland Security
Technologies to Watch
in 2005

  Ohio SBDC Success Story (PDF)
  Beacon Journal-Swarm intelligence The next generation of technology is modeled on insects
  CJN- Local firm has 'high hopes' for its ant-based research
  Bluetronix Wins PTAC "Regional Star" Award for Ohio.
  Bluetronix Awarded $750K to Improve Wireless Communications Using Swarm Intelligence.
  Sensor Networks Make Early Inroads
  Ad Hoc Networks

Swarm Smarts


Understanding Ad Hoc Mode

  Wireless Mobility a Key Advance
  Founder's Bio
Bluetronix, Inc.
35 River Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

Press Archives

Follow Those Ants: Willoughby firm out to boost communications by copying swarming methods used by insects
By: Dave Truman

You probably saw the future of the American military machine somewhere last summer, if Mark Heiferling has anything to say about it.

It wasn't at an air show or on the evening news.

Try at a picnic, or pushing crumbs across the kitchen floor.

Heiferling is president of Bluetronix, Inc., a 2 1/2 year old Willoughby company armed with a $750,000 Department of Defense grant to develop technology that could revolutionize the way the military communicates.

The technology is based on "Swarm Intelligence," the name given to the extremely efficient behavior of social insects, such as ants, after years of research.

A colony of ants finds food by sending foragers out in random directions. When one finds a food source, it returns to the colony, laying a pheromone trail as it goes.

Other ants follow the trail, refreshing it with their own dose of pheromone. The first ant may not have found the most direct route to the food, but other foragers eventually will.

Soon, the most efficient trail becomes dominant because its pheromone is refreshed most often, as ants trudge back and forth over the shorter distance.

Over the past few decades, researchers have worked to create mathmatical models that replicate the behavior of social insects. The fruits of their labor have been introduced with much success at such compnaies as Southwest Airline, where cargo transfer rates were slashed by as much as 80 percent at the busiest handling stations, according to Harvard Business Review.

Heiferling said the goal at Bluetronix is to apply swarm intelligence to communications first for the military, then for business customers.

"The commercial opportunities I see are endless," he said.

That's because the benefits of a swarm-based communications system are so vast. Like insects on which it is based, such a system would be robust, flexible and self-organizing.

"Insect behavior is very simple. However, they do very complex things," explained Martin Roth, a Cornell University doctoral student who worked for Bluetronix last summer.

"An ant colony does a whole lot more than any single ant. An ad hoc (communications) network is like the colony."

Bluetronix hopes to create the software and hardware that will link every soldier, tank and ship, with each representing an equal part of the network.

With no central routing station, computers would help each transmission find the path of least resistance through the network, eliminating bottlenecks, Roth said. At the same time, if part of the network is destroyed, communications would be quickly rerouted through the new path of least resistance.

Figure 2: An Example of Distributed Sensor Network Scenario

"You know how hard it is to get rid of ants," Roth said.

"We're looking to make a router the size of your fingertip that would have these algorithms in it," Heiferling said.

Eventually, it could be cheap enough and small enough to be in any kind of electronic device, such as a soldier's watch, he said.

This month, Bluetronix, which has five employees, will find out if a bid for another $750,000 will be granted through Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's Third Frontier Project.

If the company get the funding, Heiferling plans to hire more researcher to speed development along. He is also hoping to development relationships with research departments of universities in Northeast Ohio.

White papers on our products and technologies are available upon request. E-mail us at innovation@bluetronix.net or call 440.247.3434.


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