Pocket-sized cloud to put privacy back into communications, foul big data collection

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Much of the spying that occurs from our government, other governments and a host of cyber-criminals happens at the server level. Until recently, most thought that server and network protection was the only recourse even though many thought such attempts fall short in completely securing data. But leave it to DARPA to find a work-around. Enter the pocket cloud.

DARPA's Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking effectively turns mobile devices into servers. That's right; CBMEN creates a pocket-sized, private cloud. 

"CBMEN may not sound revolutionary, because people take server access for granted when cell towers, fiber-optic connections and 4G/LTE networks are so widely available worldwide," said Keith Gremban, DARPA program manager in a statement to the press. "But when that infrastructure is not available, CBMEN technology enables real-time information sharing where it hasn't been possible before. CBMEN puts secure, private collaboration and cloud storage in your pocket."

Here's how it works, according to the press release:

"This concept moves past the Internet's 'hub-and-spoke' paradigm of requiring point-to-point communications to first go through a central server. As long as troops are within communication range--whether by radio, cellular, Wi-Fi or other radio frequency devices--CBMEN software automatically replicates and shares updates, causing the tactical cloud to grow and diminish as users move in and out of range of each other. Any connected collection of warfighters can store and share information in many places right at the tactical edge, making the system tolerant of communications disruptions. In essence, CBMEN creates secure frontline cloud storage services that provide content with decreased latency and increased availability."

How can that be, you might ask?

"A key factor that enables CBMEN is the tremendous computing power available in current mobile devices. 'There's more computing power and memory in my smartphone than the supercomputer I used in college,' Gremban said. 'With 64 gigabytes of storage in a single smartphone, a squad of nine troops could have more than half a terabyte (500 GB) of cloud storage. CBMEN taps into that huge capacity.'''

And like all government tech before it, this one is slated for civilian use too.

"Beyond supporting troops on the frontlines, CBMEN technology may also be useful for civilian applications, especially disaster response, where the established communication infrastructure is unavailable or destroyed. Like forward-deployed troops with no established communications infrastructure, firefighters, police, medical personnel, National Guard members and others responding to a major disaster could quickly share imagery and vital information amongst each other."

Of course, there is plenty of room for smart entrepreneurs, privacy-oriented startups, and yes, even traditional handset makers and carriers to jump the gun by enabling civilian handsets to be servers too, thereby protecting ordinary people from at least some of the big data gathering by all and sundry. Sure, the NSA could probably still find a way to tap into the data flow, but Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), and other commercial interests could find themselves left in the dark.

Something to think about, eh? Especially if you're Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and just bought Nokia, maybe?

For more information:
- see DARPA CBMEN webpage
- see DARPA press release

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