In order to expand phones' functionality, one solution is to create a network in which each device can work together with others, for a fee. However, if this goal is to be achieved, some security issues will need to be resolved.

It may happen that either the capabilities or the memory of a smartphone are inadequate to carry out the required task. To solve this problem, Morena Marzolla, Steffano Ferretti and Gabriele D'Angelo, researchers at the Universityof Bologna, are betting on achieving cooperation between different devices. They have developed a network model which pools the combined resources of a group of users so that they can draw on these resources according to need. According to the researchers, setting up such a network would enable a given phone to go to another user to obtain the memory and functionality resources it needs it order to get the job done. For example, a user would be able to access Internet, even if the network function of his/her own phone were down. Simply connecting the phones via Bluetooth would suffice.

A market system for trading in functionality

To explain how this network would work, the researchers have come up with the term "digital organism". This “organism” would link together a large number of electronic devices, which would be in constant interaction, calling upon each other’s services – on a person-to-person commercial basis –  to help execute functions required by their users. The researchers stress that it will be essential to set up a virtual currency system, based on tokens.  Each request made to a different device will cost a number of tokens, while those on the other side of the transaction, supplying a service to another user, will see their pile of tokens grow.   

A major security challenge

The system is not yet quite ready for use, however. The researchers point out that it does entail security issues.  It’s clear that bringing such a large number of devices into a network will call for foolproof identification procedures in order to ensure data integrity. The developers recommend moreover that people connect up with known and trusted individuals, at least when the system first starts up.