Skip to main content

Cross-Layer Investigation and Integration of Computing and Networking Aspects of Mobile Social Networks

Final Report Summary - CLIMBER (Cross-Layer Investigation and Integration of Computing and Networking Aspects of Mobile Social Networks)

Project Name: Cross-Layer Investigation and Integration of Computing and Networking Aspects of Mobile Social Networks (CLIMBER)

The CLIMBER project is funded by EU FP7 Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) with the aim to support research organisations in establishing or reinforcing long-term research cooperation through a coordinated joint programme of exchange of researchers for short periods.

Motivation and objectives of CLIMBER:

The explosive evolution of information and communication technologies enables Online Social Networking (OSN) systems such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc, to connect active users of similar interests, conversing with one another and forming virtual communities. Nowadays the social networks are increasingly accessed via mobile devices thus rendering a new research field of Mobile Social Networks (MSNs). Since the underlying wireless networks play an equally important role in the success of OSN systems, MSNs are regarded in this project as a marriage of the traditional wired-network-based social networks with mobile wireless communication networks.

The overall objective of this project is to cross-fertilise and share ideas in order to accelerate the development, transfer and deployment of research knowledge between EU countries and China in the field of MSNs. The staff exchange and knowledge transfer focus on research and development of efficient MSNs. This research advocates the amalgamation of both divisions of MSNs, i.e. social computing and social networks at the application layer and mobile wireless communication networks at the lower layers. This results in the need for cross-layer information exchange to create a new vision of MSNs that can be tailored to benefit network providers, content providers and end users. This staff exchange programme has contributed to foster long-lasting collaboration between partners in the field of MSNs and develop a common base of knowledge and a research platform that can be used to set up future joint research projects.

Work programme and achievements:

The implementation and management of this project is to be achieved through three types of activities operating in parallel during the whole duration of the project: Management Activities, Research Activities and Knowledge Transfer Activities. WP1 (Project Management and Knowledge Transfer Coordination) is dedicated to administration and project management for the coordination of both research activities and knowledge transfer activities. The purpose of research activities is to fulfil the scientific objective of the project, i.e. to research into infrastructure, algorithms and services of the new vision of MSNs. These activities are divided into four technical WPs: WP2-WP5. The knowledge transfer activities are orthogonally spread across all these WPs.

The technical activities of the project start with a thorough requirement analysis and detailed design of the overall MSN system architecture that is completed in WP2. This overall system architecture is mainly composed of two tiers: social network and computing layer and communication network layer, which are dealt with in WP3 and WP4, respectively. Specifically, WP3 mainly focuses on the design and development of network-aware social computing algorithms and software that can be efficiently used by mobile device users. While WP3 deals with the macro-level issues of the MSNs that are visible to mobile users, WP4 is concerned about the micro-level data transmission of the MSNs that is usually transparent to end users. The design of network protocols and algorithms in WP4 has considered the social knowledge provided by WP3. On the other hand, the network-awareness of social computing addressed in WP3 has resorted to WP4 for the information of communication networks. With WP2 serving as an overall guide to WP3 and WP4 that proceed in parallel, WP5 converges the practical outcomes of WP3 and WP4 into a prototype system for carrying out evaluation and demonstration.

These activities have yielded the following achievements and benefits:

1) Project Management and Knowledge Transfer Coordination
Effective project co-ordination in terms of both administrative and technical aspects has been conducted to achieve timely operation of the project and deliver high-quality scientific results and knowledge transfer. During the four-year project lifetime, the partners have completed 172 man-months of staff exchange and secondment, fulfilling the number of secondments originally planned in the project agreement. These secondments are scheduled according to the designed work packages and targeted milestones. To sum up, the staff exchange and knowledge transfer activities lead to 109 highly successful visits. Visitors gave 80 research seminars, 4 internal workshops, 2 international workshops and contribute to 33 major conferences and workshops. In total, over 80 research publications were generated during the project period.

2) Innovative system architecture of mobile social networks
Based on the system requirement analysis, an overall system architecture of MSNs coupled with case studies has been proposed and designed. This MSN architecture is composed of the following components: Application Component; Social Mining Component; Mobile Networking Mechanism Component; Local Resource Management Component; and Privacy and Security Component. This has led to the generation of a journal publication entitled “Mobile Social Networks: Design requirements, architecture, and state-of-the-art technology” in Elsevier Computer Communications journal. This paper, we believe, will not only be helpful for MSN’s research and development and but also can serve as a useful reference for policy maker and industry in the MSN field.

3) Network-aware social computing and an online social networking system for scholars
The consortium has developed an online social networking system for scholars, called SoScholar, which can be accessed free via the Web and various mobile devices, including smart mobile phones, iPad, etc. SoScholar is a platform for fast exploring massive linked academic data using a novel multi-relation user interface. The SoScholar system design has been completed and its IOS and Android mobile clients have also been implemented, which directly implement and further validate the idea of cross-layer investigation and integration of computing and networking aspects of network-aware mobile social networks. They enable mobile users to communicate in an ad-hoc mode. The SoScholar system has already been released and it has attracted more than twenty thousand users, among which more than ten percent are mobile users.

4) Socially-aware mobile communications networks
The project partners have designed and improved the algorithms and protocols for wireless communication networks by taking advantage of the information received from the social networks and social computing to improve the performance of MSNs. New social mobility model and a multi-stage routing algorithm that makes best use of social features (e.g. centrality) in MSNs have been designed. The performance evaluation results demonstrate the benefit of considering user social behaviours in MSNs. In-depth investigation has been carried out into the correlation between social behaviours and network algorithms. In particular, research has been carried out to introduce social measures into utility functions, based on which dynamic bandwidth allocation algorithms are designed. Furthermore, the project has looked into the deployment of data cache in hotspot areas enabling faster message passing among mobile social users. In addition, QoS, dynamic resource allocation, and energy harvesting are also considered in multi-hop message routing in MSNs so that incentive can be given to relay nodes encouraging them to get involved in relaying.

5) Prototype System, Evaluation and Demonstration
To implement the MSN system and evaluate its performance results, we have developed an application on the Android platform and built the servers in Ubuntu. The fundamental functions and important features of MSNs including message delivery, friend recommendation, friends list, community services, location services, activity services, and screen sharing are implemented. We have conducted extensive MSN demonstrations and tested the integrated system. The experimental results show that the fundamental functions and important features of the designed MSN systems can work properly. In addition, the system can obtain diverse user attribute/interests tags, which can provide strong data support for the commercial advertising push precisely. We also propose a low cost and efficient data delivery method based on user’s social relations, which can greatly improve the efficiency of data delivery and user experience in MSNs.

The aforementioned research activities and staff exchange programme have helped to strengthen the current research links amongst the partners, foster new research collaborations, set up future joint research projects and build up long-term world-class research and development in emerging MSNs. This project has also raised awareness of and promoted the EU higher education and research systems in China in order to make Europe more attractive for researchers.