Elon University

Breakout Panel Session – Creating Smarter Networks

IGF USA LogoBrief session description:

Monday, July 24, 2017 –  This panel took place during the morning session of IGF-USA 2017 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Read the print story and see video highlights on this page. You can view the full, archived video of this plenary panel session here.

This session addressed how technological advances are changing the Internet to make it more responsive and effective in more realms of everyday life and discussed what smarter networks might bring.

Details of the session:

The session was moderated by Jonathan Zuck, executive director of the Innovators Network Foundation, which is focused on issues surrounding global unemployment and workforce development. Panelists included:

  • Glenn Deen, Comcast Distinguished Engineer and NBCUniversal’s senior director of Networking and Distribution Technology; active in the IETF, ICANN, IGF, M3AAWG, CTA, and cybersecurity communities
  • Thomas Bascom, president of Internet Names for Discovery and Interoperability (INDI.NGO), a non-profit organization that is developing a new naming system for internet resources to support discovery and interoperability
  • Tim Estell, a solutions architect at BAE Systems International, which provides some of the world’s most advanced, technology-led defense, aerospace and security solutions
  • Mercina Tillemann-Dick, chief operating officer of Global Blockchain Business Council

Responsibility and accountability were buzzwords throughout the panelists’ discussion on how networks can work smarter, neither one of lesser value than the other. Individuals need to be both responsible for what they put on the network as well as accountable for its implications.

Panelists agreed that networks are only becoming more complex. And as users learn to do more complex tasks within those networks, networks need to grow to respond effectively without backtracking.

“A lot of people believe the beauty of the Internet is how dumb it is,” said moderator Jonathan Zuck, executive director of the Innovators Network Foundation. “Sometimes that ‘smart’ network is used in quotes.”

But innovations such as the Glass to Glass Internet Ecosystem, or GG, combat that idea. For instance, when considering many options for streaming coupled with Internet capacity, a scaling error arises.

Smarter Network Panel Discussion PhotoGlenn Deen, Comcast distinguished engineer and NBCUniversal senior director of networking and distribution technology, said that video has become a problem because it “just keeps growing.”

“We love to watch video and we love to create videos, too,” Deen said. “We are flooding the Internet with videos.”

The solution? Glass Internet System paired with IPv6. Whereas video today would go through a CDN and shoot back out, Deen said that IPv6 allows for content to be referred directly. In other words, it “gets you from the couch to the closest source of that video and gets the most efficient copy quickly.”

GG is IPv6 at work through an open standard. This becomes useful in scenarios where multiple people are streaming the same videos at once. Instead of having to divvy up the delivery time, each chunk receives its own address.

“Instead of shipping the same package twice, I ship it once and reuse it once,” Deen said. “Because of that intelligence, I can start telling a story in a non-linear form.”

But it also works well with privacy concerns because there are “throwaway addresses,” preventing certain things from being visible to the network at a given time.

As networks become more complex, logic and AI assist

Between numerous network identities such as emails, social networks and mobile numbers, countless intermediaries have been spawned to locate particular addresses.

Thomas Bascom, president for Internet Names for Discovery and Interoperability, said that right now, “we’re at the domain level” of naming conventions and intermediaries. By coming up with a naming logic where everyone has a meaningful name, “the network can start to respond to the questions we really need to ask.”


Although the logic required can be long, Bascom said it is necessary to identify and satisfy requests.

And that’s where helpful bots can come into play.

Tim Estell, solutions architect at BAE Systems, has worked with AI for the last 20 years. He said the complexity of networks has reached a point where no one individual can visualize them or all of their locations.

“Designing, maintaining and securing networks is an artificial intelligence problem,” Estell said.

Essentially, AI can aid in understanding networks at a regional level and applying them to global networks.

Despite the negative connotation bots receive, Estell said that “sharing that data across [networks] helps us with the overall health of the ecosystem.”

Smarter Network Panel Discussion ImageMoving toward smarter economic and social transactions

Much of daily life still relies on outdated systems susceptible to breach.

“When information is moved online, it’s usually copied in the process,” said Mercina Tillemann-Dick, chief operating officer at Global Blockchain Business Council. “To navigate this problem, people rely on middlemen like banks, but too often they are too expensive and hackable.”

She said a better approach is via Blockchain — noting that one example of this is Bitcoin and explaining that Blockchain is an open, online ledger system that itself acts as an intermediary, possibly decreasing the probability of being hacked to nearly zero. It provides a digital mechanism for “anyone with Internet connection to transfer any asset at any time,” and because it has no centralized database, Tillemann-Dick said its security is “unmatched.”

“Too often when we’re looking for solutions, we look for bigger trucks when we actually need to look for smarter models,” she said. “We have never needed better, smarter solutions more.”

Blockchain is predicted to replace many non-digitized underlying systems within the next decade. Its reliance on cryptographically verified transactions and peer-to-peer interactions allows it to work past finance.

“I think of Blockchain as a system of railroad tracks,” Tillemann-Dick said. “Just like a train, you can put anything of value on a bitcoin … and the more established and longer the Bitcoin, the more secure it becomes.”

If governments work hand-in-hand with these solutions, Tillemann-Dick said it will make governments “extremely accountable” with their citizens.

– By Mariah Posey

Click here to return to IGF-USA 2017 homepage.

The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at IGF-USA 2017 included the following Elon University School of Communications students, staff and faculty:

Janna Anderson, Bryan Baker, Camille Behnke, Liam Collins, Diego Pineda Davila, Colin Donohue, Maya Eaglin, Christina Elias, Meagan Gitelman, Alex Hager, Tommy Kopetskie, Deirdre Kronschnabel, Jared Mayerson, Emmanuel Morgan, Grace Morris, Jackie Pascale, Mariah Posey, Alexandra Roat, Ginna Royalty, Alexandra Schonfeld, Jamie Snover, Erik Webb, Brooke Wivagg