I N V I T E D A RT I C L E

INFORMATION AND INFERENCE IN THE WIRELESS PHYSICAL LAYER
H. VINCENT POOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
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ABSTRACT
Wireless networking applications continue to motivate challenging problems in information theory, signal processing, and other fields. This article explores briefly four research areas, primarily involving information theoretic or inferential problems, each of which is motivated by a wireless application-layer issue. In particular, the four applications of secure file transfer, inference, real-time multimedia transmission, and social networking, are used to motivate consideration of four respective research problems involving the wireless physical layer: physical layer security in data networks, distributed inference in sensor networks, finite-blocklength capacity in multimedia networks, and connectivity in small-world networks.

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Wireless networking applications continue to motivate challenging problems in information theory, signal processing, and other fields. This article explores briefly four research areas, primarily involving information theoretic or inferential problems, each of which is motivated by a wireless applicationlayer issue.

works, which is motivated by secure information transfer. The second is distributed learning, which is motivated by inference in sensor networks. The third is finite-blocklength capacity, which is motivated by multimedia information transmission. And, finally, the fourth is message delivery in small-world networks, which is motivated by social networking and thus involves both information transfer and inference. We take these four issues in turn in the following four sections. The discussion of each of these items will necessarily be brief given space limitations, and thus this presentation represents only a sampling of these four problems. However, the approach here is on these problems as research problems, and thus each section contains pointers to the literature that can be helpful to others interested in pursuing them further.

INTRODUCTION
A salient feature of wireless networks is the close interaction between the physical layer and the other networking layers, a phenomenon resulting from the principal distinguishing features of wireless, namely mobility and the importance of physical properties (diffusion, interference, fading and radio geometry) in determining link characteristics. For example, the application layer interacts considerably with the physical layer, as is well known through the importance of quality of service (QoS) in wireless network design. This article considers four physical layer wireless problems, all of which are motivated by considerations in the application layer. Since the applications of wireless networks are essentially information transfer and inference (i.e., detection and estimation), these four problems address these two aspects of wireless networks, as the title of the article suggests. The first of these four problems is physical layer security in wireless communication netThis work was adapted from a keynote address delivered at the Workshop on Information Theoretic Methods in Science and Engineering, Tampere, Finland, August 17–19, 2010.
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PHYSICAL LAYER SECURITY IN WIRELESS NETWORKS (SECURE INFORMATION TRANSFER)
Let us begin with physical layer security in communication networks. And again, this problem is motivated by secure information transmission. By way of motivation, recall that over the past 15 years or so, we have learned the lesson that the physical properties of the radio channel can be very advantageous for certain things. We know, for example, through the development of multiple antenna systems, that fading can be an asset in a wireless network. Similarly, we also know that cooperation and relaying can be helpful, and these are just looser forms of multiple antenna systems. At heart, cognitive radio is another way of exploiting the physical properties of radio waves (in particular diffusion), so that we can find spectral holes in various places at various times. These are all ways of improving capacity and reliability by exploiting the wireless physical layer. We might ask the question: what about security, can the physical layer help with this goal? Traditionally, security has been a higher layer issue, usually handled by encryption.1 And this is usually handled at the application layer or just below at the presentation layer. But encryption can be difficult to manage without infrastructure. That is, in a peer-to-peer network such as an ad hoc network, or even

In this discussion, the focus is on confidentiality, although there has also been work on the role of the physical layer in other aspects of security.

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IEEE Wireless Communications • February 2012

key management becomes more and more complicated as the number of nodes increases. given the wiretapper’s measurements. The idea of using information theory to study security in communications originated with Claude Shannon [1]. is the field that examines the fundamental ability of the physical layer to provide security in communications. the idea of using the physical properties of the radio channel to help provide secure wireless communications is a compelling one. for example. Receiver 1 Y ^ ^ W 0W 1 W0W1 X Source Z ^ 1 W 0. a network in which there are some messages that are broadcast or multicast messages and other messages that are unicast messages. we are interested in the secrecy capacity region. although he was not considering the wireless physical layer in an era when telephone channels were the main focus. Rather than giving these results explicitly. Moreover. It was Aaron Wyner [2] who. which is the set of pairs of rates at which the common message can be reliably transmitted to both receivers and the secret message can be securely transmitted to Receiver 1. H(W1| Zn) n Receiver 2/Wire-tapper Figure 2. (Note that. it might not be practical to implement cryptographic algorithms. For example. Although there has been considerable research on other ways of addressing these issues. as long as it was disrupted enough to be un-useful to an unintended consumer of the content. So what one would like to have for perfect secrecy is that the reliable rate to the legitimate receiver equals the equivocation rate to the wiretapper.. has been derived in [4]. In more recent times the idea of using the channel to provide security in communications has attracted the interest of the wireless research community. first proposed the idea that the channel in a communications link might be able to provide secrecy. who. i. The secrecy capacity region for the AWGN BCC is shown in Fig. one could think of the secret message in the BCC as being a unicast message. this could be a model for a content-distribution network. This region for the wireless BCC. Information theoretic security. so perfect secrecy is achieved. 2.. but now there are two messages: one. a subject about which there has been considerable recent interest. We will return to this point below. Wyner considered the set of reliable rates of communication to the legitimate receiver that can simultaneously be achieved with so-called equivocation rates at the wiretapper. This is the simplest channel in which secrecy issues arise: there is a source that would like to send a message. The wiretap channel. In particular. in such an application. in which the two links represent continuous channels with additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN). although again not in the context of wireless communications. and to keep the message secret from a wiretapper.more so a mobile ad hoc network. [3]. for the reasons noted above.e. This channel was also introduced in the 1970s. let us look at some examples that illustrate what happens in these cases. The BCC is an interesting model because it models.) For this channel. in the 1970s.e. or more importantly with fading. W. and another. the equivocation being the conditional entropy of the source. (roughly speaking) the wiretapper must have a worse channel from the source than does the legitimate receiver. it might not be necessary that the unicast message be perfectly secret. but in studying cipher systems. So with respect to W0 this is a broadcast channel. and with respect to W1 it is a wiretap channel. but only when the wiretapper is degraded with respect to the legitimate receiver. for which conventional techniques are not viable for secrecy. in which the range of rates for the common message is shown on the horizontal axis. in which some content is basic content for all subscribers and other content is premium content intended only for specific subscribers. in which case the wiretapper cannot learn anything about the message. This work did not really address physical layer security. there are network architectures and paradigms emerging now. the solid line is the outer bound- IEEE Wireless Communications • February 2012 41 . The broadcast channel with confidential messages (BCC). by Csiszár and Körner Legitimate receiver Y W X Source Z Wire-tapper 1 H(W | Zn) n ^ W Figure 1. in networks having relatively low complexity nodes. In this figure. is a common message intended for both of the two receivers. who should not be able to reliably decode the message.. to a legitimate receiver who should be able to reliably decode the message. i. like sensors for example. In this context. there has been consider progress in this area over the last five years or so. and the range of rates for the secret message is shown on the vertical access. 1). secret key encryption systems. Shannon initiated the idea of characterizing secrecy in an information theoretic context. Wyner proposed the wiretap channel model to study such problems (Fig. This channel looks the same as the wiretap channel. i.e. Wyner showed that this condition can be achieved in the setting he considered. W 0. in the 1940s. W1. used information theory to study the security of cipher systems. which is a secret message intended only for Receiver 1. 3. This work can be exemplified by examining the broadcast channel with confidential messages (BCC) shown in Fig. That is.

while the range of possible secret rates increases. in the broadcast channel it is the worst receiver.4 0. can save the day in this problem. the range of common rates is along the horizontal axis. Figure 4 shows the same model. and the range of secret rates is along the vertical axis. This region includes the pairs of rates for which W 0 can be transmitted reliably to both receivers. Again. And in fact. Thus. Although [4] gives results for general fading models. let us turn to the case in which the links to the two receivers are fading.4 1. just as in the case of multiple antenna systems. So. It can be seen from this figure that. That is because in these situations. What is happening here is that. In this case.6 0. as the SNR at this receiver degrades. 5. denoted by σ 2 . x ≥ 0. Consider Fig. This change of “degradedness order” will hap- 42 IEEE Wireless Communications • February 2012 . But. As σ 2 decreases. the fading parameter of the Rayleigh distribution is 1 on the link to Receiver 1. As we see from the figure. which Receiver 1’s signal is received with 10 dB of SNR (denoted P/ν2) and Receiver 2’s signal is received with 5 dB of SNR (denoted P/ν2). μ 2 = ν 2 = 1).. so that we can isolate the effects of the fading on performance. regardless of the relative statistical properties there will be times when Receiver 1’s channel is better than Receiver 2’s channel and vice versa. the range of possible secret rates grows. this is the case in which the two links are statistically identical. there is some excess capacity available if one does not require secrecy. 3 is that in 1. the range of common rates shrinks. Now. with σ 1 = 1. this excess capacity is used to randomize messages in order to confuse the other receiver. this is the same behavior as in the AWGN case.e. these results are intuitively obvious. or Receiver 2. as can be seen from the proofs in [4]. we can let σ 2 be any positive number. That is.2 0 P/μ2 = 10 dB P/υ2 = 5 dB 0 0. the range of reliable common rates shrinks.6 0. Secrecy capacity region for the BCC with AWGN. on the link to Receiver 2. and there is a variable value of fading parameter. As can be seen. In particular. the results of Fig. and we would still have a non-trivial secrecy capacity region. as the link to Receiver 2 gets worse.4 1.2 0 0 0. the fading is more severe.2 R1 (b/s/Hz) 1 Capacity region 0. the solid line in Fig. Receiver 2 is degraded with respect to Receiver 1 in a certain stochastic sense. So.8 0.4 0. the AWGN is the same level at both receivers (i. Thus.4 Secrecy capacity region 0.ary of the set of achievable rates for the two messages when there is no secrecy constraint. 5 are for the case of Rayleigh fading links in which the fading gains are changing independently from channel use to channel use. Secrecy capacity region for the BCC with AWGN. due to the independent fading fluctuations on the two links. at the same time.. except with one critical difference: namely.8 0. which shows results for the BCC in which the links are corrupted by both AWGN and multiplicative fading.2 P/υ2 = 2 dB P/υ2 = 4 dB P/υ2 = 6 dB P/μ2 = 10 dB 1 Decreasing P/υ2 R1 (b/s/Hz) 0.5 R0 (b/s/Hz) 1 1.2 0.e. which echoes Wyner’s basic result for the wiretap channel.8 1. Note that the case shown in Fig. while W1 can be transmitted with perfect secrecy to Receiver 1. the fading envelope on the link to Receiv2 er l has probability density e–x/σl /σl2. That is. So the link to the secondary receiver.6 1. 5 represents the case in which the fading envelope on both links has the same intensity. as Receiver 2’s link gets worse. where we will see that fading. the secrecy capacity region collapses and there is no opportunity for secret communication if both the receivers have the same SNR in this mode. Note that the case in which SNR at Receiver 2 is the same as or greater than the SNR at Receiver 1 is not shown. gets worse as σ2 decreases. the dashed line is the outer boundary of the secrecy capacity region.6 0. Essentially.4 Figure 3. This is because Receiver 2 is the bottleneck receiver for the common message — i. SNR to Receiver 2 varies. This is because it is easier to transmit secret messages to Receiver 1 when the quality of Receiver 2’s signal is more significantly degraded. 1. these are the rate pairs that can be achieved when it does not matter whether W 1 leaks to Receiver 2 or not.2 1.8 R0 (b/s/Hz) 1 1. On the other hand. and σ 2 variable.5 Figure 4. but for varying values of SNR at Receiver 2.

if the corresponding sensor has access to that data element. even without fading. However. we can exploit the fading properties — that is. more generally.yn Figure 6.6 1. we cannot transmit any secret information.2 1. this is not a reasonable assumption. One issue that the reader will undoubtedly note is that the above scheme relies on the transmitter knowing the states of both of its outgoing links.y4 x5. we can abstract the above model to a bipartite graph. but many other basic channel models of wireless networking have also been considered in this context over the past few years. when Receiver 1’s channel is worse than Receiver 2’s.y5 .4 0.4 W0W1 W0 Receiver 1 Receiver 2 Receiver 1 Receiver 2 0.. and results for fading channels without transmitter knowledge of the wiretap receiver’s channel state can be found. and thus is a benign participant who will cooperate with the source. in which each sensor seeks to learn the structure of the field based on the (limited) data to which it has access. That is. local communication requires much less energy. it is possible to send secret messages to multiple receivers at the same time using the MIMO characteristics. for example. xk and yk could be. detection and estimation) in wireless sensor networks (WSNs) as follows. 6. just as in the case of multiple antenna systems.8 1 R0 (b/s/Hz) 1. in which the vertices in one set correspond to sensors (or. respectively. we can transmit both messages. multiple-antenna (multiple-input multiple-output [MIMO]) systems provide additional degrees of freedom that can be exploited to provide security. such as that shown in Fig. and that allows us to get positive secrecy rate. When Receiver 1’s channel is better than Receiver 2’s. Also. the position and field measurement of the kth sensor. We would like to consider the problem of learning in this setting. interference channels. as well as the recent papers [9–12]. IEEE Wireless Communications • February 2012 43 . it may not be easy for these to communicate over a long distance to a centralized database where a conventional learning algorithm can be employed.. Receiver 2 wants to receive the broadcast message. It is of interest for the sensors to learn the structure of the physical field (say. and this continues to be a very active area of research. in [5]. Other models capturing various aspects of wireless network behavior that have been considered in this context include multiple-access channels. as feedback. relay channels (with trustworthy or untrustworthy relays). we transmit only the common message since.y3 x4. Lm Training datase x1. Moreover. The graph is not fully pairwise connected because the topology is DISTRIBUTED LEARNING (INFERENCE IN WIRELESS SENSOR NETWORKS) The problem of distributed learning can be motivated by the application of statistical inference (e. Learning agents L1 L2 . a temperature 2 For example.y1 x2. 7] and [8]. Thus. For example.y2 x3. etc.4 1.pen infinitely often over time. for the pure wiretap channel. For the BCC.2 Figure 5. On the other hand.. Space limitations preclude further discussion of this topic. So we only transmit secret information when instantaneous conditions are favorable. Information theoretic security is a very rich problem in general. We can think of a WSN as being an environmental sampling device with a wireless interface.4 1. this is a reasonable assumption.2 Decreasing σ2 1 σ2 = 0. learning agents) and vertices in the other set correspond to elements of a training database consisting of pairs of observables that represent inputs x k and corresponding outputs y k of a mechanism to be learned.8 0. practical issues arise once a secrecy capacity region is known: problems such as secure code design and scheduling can be addressed. Bipartite graph model for distributed learning. in this situation. field) that they are observing.6 0.7 σ2 = 1. And. and so we can think of a distributed data model in which each sensor has easy access only to its own data and the data residing at its neighboring sensors.6 0. side information and other factors provide interesting opportunities for secure communications. the randomness of the channel — to achieve secrecy in a channel where one might not otherwise think it would be possible.g.y1 x1. The BCC is an exemplary problem in the study of wireless physical layer security. in that both receivers are willing participants in the network. to delve further into this topic.8 0..2 0 0 0. 1. as in other wireless problems. in the BCC. xn.0 μ2 = υ2=1 P = 5 dB lh1l2~e-x lh2l2~1/σ2e-x/σ2 R1 (b/s/Hz) 0. To consider this situation.4 σ2 = 0. and because of limited power budgets.. and the references therein. 2 There is an edge between a vertex in the first set and a vertex in the second set. but the interested reader is referred to the recent books [6. Secrecy capacity region for the BCC with Rayleigh fading. The measurements taken by each of the sensors will constitute a subset of a large data set.

Sensor network connectivity mapped to the bipartite graph model. of course it maintains the advantages of locality. we can devise an algorithm that goes through the learning agents sequentially.. perform learning? A natural answer is to let each of the learning agents learn as if it were a central- L1 L2 L3 x2. it passes those inferences as messages back down into the database and updates the data elements on which it has relied. xk is the location of the kth sensor. and continue to do so multiple times. and the measurement at the kth sensor is yk = f(xk) + nk. The connectivity for a sensor network is illustrated in Fig.45 0.25 0. 7.y7 x6. but working with its restricted data set.15 0. That is. we can consider the situation in which there are 50 sensors distributed randomly along the line [–1. ized agent.35 r 0. As an example. if the graph is connected so that no subsets of sensors are isolated.y3 x4.determined by neighborhoods defined in terms of radio communication range. local only regression (dotted line) does not perform very well unless the neighborhoods are quite large (comprising almost the entire sensor network). In particular. this algorithm can converge at each sensor to the optimal global estimator. neighborhood size for centralized. It also is coherent. So for example. and within some other technical conditions. A sensor’s neighborhood consists of all sensors within a radius r of itself. that is what works here. e. while eliminating this problem of incoherence? One approach that is suggested by the bipartite graph structure is message passing. This property is provably bad in certain ways (see. and local with message passing — as functions of the neighborhood size r. Two of particular interest include the problem of attribute-distributed learning. and so forth.3 0. each agent might apply kernel regression [13] to learn its own local estimate of the sensed field. which we assume to be standard normal and independent across sensors.y1 x3. privacy. this algorithm converges to the relaxation of the centralized field estimate (which is the conditional mean estimator) to the given graph structure. There are many problems of interest related to this one. and message-passing (SN-Train) algorithms. but it turns out to have a disadvantageous property known as incoherence. Example of mean square error vs. In this abstract form.+1]. with each agent performing local learning on the basis of the data available to it. this structure could serve as a model for many situations in which each of a number of learning agents has access to only a subset of a larger data set for reasons of security.6 Figure 8. or agents. [14]).y2 x1. how can the sensors. We can now ask the question: given this kind of topology. in fact. local only.2 0. where f is field to be reconstructed. in which each of a set of distributed sensors views a 44 Test error IEEE Wireless Communications • February 2012 . if the agents perform only local learning.55 0. And then we can cycle through the learning agents again.y5 x7. S=300 2000 MSE 1500 Connectivity 1000 500 0 0. and so we might ask the question: how can we maintain the locality of local learning with its advantage of low communication overhead. Such an algorithm is developed in [15]. As each learning agent makes inferences. then two sensors that see the same data element do not necessarily arrive at the same inferences about the field at the source of that data point. n=50. etc. it improves on every iteration. And. Figure 8 shows the results of simulations of kernel regression in the simple case in which f is a linear function and the regression kernel is linear. and nk is noise.y4 Lm x5. For the case of kernel regression. We can see that centralized regression (solid line) is very accurate. limited storage.1 0.y6 Figure 7.5 0. local only. while message passing (dash-dotted line) achieves almost the same performance as centralized processing with a fairly small neighborhood.) What is shown is the (test) mean-square errors after convergence of three algorithms — fully centralized. error rate 3000 SN-train Local only Centralized 2500 Case 1. This approach has the desired property of requiring only local communication.4 0.g. And. (Other examples are found in [15]. Moreover. Connectivity vs.

thereby providing an even higher-order level of approximation. respectively. and X* and Y* are. Figure 10 shows an example for the AWGN channel. we can examine the most fundamental problem in communications. 0. as beautiful as it is. 9. So what can we say about channel capacity when we do not have these limits? This problem has been addressed in [19]. capacity-achieving input distribution for the subject channel and the corresponding output random variable. Note that log 2 M *(n. video. We do so by encoding the source into a block of n symbols that can be sent through the channel (in n independent channel uses). This in turn opens the possi- where denotes the inverse of the tail function of the standard normal distribution. .3 The O (log n) term can be determined exactly for certain channels. moreover. and V = Var(i(X*. M. which is the largest M for which there exists an (n. M W Encoder Xn Channel Yn Decoder ^ W FINITE-LENGTH CAPACITY (WIRELESS MULTIMEDIA TRANSMISSION) Another interesting issue is that of finite-blocklength capacity.5 Converse 0. And. certain fading channels. a random variable having the The expression in Eq. ε). (See [19. Also shown is the Shannon capacity C. ε ) n versus blocklength n. the block lengths have to be finite because of delay QoS constraints. show similar accuracies. which is motivated by the application of multimedia information transmission. To consider this problem. A fundamental result of Shannon’s [18] is that. it is clear that the approximation is quite good in this case. n 1400 1600 1800 2000 Figure 10. a problem with this result. approximation and Shannon capacity for the AWGN channel with ε = 10–3.1 Normal approximation 0 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 Blocklength. including AWGN and certain fading channels: log M *(n. ε ) n is the maximal rate of data transmission (in bits per channel use) that can be supported by the channel for the given blocklength n and blockerror-probability ε. Other cases. Recalling that the capacity is C = E{i(X*. For example. and generalizes its applicability. 21]. with ε = 10 –3 . and the problem of judgment aggregation. Y*)}. and so forth. (1) strengthens and tightens an earlier result of Strassen’s [20]. this rate approaches a constant C. A code that allows the source to be repro^ duced such that P(W ≠ W) ≤ ε is called an (n. as n → ∞ and ε → 0. such as voice. The accuracy of this approximation allows it to be used to assess the fundamental limits of channels for finite blocklengths and non-zero error probabilities... binary symmetric channels. ⋅) is the information density between the input and output of the channel. And. Y*)) (2) 3 is the dispersion of the channel. we have a channel. together with the above approximation (dashed line). which is 1/2. including binary erasure channels. etc..) The accuracy of the above approximation can be examined via fairly tight lower and upper bounds on M*(n. that quantifies the (Shannon) capacity of the channel. through which we would like to transmit a source W that can take on M possible values. What is shown are upper (converse) and lower (achievability) bounds on log M *(n.different attribute or component of each learning exemplar [16]. ε ) = nC + nVQ −1 (ε ) + O (log n ).2 0. which addresses the issue of incoherence in panels of human judges [17]. 2. M. and a decoder is applied to ^ produce an estimate W of the source from these outputs.3 Best achievability 0. ε) code. The channel translates the n inputs into a block of n channel outputs. in which various bounds and approximations are developed that allow an approximation of the following form for a number of channels of interest. Bounds. we see that the second term in the above expansion is determined by the variance of the random variable whose mean is the capacity. Source 1. ε) code. IEEE Wireless Communications • February 2012 45 . Here i(⋅. b/ch.. Q–1(⋅) (1) Figure 9. as illustrated in Fig. use Capacity 0. an intuitively pleasing result. given in [19]. channel capacity analysis has driven the development of digital communication systems over the years. ε) developed in [19].4 Rate R. Fundamental communications problem. Now. A fundamental quantity for such a channel is M*(n. in multimedia data transmission. as such media are often error tolerant. of course. which are quite close even for small blocklengths. In particular. Since the approximation is contained between the two bounds. the error probability need not be driven to zero. is that in many applications the block length and the block error probability are noticeably finite.

bility of information-theoretic analyses for problems that are inherently not asymptotic in nature. The behavior shown here is similar for other cases. trust. square. We assume greedy geographic routing. but rather is of interest more generally.. which involves both inference and information transfer.Local neighbors Long-distance neighbor Xi r Xt d Xs Figure 11. As noted above. each of which is motivated by considerations at the application layer. this kind of analysis also has implications for network engineers. However. while longer social distances are traversed in saturation. Thus. the optimization of automatic repeat request (ARQ) systems. and each node can also communicate directly with one other node. Although [24] considers much more general models. MESSAGE DELIVERY IN SMALL-WORLD NETWORKS (SOCIAL NETWORKING) As a final topic. This problem is not particular to wireless networks. whose topologies are based on physical links. this average number of hops is a measure of degrees of social separation. these are not a properties of the particular model discussed here. in the case of a physical network) are distributed at random in a 4 Many subsequent experimental studies of this “small-world” phenomenon have been conducted. let us consider the problem of message delivery in small-world networks. 12 illustrates this behavior for the particular examples in which the size of the network is 102 times. Assuming each hop takes the same amount of time. the free communication range r. that is. connected through relatively short chains of acquaintances. Nodes can communicate directly with any other nodes within a radius of r. it is not necessary to know the whole graph of connectivity in order to find a path from one person to another. And. in which people (or nodes. the social psychologist Stanley Milgram set out to verify experimentally the folk theory that any two people are separated by six degrees of separation by using the postal system [22]. for short distances d between source and target. But then it saturates as d gets larger. etc. with differing degrees of separation discovered in each case. friendship. in fact. Small-world model for analyzing average degree of separation. For social networks. but hold more generally for a great variety of models. The problem of interest is to choose an arbitrary source node and an arbitrary target node. This model has been used for social networks in the 1970s [25]. and also for other geometries such as circles. have an important influence on physical networks. namely. but it is hoped that this review will motivate further research on them and their implications for the corresponding applications. the basic ideas can be explained in terms of the simple model shown in Fig. These above results have been applied in [28] to examine structural issues in social networks. which show that shorter social distances are traversed linearly. and 502 times. which are based on links of kinship. which means that a message is routed to the node that is closest to the target among nodes with which direct communication can be established. and Fig.74 [23]. such as the analysis of practical codes relative. For example. and to determine how many “hops” it takes on the average to get a message from the source to the target. So in general this is a useful tool to apply the basic ideas of information theory for finite blocklength problems. This problem is motivated by a question arising in the social sciences that is familiar to most readers: how many degrees of social separation are there between two randomly selected people in a society? In the 1960s. Although the accuracy of his conclusions were later called into question. this problem is motivated by the application of social networking. CONCLUDING REMARKS In this article. A formula is given in [24]. This model allows for a closed-form analysis of the average message delivery time in the continuum limit. this quantity then is the average message delivery time in this network. in which the nodes become denser and denser in the square. using the telephone network. etc. And the other is that these chains can be found by using only local information. 11. This phenomenon can be explained through an analysis developed in [24]. Although the particular numbers here do not matter. One is that people are. namely issues of information transfer and/or inference. this confirms the small-world phenomenon that Milgram saw. and more recently for ad hoc networks with light infrastructure [26]. again. chosen at random from the universe of nodes. spheres. we have considered four physical layer communication problems. So this is a model of both social and technological networks. The discussion of each of these problems has necessarily been brief. etc. and so forth.4 his experiments did reveal two important phenomena. the average message delivery time is linear in d. that the number of degrees of separation becomes essentially constant. Web. as social networks now generate a very significant faction of traffic in physical networks. at a distance d apart. by Travers and Milgram [27]. Basically. a very recent study estimates that the degree social separation on Facebook is 4. 46 IEEE Wireless Communications • February 2012 . The linearity for small d also agrees with more sophisticated experiments. social network topologies.

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