BATS Code for efficient network transmission

1 June 2018

Annoyed by the pixelated screen when streaming a live football game? BATS code might be the solution.

A research team led by Professor Raymond Yeung (Croucher Senior Research Fellowship 2000) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong has invented a coding system that can speed up data transmission and reduce data loss.

Data travel in packets across a computer network and packet loss occurs when data fail to reach their destination. In existing network protocols like retransmission, damaged or lost packets can be resent, but only when receiver gives a feedback and notifies the sender. Another solution is fountain code, where data are transformed into an unlimited number of encoded chunks by an intermediate node, creating a “fountain” of encoded data. The receiver can reassemble the original file as long as sufficient chunks are successfully transmitted to compensate lost data. Fountain code does not rely on feedback as retransmission does, but still it’s not an optimal solution.

Yeung and his team developed a new coding system, batched sparse code, which combines the idea of retransmission and fountain code to improve network transmission rate and relieve the problem of packet loss. They have named the system BATS code.

Instead of sending the message itself, BATS code transmits ‘evidence’ of a message. This coding scheme can overcome the problem of data loss during wireless transmission. It has been verified to increase transmission rate by 56% and reduce loss rate by 29%, offering speed, reliability and stability. In addition, it requires minimal storage capacities and hardware requirements, which makes it ideal for the implementation of extra large-scale infrastructure as fibre network upgrade is not needed.

The team has spent seven years improving the performance of the system and has already obtained patents in Europe and the US. They are in contact with organisations in Beijing and Canada to explore applications in satellite communication and testing of acoustic signals in underground communications.

Closer to home, Yeung and his team are discussing possible applications in urban planning and transportation in Hong Kong for example by collecting real-time data to enhance city and traffic management.

“We hope that BATS code can help Hong Kong to realise its smart city vision and its infrastructure-based development,” said Yeung.

Looking ahead, BATS-enabled drones or balloons could provide stable and fast communication in natural disaster situations or in remote and hilly districts.

Yeung is also working on fog computing, a conceptual extension of cloud computing. The objective is to reduce network congestion and streamline the algorithms and layering. Yeung remarked, “There is a strong correlation between fog computing and Internet of Things. For example, the industrial and medical application of smart robots and Internet of Vehicles.”

Professor Raymond Yeung is an internationally acclaimed expert in the area of communication and information theory, currently serving as Choh-Ming Li Professor of Information Engineering, and Co-Director of INC. Recently, his paper titled “Network Information Flow” was among those selected for the 2018 ACM SIGMOBILE Test-of-Time Paper Award, a first for Hong Kong researchers. He was a recipient of the Croucher Senior Research Fellowship in 2000, Best Paper Award (Communication Theory) in the 2004 International Conference on Communications, Circuits and System, the 2005 IEEE Information Theory Society Paper Award, and the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2007. He was also granted the EEE Eric E. Sumner Award for his contributions to the field of network coding. His textbooks on Information Theory and Network Coding have been widely adopted by over 100 universities and research institutes around the world.

To view Professor Yeung’s Croucher profile, please click here