New frontier in error-correcting codes

Bookmark and Share

Error-correcting codes are one of the glories of the information age: They’re what guarantee the flawless transmission of digital information over the airwaves or through copper wire, even in the presence of the corrupting influences that engineers call “noise.”

But classical error-correcting codes work best with large chunks of data: The bigger the chunk, the higher the rate at which it can be transmitted error-free. In the Internet age, however, distributed computing is becoming more and more common, with devices repeatedly exchanging small chunks of data over long periods of time.

So for the last 20 years, researchers have been investigating interactive-coding schemes, which address the problem of long sequences of short exchanges. Like classical error-correcting codes, interactive codes are evaluated according to three criteria: How much noise can they tolerate? What’s the maximum transmission rate they afford? And how time-consuming are the encoding and decoding processes?

At the IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science this month, CSAIL graduate students past and present will describe the first interactive coding scheme to approach the optimum on all three measures.

“Previous to this work, it was known how to get two out of three of these things to be optimal,” says Mohsen Ghaffari, a CSAIL graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and one of the paper’s two co-authors. “This paper achieves all three of them.”

Read more at MIT News.