About the FLOTO Project

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Welcome to the FLOTO project, an ambitious initiative aimed at advancing broadband research through large-scale, real-world data collection.

The FLOTO project is a collaborative effort between the Internet Equity Initiative (IEI) and the Nimbus Group at the University of Chicago. Our mission is to deploy approximately a thousand edge devices across mostly urban areas in the United States. These devices, equipped with broadband diagnostic tests, serve as our eyes and ears on the ground, collecting valuable data on access network performance and development.

A key component of the FLOTO project is Netrics, a system originally developed under the BISmark project and now part of the IEI. Netrics uses Raspberry Pi devices to measure various aspects of internet performance, such as speed, latency, and packet loss. By integrating Netrics into the FLOTO project, we’re able to gather granular, real-time data on internet performance directly from users’ homes.

The data we collect informs our understanding of internet performance and equity, helping us identify areas where the internet is slow or unreliable. This information is crucial for informing policy decisions, improving internet infrastructure, and ensuring everyone has access to fast, reliable internet.

We invite you to explore our website to learn more about the FLOTO project. Together, we can improve our understanding of the infrastructure that connect us all.

Interested in participating in the FLOTO project? We are seeking volunteers to host measurement devices. Learn about how to get involved by visiting our participation page, and find more information about the project below and on our FAQs.

How does FLOTO work?

Consider the internet as a system of water pipes, and the data as the water flowing through them.

Just like we need to monitor water pressure, flow rate, and pipe conditions to ensure a reliable water supply, we need similar information about our “internet pipes” to improve our internet access.

This is where the FLOTO project and Netrics come in. They’re like water pressure monitors for the internet.

Netrics uses small, inexpensive computers (Raspberry Pi devices) to monitor the “pressure” and “flow” of data in our internet pipes. These devices are set up in homes and offices, and they send and receive data over the internet to measure how fast and reliable the internet connection is. It’s like having a water pressure gauge in your living room, constantly checking the conditions of your “internet pipes”.

The FLOTO project takes this idea further. It plans to install thousands of these “pressure gauges” in homes, offices, and university campuses across the city of Chicago. This will give us a much more detailed picture of the conditions in our “internet pipes” across the whole city.

By collecting this data, the FLOTO project and Netrics can help us understand where the internet is slow or unreliable, and why these problems occur. This information can then be used to improve our “internet pipes”, ensuring everyone has fast, reliable internet access.

Just as a water pressure monitor helps improve our water supply, the FLOTO project and Netrics are helping to improve our internet. And that’s something that benefits all of us, whether we’re sending an email, streaming a movie, or video calling with friends and it.