The virtual future beyond the Internet is known as FIA.

At least it is to the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency in Washington, D.C. It’s funding that intriguing topic (FIA stands for the Future Internet Architecture program) with $15 million in research grants to some of the nation’s strongest tech leaning universities.

This is the third phase of a protracted study that began in 2006. The University of Wisconsin, Madison; Boston University; and the University of California at Berkeley are among others, are the newest recipients of the research cash, which the NSF hallmarked into three categories: “Deployment-Driven Evaluation and Evolution of the eXpressive Internet Architecture”; “Named Data Networking Next Phase”; and the third, “Next-Phase Mobility First Project.”

According to the NSF:

“The objective of the new awards is to move the FIA efforts from the design stage to piloted deployments that assess how the designs work at large-scale and within challenging, realistic environments. Cities, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and industrial partners across the nation will collaborate with researchers to test the new designs.”

The NSF, which has a $7.1 billion budget to fund research (tech or otherwise), told VentureBeat the research and beta-testing of systems designed under its purview aim to take the architecture of the current state of the Internet to the next level.

“Each of these projects has their own versions of what the future looks like,” said NSF program director Darleen Fisher.

At Carnegie Mellon University, researchers are using the money to further develop a failsafe system that will enable cars to transfer data to one another about road conditions and traffic bottlenecks, for example, while simultaneously allowing vehicle occupants unfettered access to the Internet.

This facet provides a unique challenge to researchers because, as Fisher said, “there is no fixed infrastructure” as cars continually move from place to place.

According to CMU:

“Vehicles can use wireless communications channels called dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC, that are similar to Wi-Fi. Creating DSRC networks is challenging, however, because cars and trucks quickly pass from one DSRC access point to the next. XIA enables computer users to directly access content wherever it might be on the network, rather than always accessing a host website, so it should enable vehicles to obtain needed information from neighboring access points.”

Researchers said the myriad studies aim to propel technology beyond the current state of the ‘Net, as it were, relying less on existing technologies like routers and transmission points.

“The whole point is that existing infrastructures have a network to fall back on,” Fisher said.

The NSF said that based on the ultimate findings of computer scientists and their students involved in the research, the feds ultimately believe that new systems will be built, tested, and brought to market.

“It’s hard to say what the specific outcomes will be. Some of these systems may be adapted by enterprise. [The program] has also spurned interest with other government agencies. As they demonstrate what they do, it will naturally get more visibility,” Fisher said.

Platforms that effectively eliminate bottlenecks between video transmissions and further enhancements to security architecture and encryption are also key points of research for all teams involved in the multimillion dollar series of studies.

CMU professor Peter Steenkiste is leading the storied university’s FIA team. His teams focus is on mobile data transmissions and Internet security.

“These deployments will leverage, and enable us to deepen, our work on secure network operations, including providing a highly available infrastructure and secure authentication mechanisms,” he said.

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