Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant Nos.60673178, 60873241 (国家自然科学基金); the National High-Tech Research and Development Plan of China under Grant No.2008AA01Z217 (国家高技术研究发展计划(863))
The appearance of plenty of intelligent devices equipped for short-range wireless communications boosts the fast rise of wireless ad hoc networks application. However, in many realistic application environments, nodes form a disconnected network for most of the time due to nodal mobility, low density, lossy link, etc. Conventional communication model of mobile ad hoc network (MANET) requires at least one path existing from source to destination nodes, which results in communication failure in these scenarios. Opportunistic networks utilize the communication opportunities arising from node movement to forward messages in a hop-by-hop way, and implement communications between nodes based on the "store-carry-forward" routing pattern. This networking approach, totally different from the traditional communication model, captures great interests from researchers. This paper first introduces the conceptions and theories of opportunistic networks and some current typical applications. Then it elaborates the popular research problems including opportunistic forwarding mechanism, mobility model and opportunistic data dissemination and retrieval. Some other interesting research points such as communication middleware, cooperation and security problem and new applications are stated briefly. Finally, the paper concludes and looks forward to the possible research focuses for opportunistic networks in the future.