ShAir is a platform for mobile devices on which users can share their digital content with nearby people wirelessly in the background, even when they have no Internet access.

How it Works

ShAir creates autonomous ad-hoc networks of mobile devices that do not rely on cellular networks or the Internet. When people move around, their phones automatically talk to other phones wirelessly when they come close to each other, and they exchange content. Content can be messages, pictures, video, emergency alerts, GPS coordinates, SOS signals, sensor readings, etc.

At some point in time, Content 1 is being shared with nearby people and Content 2 by another group of people. When people move, their devices carry shared contents in the devices' storage to another place and further share them with other people. In this way, contents can hop through people's devices taking advantage of people's motion and devices' radio and storage. No infrastructure such as cell towers, Wi-Fi hotspots, or communication cables is required.


The goal of the MIT Media Lab ShAir project is to enable digital content sharing anywhere. The project develops technologies, systems, and applications for opportunistic wireless networks between people's devices, so that users can share their content and optionally other resources (e.g., storage, connections, and computation) even under no pre-existing infrastructure such as cellular networks or Wi-Fi hotspots. Specifically, the project works on the following themes.

Crowd-Sourced Networks

The project develops a way to transfer data in a multi-hop store-and-forward manner as mobile devices move with their owners, by connecting devices when they are in the radio range of each other. The project aims to ensure secure communication that may go through third persons, and to optimize transfer speed by reducing radio interference, routing based on analyzed people's mobility, and by data coding, with the goal of enabling sharing and distribution of large-volume content such as video.

Middleware Platform and SDK

The project develops a middleware platform for opportunistic wireless digital resource sharing. It is designed to be modular and extensible, so that additional features can be added as plugins. The middleware serves as an SDK with which one can easily implement opportunistic resource-sharing applications with the exposed APIs.


The project creates ideas of innovative use of the capability of decentralized resource-sharing, and implements such applications.


The project aims to develop an easy-to-deploy system that attracts large enough audience to be crowd-sourced from. The system is designed to require no user interventions to manage connections such that sharing happens completely in the background. The project considers optimizing power consumption, incorporating gamification mechanisms to incentivize users, and developing plug-and-play pervasive devices that help resource forwarding.


Past advisor, members, and contributors:

Henry Holtzman, Eyal Toledano, Robert Hemsley, Dan Sawada, Dhairya Dand, Munehiko Sato, Mary Linnell, Jesse Sharps, Rafael Rodriguez, Lefteris Ioannidis, Alex Suarez, Daniel Kovalcik, and Willy Papper.

Contact Us

shair [at] media.mit.edu