Researchers at Chicago's Northwestern University have developed a system that calls on users' experience to provide warnings on Internet traffic problems. The system would give a heads up about slow response times, even where there is no central management system.

Their Network Early Warning System (NEWS), which latches on to a popular BitTorrent client, is designed to spot problems by encouraging feedback from end users who are experiencing problems.

"You can think of it as crowd sourcing network monitoring," said Fabián Bustamante, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (He's working on the system with doctoral student David Choffne.).

Northwestern's AquaLab said that the main goal of this plugin was to reliably find problems in the network and raise alerts about them. "As a user, you want to be sure that you are getting the service that you're paying for and be notified quickly about network problems, especially those that can lead to compensation for service interruption. For ISPs, this software helps to quickly localise and identify network problems so they can be fixed more rapidly and make users happy.," it added in a statement.

More than 13,000 users have installed beta NEWS code. Bustamante has a good track record with BitTorrent users, who have already gobbled up Ono, a plug-in that speeds up peer-to-peer interactions.

The researchers are building a NEWS portal for network providers as well so they can see at a glance what issues end users are reporting