At the most basic level, a self-organizing network is a set of cooperating elements that discover one another, and build interconnections, without the need for central control or manual administration. The interconnections may be of short duration. A given element may move from network to network, or belong to several self-organizing networks.
While self-organizing networks exist, conceptually, in fields ranging from cocktail party chatters to brain neural networks to a group of random dogs sniffing one another, the focus here is on self-organizing networks for computer-controlled networks. For example, two transportation safety systems, the automatic identification system for watercraft and the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System in civil aviation, sense other objects in their immediate areas, determines if their courses will intersect, and take action to avoid collisions.
In the Internet Engineering Task Force, enabling technologies for self-organizing networks are in the Mobile Ad Hoc Networking (MANET) Working Group.
Military systems include the intra-squad radio.