In this thesis, we address two seemingly unrelated problems, namely routing in large wireless ad hoc networks and comparison based search in image databases. However, the underlying problem is in essence similar and we can use the same strategy to attack those two problems. In both cases, the intrinsic complexity of the problem is in some sense low, and we can exploit this fact to design efficient algorithms. A wireless ad hoc network is a communication network consisting of wireless devices such as for instance laptops or cell phones. The network does not have any fixed infrastructure, and hence nodes which cannot communicate directly over the wireless medium must use intermediate nodes as relays. This immediately raises the question of how to select the relay nodes. Ideally, one would like to find a path from the source to the destination which is as short as possible. The length of the found path, also called route, typically depends on how much signaling traffic is generated in order to establish the route. This is the fundamental trade-off that we will investigate in this thesis. As mentioned above, we try and exploit the fact that the communication network is intrinsically low-dimensional, or in other words has low complexity. We show that this is indeed the case for a large class of models and that we can design efficient algorithms for routing that use this property. Low dimensionality implies that we can well embed the network in a low-dimensional space, or build simple hierarchical decompositions of the network. We use both those techniques to design routing algorithms. Comparison based search in image databases is a new problem that can be defined as follows. Given a large database of images, can a human user retrieve an image which he has in mind, or at least an image similar to that image, without going sequentially through all images? More precisely, we ask whether we can search a database of images only by making comparisons between images. As a case in point, we ask whether we can find a query image q only by asking questions of the type "does image q look more like image A or image B"? The analogous to signaling traffic for wireless networks would here be the questions we can ask human users in a learning phase anterior to the search. In other words, we would like to ask as few questions as possible to pre-process and prepare the database, while guaranteeing a certain quality of the results obtained in the search phase. As the underlying image space is not necessarily metric, this raises new questions on how to search spaces for which only rank information can be obtained. The rank of A with respect to B is k, if A is B's kth nearest neighbor. In this setup, low-dimensionality is analogous to the homogeneity of the image space. As we will see, the homogeneity can be captured by properties of the rank relationships. In turn, homogeneous spaces can be well decomposed hierarchically using comparisons. Further, it allows us to design good hash functions. To design efficient algorithms for these two problems, we can apply the same techniques mutatis mutandis. In both cases, we relied on the intuition that the problem has a low intrinsic complexity, and that we can exploit this fact. Our results come in the form of simulation results and asymptotic bounds.