Campus research sets sights on wireless technologies

As the global community becomes increasingly digitized, there is another feature of the technological revolution on the rise – wireless systems. CSM’s Tracy Camp is overseeing a research group to study and develop these systems. From predicting avalanches and dam failures to “real mobility data,” this group of students is utilizing their knowledge of computer science to solve problems in both the lab and the world. “The Oredigger” met with the group to ask a few questions about their research.

Question: What are the applications/further implications of your research?

Answer: “We study mobility models and these models are very important when we, for example, are running simulations for experiments and mobile scenarios. The biggest challenge is how to do that in a realistic way. The result will be that when we do our evaluation, we’ll be making correct assumptions.”
–Thyago Mota

Q: Is research in this area hot/active or cold/lacking?

A: “From all the conferences, I’d say it’s pretty hot. I think that on the bigger scale of it, for the other projects—it’s also sort of an interdisciplinary program as well—the amount of opportunity to collect continuous data in a real-time, meaningful way, in a way that will help society in general, is huge right now and it’s happening in a way that we’ve never seen before.” –Doug Hakkarinen

“I would say it’s pretty important because just look at what we all carry in our pockets. The computation power in our pockets is greater than the computation power we used to get to the moon. So, if you could leverage that, like what Thyago is doing where he’s actually following mobile phones, you could work on building networks on that and having them integrate wirelessly with sensors in your house and sensors in your clothing. That seems to be the direction that computer science has taken.” –Trevor Whitney

“The applications that we’re working on are unique to our group and that’s what helps gets us known. There’s no one else we know who’s working on sensing while you’re doing an underground boring. There’s no one else that we know who’s doing wireless avalanche monitoring. There’s no one else we know that’s looking at wireless dam monitoring. There are lots of groups working on these wireless sensing devices, they’re just working on different types of applications.” –Tracy Camp

Q: Is there anything you’re expecting to discover outside your research motives?

A: “Some of our students work on looking at how we can use these small, wireless sensing devices to try to predict when an earth dam might fail. Currently, the United States has 85,000 earth dams and about 50,000 of them are past their expected lifetime, so they’re going to start failing. Current monitoring techniques used on them are wired surveys that only happen once every five years. So, if we could deploy a wireless type of instrument to survey the dam continually, we might be able to predict before it fails.” –Tracy Camp

Q: Before researching, what is the necessary prior knowledge?

A: “It depends on what project you’re working on. All of my students have a pretty significant learning curve when they started the group. They had to learn more than I know so that they could move forward with their research. But, I also think that makes it fun, it’s always fun to learn new things.”
–Tracy Camp

Q: In your opinion, what is the most interesting aspect of this work?

A: “I think the thing that’s most interesting is the actual practical application of learning new things in computer science—like artificial intelligence and machine learning—and being able to apply them to something that’s physical and out in the real world.” –James Maher

“I love the impact. The impact you can have on the world.” –Tracy Camp

“I love what I’m doing. I love doing simulations and performance evaluations. I like to learn how these things try to model the real world, to do things in a more accurate way. You have to make sure that when we do this stuff, we’re not losing too much. It should not affect the experiments we want to have.” –Thyago Mota

“The biggest thing for me is that it’s nice to be something that’s on the forefront. In engineering, electromagnetic theory has been around for several hundred years. So, it’s nice to be working on something that’s new.” –Michael Coughlin

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