ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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MANIAC Challenge

For more information about the MANIAC challenge, see MANIAC news story.

Photograph of the POCKET team: Janine Hiller, Jung-Min Park, France Belanger, and Michael HsiaoMichael Hsiao and Jung-Min Park have teamed with business faculty members to develop a prototype system for parents to use to ensure their children’s online privacy. The team received a $450,000 grant from NSF’s Cyber Trust program for the project, called POCKET: (Parental Online Consent for Kids’ Electronic Transactions. “POCKET aims to offer a technically feasible and legally sound solution for children’s online privacy,” said Hsiao who serves as principal investigator. “The challenges brought by the project also offer opportunities for collaborative research with law and e-business. We envision new tools and algorithms from the research and anticipate insights on model checking e-commerce protocols and related security mechanisms.”

Communications performance in complex defense and disaster-recovery operations depends on the ability of different technology-based networks to communicate with each other. In an effort to improve communication between different wireless technologies, an ECE team has been awarded a $246,000 grant to develop a first-of-its-kind testbed that integrates mobile ad hoc networks with wireless sensor networks. The grant was awarded through the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).

“Ad hoc networks are typically mobile and capable of handling a variety of traffic types for point-to-point or group communications,” said Thomas Hou, principal investigator on the project. “On the other hand, wireless sensor networks are usually stationary, severely energy-constrained, and are used for many-to-one communications. Because of the different technology bases, research to date has addressed each network separately. “This has created a critical performance gap in communicating between them.”

Hou is working with professor Jeffrey Reed, a wireless communications and software-defined-radio (SDR) expert, and with research scientist Shiwen Mao to create the testbed. The team plans a two-tiered logical network architecture, with a wireless sensor network on the lower tier and a mobile ad hoc network on the upper tier. “This architecture should seamlessly integrate the sensing capabilities of the sensor network with the processing and communications capabilities of the ad hoc network,” he said.

With the advent of wireless ad hoc networks, some of the toughest issues in communications networking are questions of cooperation: will users trade off bandwidth, signal strength, or speed to ensure system effectiveness? If so, how? What are the incentives that will get users to provide services (such as routing) to other nodes?

Image of the MANIAC Challenge logoECE professors Luiz DaSilva and Allen MacKenzie hope to get answers by developing a wireless networking contest that will not only further networking techniques and algorithms, but also provide one-of-a-kind opportunities to study actual, uncontrolled, ad hoc networks where users employ different hardware and software.

DaSilva and MacKenzie recently received a $450,000, three-year grant from the NSF Networking Technology and Systems program to develop a contest called the Mobile Ad Hoc Networking Interoperability And Cooperation (MANIAC) Challenge.

The two-in-one effort is aimed at meeting educational and research goals of improving network throughput, deepening understanding of overall network behavior, and motivating students in the field. “There is currently no such competition in the wireless networking field,” said DaSilva. “These competitions are very motivating. They are fun. Failure often teaches us more than success; implementation is more convincing than simulation; and an information exchange of ideas moves research forward.”

Teams competing in the MANIAC Challenge will match their algorithmic prowess in sending data across uncontrolled, ad hoc networks, where users employ different hardware and software. They will be judged on speed and efficiency. The first year’s competition will entail a video relay race in which all the teams are on the mobile ad hoc network (MANET), but no teams will know the locations of the source and destination.

The software layer will also monitor node behavior and system effectiveness, giving researchers a goldmine of data on actual ad hoc network behavior in a field dominated by simulation and controlled testbed research. “Questions linger about how well MANETS will work in the wild — outside of tightly controlled lab environments or military deployments” MacKenzie said. This competition will provide researchers with a unique opportunity to study real-life network behavior in the wild.”