ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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Research: Networking

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Last spring, Thomas Hou won a 2004 five-year, $449,295 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for research on Fundamental Performance Limits and Trade-offs in Wireless Sensor Networks. Hou’s research will focus on wireless sensor networks operating under a set of unique constraints and requirements.

Page 32 - Hou and Mao

Thomas Hou (left) and research scientist Shiwen Mao (right) have developed a new approach to sensor network design by exploiting capabilities at network edge. This approach is expected to reduce storage, processing, and communication requirements on a sensor node, while offering improved routing, code distribution, and network programmability, compared to conventional core-based approaches.

His main interests in this project are to study some fundamental performance limits and trade-offs that are inherent to wireless sensor networks, with the aim of laying a theoretical foundation for future protocol design and algorithm implementation.

Hou plans to pursue three thrust areas under the overarching theme of energy constraints and network lifetime: maximizing network lifetime through optimal power-controlled flow routing; understanding performance limits and the trade-offs between relay node placement and energy provisioning; and uncovering the inherent properties associated with the energy-constrained rate allocation problem.

Page 32 - Network Testbed

ECE's wireless network testbed provides a network between Northern Virginia and Blacksburg for researchers to test concepts and designs ranging from cognitive networks to game theory.

Luiz DaSilva and Jeffrey Reed have recently received funding from Booz Allen Hamilton for research on software-defined radios and application areas. The group is developing a vision for cognitive networks, where cognitive radios are capable of adapting their behavior to benefit network-wide performance.

The networking area participates in several tasks in the AWINN project, including: the development of integrated routing, security and quality of service solutions for mobile ad hoc networks; real-time resource management, communication, and middleware for secure and robust networks; and adaptive and dynamic cross-layer optimization of physical, data link and network functions in ad hoc networks.

When the U.S. Forest Service wanted its incompatible radio systems to be able to communicate and share information nationwide, it turned to an industry/university team that included Catalyst Communication Technologies of Lynchburg, Virginia and ECE’s Scott Midkiff.

Page 33 - Monongahela National Forest

The Monongahela National Forest served as a radio over IP test site where creating a link from the field without a dispatcher was first demonstrated

The team is leveraging Catalyst’s Radio over IP (ROIP) system that allows high quality, critical voice communications from two-way radios to be routed across computer networks. The Catalyst and Virginia Tech team is investigating new techniques that allow voice calls to be routed between incompatible land mobile radio systems that operate on different bands and include a mix of digital and analog technology. The team is also working to ensure that calls can be sent over networks that are saturated with other traffic and can successfully traverse firewalls and other computer network security components. Michael Buehrer has recently joined the team to investigate advanced methods to further improve the quality of the voice calls.