November 12, 2003
Purdue wireless center to work with industry, develop applications and education programs
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University has created a center in which researchers work with industry to develop new ideas and applications in wireless technology while at the same time introducing innovative courses and educational programs for students.
"Wireless applications are becoming more common in industry," said Catherine Rosenberg, director of the Center for Wireless Systems and Applications and a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "For example, perhaps a manufacturer might want to install a network of biosensors that monitor air quality in a factory. The sensors would be linked together using radio waves."
The potential for wireless applications is nearly unlimited, from manufacturing, security and entertainment, to research dealing with the environment and agriculture.
The center recently unveiled an "e-Stadium" prototype, which enables football fans at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium to access up-to-the-minute statistics, player and coach biographies, national sports information through ESPN.com, and other electronic "infotainment" using personal digital assistants, or PDAs.
"We want to provide complete solutions, to take something all the way from the initial concept to a working and largely deployed prototype," Rosenberg said. "This is possible because the center includes people who have expertise in all areas related to wireless technology,"
Critical to the project's success was the center's association with Information Technology at Purdue, or ITaP, which provides the infrastructure and support to deploy prototypes.
"Usually in research what we do is relatively straightforward," Rosenberg said. "We have an idea, we provide a solution, we evaluate it, prototype it and we write a paper. Then we say, that's it. What we are doing here is one step further. We do all of that but also work with ITaP to deploy it on the network to test it under realistic conditions.
"To scale up a project like e-Stadium you need more than just research and students. You need project management, you need infrastructure experts and the support of the athletics department. And that's exactly why our partnership with ITaP and athletics is wonderful. We could not have done it alone."
Purdue received $1.2 million from Cisco Systems Inc. $600,000 was designated for the e-Stadium prototype and $600,000 in cash and equipment will be used to enhance the university's network infrastructure.
The university environment is ideal for creating such prototypes because a large campus can be treated as a "living laboratory" of 50,000 students, faculty and staff, said James R. Bottum, Purdue's vice president of information technology.
About 85 faculty members from 11 departments have expressed interest in the center. Roughly 25 of those researchers are from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science, whose work is primarily in wireless technologies, Rosenberg said.
The center goes hand-in-hand with efforts at the university to develop a cyber-infrastructure, a framework that unites many types of computing and communications resources with the data, research personnel and the organization to enable faculty and students to work and interact more effectively, said Jeffrey S. Vitter, the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the School of Science.
The center also serves as a practical tool for attracting research funding by enabling faculty members to expand their work into areas that otherwise would not have been possible, said Linda P.B. Katehi, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering at Purdue.
"We expect the center to become an enabler for our faculty to develop larger proposals in wireless research and also to create educational programs in wireless areas," Katehi said.
Other university wireless centers tend to concentrate on a few specific "focused research domains," but the Purdue center is intended as a broad interdisciplinary effort that is not limited to certain areas, Rosenberg said.
The center, which was officially established in the fall, supports all three goals of the university's strategic plan: learning, discovery and engagement.
Rosenberg is heading the center with three co-directors, one each for learning, discovery and engagement. They are, respectively, Professor Jan Allebach, Associate Professor James Krogmeier and Professor Edward Coyle, all in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The center already has attracted funding for research projects and scholarships from the National Science Foundation and major corporations, including Cisco Systems, Tellabs, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Hewlett Packard and Proctor & Gamble. The center also has received a $1.8 million grant from Indiana's 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, established by the state to promote high-tech research and development and to help commercialize innovations.
The state grant enabled the center to initiate a $5.5 million project focusing on research in wireless networks, cellular, satellite and broadcast communications, and future intelligent transportation systems or technologies that promise to increase highway capacity, improve safety and reduce travel time, pollution and energy consumption, Rosenberg said.
That project also involves the University of Notre Dame, Delphi Delco Electronic Systems, ITT Industries and Thomson Multimedia, said Krogmeier, who leads the effort.
Other developments within the new center include:
A mobility educational project, made possible by funding from Hewlett Packard and Proctor & Gamble, in which undergraduate students develop software and hardware for new applications for personal digital assistants. The project was initiated by Allebach, who is the Michael J. and Katherine R. Birck Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Undergraduate scholarships and a new course called "The Wireless Revolution," both funded through a grant from Lockheed Martin. The course teaches about the evolution of wireless technology and its social impact.
Wireless-related courses for a new master's program and graduate research assistantships funded by a grant from the Tellabs Foundation.
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Jeffrey S. Vitter, (765) 494-1764, email@example.com
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