Friday, October 27, 2006

Jeff Andrews -- UT Researcher in Wireless Sensor Networks

Jeff Andrews at the University of Texas Austin, works on wireless ad hoc networks. I recently spoke with him about his research. He and his team recently won a $6.5M grant with the help of NI. The Austin American Statesman ran this story.


Jeff spends time on basic research to understand the communication of data through wireless ad hoc networks. He’s trying to characterize the performance limits in ad hoc networks. The first step is to build a strong theory of information. Information theory is good at describing a set of links transmitting to a central point but for ad hoc networks it doesn’t work because the position of the nodes impacts the communication of all the nodes in a network. Developing a descriptive theory for ad hoc networks could improve the development of more efficient networks in the future. His project is funded by DARPA.

He plans to research physical layer technologies to understand which are best for ad hoc networks. For example, how does a wireless network LAN, spread spectrum, or CDMA work in an ad hoc network environment? In addition, he is also looking at MIMO and how it changes the capacity of a network. Other issues include scheduling to understand which users should transmit and to whom.

How to build the radios by deconstructing the link we’ve had up until now. In a cellular system one call affects another. The problem in a cellular system is compounded because all the nodes are communicating.

Currently Jeff is using LabVIEW for their research. He’s focusing on signal interference ratios and routing packet efficiency. He’s taking a mathematical approach in order to develop mathematical theories for0 creating a model.

People have been working on ad hoc networks for some time. Military and emergency services are interested in it. Mesh networking for deploying wireless broadband is one instance of ad hoc networking that may have broader appeal. Jeff said, “If we can figure out the right transmission technology it would be useful to deploy broadband to the third world.” Sensor networks are a more nascent field. “In twenty years it’ll be more broadly distributed although you may not know it’s there,” he commented.

I’ve always thought RFID would be a useful technology to marry to ad hoc networks for controlling the communication. An RFID pulse could be used to synchronize the nodes for follow on communication.

It’ll be interesting to see what Jeff and team come up with.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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