EECS Department Colloquium Series

Making a Web of Things: A System-of-Systems Perspective

Prabal Dutta

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
306 Soda Hall (HP Auditorium)
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Prabal Dutta
Morris Wellman Faculty Development Assistant Professor, University of Michigan



The rapid growth in the number of smart, connected devices—trillions expected within a decade or so—has been widely predicted by industry leaders and popularly labeled the Internet of Things. However, adding computation ("smarts") and communications ("connections") to everyday things is just the first step. To really flourish, today's battery lifetime-limited and largely stove-piped solutions that address a narrow set of well-defined problems must morph into shared, distributed, modular, and adaptive designs that can be used to realize an interconnected Web of Things. The challenges, no doubt, start with energy and connectivity issues at the lowest layers of the system but quickly encompass the rest of the system stack, spanning embedded, gateway, and cloud platforms, and integrating many disparate technical underpinnings spanning algorithms, circuits, communications, controls, signals, software and power to realize real systems that can be deployed.

In this talk, I will explore these challenges by drawing from my own research which seeks to give individuals, communities, and countries greater visibility into the physical processes that matter to them—ranging from deeply personal measurements like monitoring air quality or capturing face-to-face human interactions, to community-centric ones like monitoring and controlling resource consumption in the home or office, to nearly planetary-scale ones like monitoring power grid dynamics or mapping post-catastrophe nuclear radiation fields. In their pursuit, my research has made contributions in areas as diverse as mobile-sensor interfacing, energy-harvesting system design, and Smart Dust system architecture. More importantly, these research systems have provided (i) insights on which new technologies to explore and (ii) lessons on the key systems challenges—of integrating the components to deploy real systems that gather useful information for societally-important applications.

Prabal Dutta is a Morris Wellman Faculty Development Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He is an unabashed systems builder who disregards disciplinary boundaries and collaborates broadly in a quest to create new devices and integrate them into real-world systems that attack challenging societal problems. His work has yielded dozens of hardware and software systems, has won four best paper awards (SenSys'10, IPSN'10, HotEmNets'10, and IPSN'08), has received several design awards (ISLPED'08, ISLPED'10, Comdex Best of Show, and many others), has been directly commercialized by a dozen companies and indirectly by many dozens more, and has been utilized by thousands of researchers and practitioners worldwide. His work has been recognized with an NSF CAREER award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, an Intel Early Career Award, and a Popular Science Magazine Brilliant Ten of 2014 Award. He holds a B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering, both from the Ohio State University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley, where NSF and Microsoft Research Graduate Fellowships supported his doctoral work. He is lucky to advise an amazing group of graduate students that includes five NSF Graduate Fellows, two Microsoft Women Scholars, two Qualcomm Innovation Fellows, and an NDSEG Fellow. Among their many talents is Houdini-esque magic skills, making a hot tub that seats a dozen appear onto—and disappear from—a 4th floor balcony over the course of a weekend.

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