CSC News

October 19, 2016

Shahzad’s FRPD Proposal Selected for Funding

Dr. Muhammad Shahzad, assistant professor of computer science at NC State University, has received a Faculty Research and Professional Development (FRPD) Award in the amount of $10,000 to support his research proposal titled “Lighting Up the Internet of Things with Visible Light Communication.”
AbstractResearchers and industry have both begun to consider ways to make buildings smart. A fundamental task in achieving the vision of smart buildings is to instrument all devices and even the environment with sensors that continuously measure their power consumption and other relevant aspects and send the measurements to a cloud service for analysis via an Internet gateway. It is not too far in future when almost everything in buildings will be connected to a cloud service via an internet gateway using sensors and actuators to make the buildings smart. Due to the dense deployment of a large number of sensors, an important question surfaces: how will all these sensors be connected to the Internet gateway? Unfortunately, it is not practically feasible to use RF based wireless technologies in such dense deployments because the wireless channel arbitration becomes a bottleneck. This limitation is aggravated by the fact that the RF signals propagate through walls, which means that the RF transmissions from sensors deployed in one room interfere with the RF transmissions from sensors deployed in other rooms. Thus, it becomes difficult for the sensors to get access to the wireless channel to connect to the Internet gateway and achieve acceptable throughput.
Due to this limitation, it is imperative to explore new and cheap modes of wireless connectivity in smart buildings. One such mode of connectivity is light. Light based wireless connectivity has two key advantages. First, light does not propagate through walls and thus reduces the number of sensors contending for the light based wireless channel in any given room of the building. Second, the equipment required to enable light based connectivity is primarily LEDs and photodiodes, which are readily available and are extremely cheap. In fact, LED based lighting solutions are already actively being deployed in smart buildings and streets due to their low cost, low power consumption, and orders of magnitude longer life compared to the conventional lighting solutions.
In this project, we propose to design, implement, and extensively evaluate a cheap light based communication (LiCom) system for smart buildings using commodity LEDs and photodiodes. Our preliminary results have shown that by using a single LED placed at the ceiling and a single photodiode placed at the floor, we can achieve a throughput of over 75kbps. As the LEDs and photodiodes are very cheap, by increasing the number of LEDs and photodiodes, we can potentially achieve throughputs that are an order of magnitude higher than the IEEE 802.15.4 standard and are close to the IEEE 802.11b WiFi standard.
The FRPD program is a funding partnership between the NC State University Office of Research and Innovation and the 10 academic colleges, and funding is available on a competitive basis.  For more information on Faculty Research and Professional Development funding, click here.
For more information on Dr. Shahzad, click here.

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