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Illinois Funded by Google on Innovative Mobile-First, Open Web of Things Initiatives

9/9/2015 8:40:00 AM

Researchers in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (CS @ ILLINOIS) have been funded by Google on two new initiatives. Through Mobile-First, funded by a $1 million Google Focused Research grant, Illinois will not only advance innovative research, but also a compelling undergraduate curriculum for mobile and cloud computing. Additionally, Illinois is joining a cohort of national research universities funded by Google to enable effective use and broad adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Mobile-First Research and Undergraduate Course Development

CS Associate Professor Robin Kravets
CS Associate Professor Robin Kravets

Funded over a three-year period, Mobile-First is supporting the research of CS Associate Professor Robin Kravets into heterogeneous mobile computing and distributed systems.  Her work will focus on coordinated cross-device power management, as well as efficient collaborative communication for crowded bandwidth-constrained environments (like concerts or sporting events).

Mobile-First’s education component, spearheaded by CS Associate Professor Craig Zilles, Associate Professor Indranil Gupta, and Lecturer Lawrence Angrave, will enable CS @ ILLINOIS to integrate Android as the primary mobile platform for three large critical required courses targeted at freshmen and sophomores, including a new freshman-level software engineering course.  Google’s support will also impact advanced CS courses, which will have access to Google’s Cloud Platform, providing students real-world experience working with remote-cloud environments. Other key collaborators include CS Department Head and Abel Bliss Professor Rob A. Rutenbar and Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Professor of Computer Science Roy H. Campbell.

“CS @ ILLINOIS is the home of the first and largest Android MOOC, with 140,000 learners worldwide,” said Rutenbar.  “Our College of Engineering educates more engineering undergraduates than MIT, Stanford, and CMU combined.  We understand education at scale, and Mobile-First will provide a significant boost as we teach the next generation of mobile programmers.” 

CS Department Head Rob A. Rutenbar
CS Department Head Rob A. Rutenbar

Bringing Open Technology to the Internet of Things

CS @ ILLINOIS is also setting off on a Google-funded Expedition to bring the next generation of mobile technology and an open IoT to the everyday user. By enabling and simplifying communication between a user’s mobile devices and embedded devices in the user’s everyday spaces—both public and private—researchers hope to create a seamless experience that engages users with their nearby environments.  

Illinois is joining a cohort of national research universities funded by Google on the Open Web of Things Expedition. CS @ ILLINOIS researchers, led by CS Associate Professor Robin Kravets, will collaborate with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell Tech, Stanford, and Google to design open IoT technology that can be freely shared and enhanced. Chosen for their expertise in mobile computing and wireless communications, systems, and networking, Kravets and her colleagues will contribute vital functionality for managing proximity and for scaling to large IoT deployments.

"We funded the Open Web of Things Expedition to encourage universities to explore various aspects of system design that could help enable the Internet of Things,” said Maggie Johnson, Director of University Relations at Google. “We believe the collaboration with and across universities will accelerate innovation and IoT adoption." These universities “were selected to join based on their unique approaches for tackling critical challenges related to privacy and security, systems and protocols, and HCI.”

As the birthplace of the Mosaic web browser, which paved the way to the explosive growth and impact of the Internet, Illinois is uniquely qualified to also lead in the development of IoT and enable IoT to achieve its full potential. Through the collaboration in the Open Web of Things Expedition, the dream of IoT is closer to becoming a reality.

Over the past several years, wireless technology has become commonplace. By 2019, IoT-enabled devices are expected to reach a deployment of 60 million. This large deployment, particularly of devices that have lower energy costs, is what researchers anticipate will enable IoT to breakthrough from the research lab to the real world. However, the number of devices being launched in the near future will bring new challenges.

Because an IoT ecosystem is a complex combination of devices with divergent capabilities and connectivity potentials, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing limited resources, such as bandwidth and energy.  Researchers from Illinois will seek to address this by balancing a user’s access to IoT data with the energy consumption of the user’s device. Ultimately, a user would receive more relevant data for less energy consumption.

“It’s going to be fascinating to see the research contributions that come out of both the Expedition and Mobile-First. We anticipate innovations in cross-device power management and coordinated mobile-to-mobile communication that will support and enhance the experiences of users who are increasingly carrying more devices with more capabilities,” said Kravets, discussing her participation and leadership in both initiatives.