John-Paul Hurley ’18 and Behnam Dezfouli want to hit fast-forward on transforming the internet of things.
In terms of usability, the internet of things (IoT) is where the internet was 20 years ago, says Behnam Dezfouli. The assistant professor of computer engineering notes that possibilities are evident—medical devices capable of transmitting information to doctors; industrial facilities controllable with the touch of a screen; dynamic smart cities—but there’s no standard process, yet. Devices don’t always speak the same language or use the best process, resulting in inefficient battery life, security risks, and—when multiplied by millions—slow and unreliable communication. Dezfouli wants to fast-forward two decades. This summer he enlisted John-Paul Hurley ’18 to help his team of student researchers. Part of a Kuehler Undergraduate Research grant, Hurley is developing simulation software to allow developers to create scenarios and test algorithms in a fraction of the time. Instead of a year, a test might run a couple weeks. “What if multiple devices want to communicate at the same time?” Hurley says. Or if a person has a wearable medical device in a subway that blocks internet coverage, the simulator can test the density needed for multi-hop routing to relay data using nearby cell phones to reach an internet connection. Once the software is complete, Dezfouli plans to share it with other institutions. For the student, Hurley, there’s the thrill of finding new solutions. “It’s a new experience having the professor not even know the answer,” Hurley says. “That’s what keeps me into the research. It’s the most rewarding part.”