MIT's New Wireless Research Lab Tackles 'Spectrum Exhaustion'11:23 AM EST Thu. Oct. 11, 2012
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Thursday unveiled a new research center for exploring next-generation wireless technologies that can more efficiently handle the influx of mobile devices tapping global Wi-Fi networks.
The new center, dubbed "Wireless@MIT," will be part of MIT's broader Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and will be driven by more than 50 MIT faculty members and graduate students, working alongside industry affiliates including Intel, Cisco, Amazon and Microsoft.
The center, according to Hari Balakrishnan, MIT professor and co-director of Wireless@MIT, has four primary aims. The first, and most pressing, is to overcome the issue of spectrum exhaustion -- finding new ways to accommodate the more than 5 billion mobile phones tapping into today's radio frequencies.
"It's both staggering and sobering to note that this number is larger than the number of people with access to regular electricity and a toothbrush," Balakrishnan said, speaking at Thursday's inauguration of the new center.
Balakrishnan's fellow co-director of Wireless@MIT, Professor Dina Katabi, discussed a new technology already in the works at MIT that can alleviate this spectrum exhaustion. The technology, called MegaMIMO, allows users to transmit data over the same frequency band without interfering with one another. The solution, which will be refined in the new lab and ultimately deployed and tested across the MIT campus, shows a tenfold improvement in data transfer rates without putting more strain on the spectrum.
The second aim of the Wireless@MIT initiative is to find new ways to reduce power consumption and extend the battery life of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. "We all have experienced times when our phones run out of batteries, especially when we most need them," Balakrishnan said.
The third goal of the center is to pave the way for new security technologies that can better protect mobile users from malware and attacks. All devices tapping into wireless networks -- ranging from smartphones to medical devices such as pacemakers -- are fair game for hackers, said Balakrishnan and Katabi, and the new lab is aimed at preventing that.
The final goal of Wireless@MIT is to develop a new generation of mobile applications that not only more "gracefully" run on wireless networks, without any freezes or glitches, but also provide users with new capabilities for transportation, navigation, health care and education.
"These applications will change the way we live, the way we work, the way we entertain and play," Balakrishnan said.
MIT's new Wireless@MIT lab will join other research centers already residing under the CSAIL umbrella. In May, Intel and MIT jointly launched bigdata@CSAIL, a center aimed at developing new technologies for more efficiently managing, storing and analyzing big data.
PUBLISHED OCT. 11, 2012