I recently had the pleasure of asking some questions of Professor Cristian Borcea, Associate Chair, Department of Computer Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, to probe his thoughts on some interesting challenges.
Editor-in-Chief Steve T: What do you think about Dynamic Spectrum Allocation as an approach to solving problems regarding different radio technologies and interference problems?
Prof. Cristian Borcea: I believe DSA can solve many problems, especially for mobile users and unpredictable traffic patterns. As described in our 3DIA architecture, a combination of SDR and cloud could represent the platform to enable effective DSA in IoT.
ST: I am very interested in software-defined radio (SDR) and the middle (regional) tier of global networks. Can you elaborate on this?
Borcea: The regional tier can be used to provide effective management of location-dependent resources. Unlike computing and storage resources, which can be placed in a fixed location, many other resources cannot be freely moved. To deal with the location adherence of the resources, stratus clouds (small, pervasive clouds) are densely deployed at the edge of the network and interconnected with each other to have efficient management in the IoT control plane, and provide full coverage of services in IoT data plane. One typical example of such resources is the scarce radio resource, which has strong dependence on location. In this case, the stratus clouds will run software defined radio protocols that help with radio spectrum allocation. Practically, we could implement effective DSA in this way, benefiting from the cloud resources and its “regional view” of spectrum that will allow for more effective spectrum allocation.
ST: How do you see RFID fitting into the IoT?
Borcea: I think passive RFID tags will be used to track individual objects in IoT. However, I don't expect to see every single object in the environment having an RFID tag (as described in some RFID vision papers). In my opinion, IoT will incorporate a large spectrum of sensors and wireless systems, many of them with significant processing and networking capabilities (i.e., much more powerful than RFIDs). These will allow for more scalable functionality (e.g., they can act as aggregators for less powerful sensors like RFIDs) as well as many new applications.
ST: On another subject concerning engineering students, please tell me about some of the good students you have and some of the technical work they have done, as well as their experiences and contributions in engineering from their view as a student.
Borcea: Some of our students are entrepreneurs. I have a couple of former students who created new companies in the areas of mobile computing and social computing. One company got a grant from the Bill Gates foundation. The other already employs 80 people. The students graduated in 2009 and 2007, respectively.
Other students use their computing skills on Wall Street and in other NYC companies. A former student is Senior VP at Forbes Online.
Generally, this is a very good time to have a computer science degree — pretty much all our students find good jobs. Of course, a combination of excellent practical skills (e.g., programming) and analytical skills (e.g., being able to abstract large-scale complex systems and understand their properties) lead to the best jobs.
Research-wise, my students are creating new mobile applications, protocols, and systems. For example, we devised a system to provide individualized re-routing guidance to drivers, thus minimizing the impact of traffic congestion. The idea is to predict congestion and then perform a certain degree of traffic load balancing. The system can leverage existing smartphones belonging to drivers — so, it's cost effective. It's different from systems like Waze because it pushes individualized re-routing guidance to drivers.
Our most recent project is about enabling mobile distributed computing with help from the cloud. We propose a system architecture in which a mobile user has one or more mobile devices and an “avatar” hosted in the cloud. An avatar is a per-user software entity instantiated as a virtual machine in the cloud, which acts as a surrogate for the user’s mobile devices, thus reducing the workload, storage resources, and bandwidth needed on the mobiles. Avatars make mobile devices smarter because they have a larger storage capacity, compute power, bandwidth, and availability than mobiles. Implicitly, they save energy on the mobiles and improve the response time for many apps. The avatars are available 24×7, even when their mobile devices are offline because of poor connectivity or are simply turned off.
Cristian Borcea is an Associate Professor and the Associate Chair of the Department of Computer Science at New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is also the program director of the online MS in Computer Science at NJIT. Cristian holds a Visiting Associate Professor appointment at the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo. His research interests include: mobile computing and sensing; ad hoc and vehicular networks; and cloud and distributed systems. He received his PhD from Rutgers University, and he is a member of ACM, IEEE, and Usenix.