Government Boosts Funding for Wireless Project
Effort Intended to Enhance Communications in Emergency Situations
Nov. 11, 2008
The federal government has increased funding for researchers at UT Dallas working on a wireless technology that will enable emergency workers to jump from one communications protocol to another, allowing first responders to communicate over commercial, military and emergency channels using a single cell phone or other communications device.
By streamlining communications during crises, the technology – known as software-defined radio – could play an important part in saving lives, researchers say.
“The additional funding brings us one step closer to implementing a fully-functional software-defined radio for emergency applications,” said Kamran Kiasaleh, principal investigator for the project, noting that in engineering terms a cell phone is simply a two-way radio.
“In this phase of the project,” he added, “the focus is on fabrication of a prototype, which in turn paves the way for commercialization. We also expect to shed light on both the viability of this emerging engineering discipline and the challenges involved in it.”
The work is expected to ultimately have consumer applications as well, enabling people to roam the world without worrying about whether their cell phone is compatible with this or that communications standard.
Support for the project has now topped $680,000.
Software-defined radio has been discussed for almost 20 years, but only with the latest developments in digital processing has it become achievable, according to researchers at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas.
Software-defined radio is expected to, in turn, pave the way for what’s known as cognitive radio, a technology in which cell phones and other devices will automatically search for and use whatever part of the communications spectrum is available.
Software-defined radio technology also has green ramifications: Instead of throwing away old cell phones, PDAs and other communications devices people would be able to simply update a product’s software.
The Justice Department contract began in September 2006. Based on the researchers’ progress, it’s now been extended to run through August 2009 with nearly $235,000 in added funding. Kiasaleh and two other UT Dallas researchers – Poras Balsara and Dinesh Bhatia – are working closely with Texas Instruments on the project. All three of the researchers are professors of electrical engineering.
Electrical engineering faculty Poras Balsara (left) and Kamran Kiasaleh hold the circuit board containing the software-defined radio technology that their team is developing. Other members of the team are (second row, from left) graduate students Xiaojiang Tian, Jay Shah and Ali Montazeri, and (third row, from left) grad student Gaurav Sureka, undergraduate Allen Webb and grad student Liu Zhengjie. Team members not pictured are grad student Essam Atalla, former grad student Beilei Zhang and associate professor of electrical engineering Dinesh Bhatia.