September 20, 2010

Securing the Future of Network Technology

Have your 3G cellphone stuck to your hip every waking moment or that Bluetooth headset glued to your ear every time you step into your car? You can, in part, thank Richard Yu for that world of connectivity. And the Department of Systems and Computer Engineering assistant professor is only just beginning to take wireless communications and networking to a whole new level, impacting everything from green technology to national defence to health care.

“Communication normally is point-to-point, or between two people or two things,” Yu explains of his research focus. “Networking is for multiple points. As an example, a phone call is point-to-point, but online chatting or conferencing is multiple points, and in that case we need a network, not just one line.”

Translating his industry background—Yu spent two years in Sweden working for Ericsson helping develop the world’s first 3G phones—into research work at Carleton since 2006, Yu’s main focus currently rests in several areas: improving sustainable technologies and working with NSERC on body-area sensor networks, which attaches small, biological sensors to human bodies monitoring parameters like heart rates to detect or prevent illness.

The military … want to set up networks dynamically, without any base or infrastructure.

One of Yu’s largest projects, however, is looking at security issues in mobile ad-hoc networks, as part of million-dollar Department of National Defence funding into the issue.

“The military—in Afghanistan, for example—want to set up networks dynamically, without any base or without any infrastructure,” Yu says of the research that will also translate into private industry advances.

“Right now if both of us have cellphones, if we want to communicate with each other, we need to go through a base station. But using ad-hoc technology, we can communicate with others directly, without using a base station. Like if you’re at a party and want to play group games, several friends can play together. It’s already considered in the next-generation cellphone industry, but in reality there are some issues, and one of them is security.”

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