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Sensors in your smart phone can pinpoint your location, measure the pollution in the community in which you live and gauge the quality of local drinking water. Soon, they may also provide researchers with deep insights into the behavior of individuals, communities and nations.
Romit Roy Choudhury, a new associate professor in CSL and an expert in wireless networks and mobile computing, is treating smartphones and wearable devices such as glasses and watches, as an "information microscope." By taking advantage of the massive sensed data from these devices, and aggregated over time and space, researchers can begin to analyze patterns in individuals, communities, and larger group behavior.
“With all the sensors on your mobile phone and wearable devices, it’s no longer just a communications device,” said Roy Choudhury, a member of Illinois’ electrical and computer engineering faculty. “It’s giving us all sorts of useful information about an individual’s behavior, and combined with information from other users, we can start to gain wonderful insights about behavior of large communities and the context in which it’s occurring.”
The information could be used for a variety of applications, from making predictions on terrorist attacks to helping movie producers who want to know what parts of a film their audiences find most compelling. It would be possible, Roy Choudhury says, to sense a movie watcher’s reactions, such as laughter or crying, intense attention, boredom, etc., from sensors in a tablet and program the system to automatically rate the film based on those reactions.
The work leverages Roy Choudhury’s expertise in mobile computing, which has garnered a lot of notice lately. Recently, he received a Google Faculty Research Award to design a Google Glass application that identifies humans based on their soft visual fingerprints, such as clothing colors and motion patterns. Unlike facial recognition technology, a permanent biometric, this app allows identification without creating a permanent profile, while also allowing the user to deactivate these profiles whenever they wish to.
He is also interested in developing various forms of localization technology, including indoor localization, energy-efficient localization, object localization, and human localization. He plans to build on his mobile computing research by developing an app that enables a user to image a building using a camera phone and retrieve location information about the building on her phone.
Roy Choudhury also works in the area of wireless networking, designing algorithms, protocols, and systems at the boundary of MAC and Physical layers of the network stack. He has worked on techniques such as interference cancellation, enabling the ability for a radio to transmit and receive at the same time. He has also used this capability to build protocols, ultimately improving the user's perceived performance, say YouTube videos. His work on distributed resource sharing has received attention and awards -- with his students, he showed that fairly sharing a resource can be performed in much less time if the operation is moved to the frequency domain. His current work is focussed on bringing robotic capabilities to wireless networking and infrastructure.
While Roy Choudhury has spent the last seven years at Duke University, where he was a tenured associate professor, coming to Illinois was a return home. He holds a M.S. degree from ECE and Ph.D. in computer science from Illinois, studying under doctoral adviser Nitin Vaidya, a CSL professor. The rich multidisciplinary experience he enjoyed as a student was a big factor in his return as a faculty member.
“This is a top-ranked department in the nation and the world,” he said. “Illinois has both the breadth and depth to do really exciting work in interdisplinary areas. This is a place where I can talk to several others on any idea and vision that comes to mind. That is truly awesome."
Roy Choudhury is seeking talented undergraduate and graduate students. For more information about his research, please visit http://web.engr.illinois.edu/%7Ecroy/.