The transmission technology ticket

Prof. Amir Banihashemeh (left) discusses network coding with Anoosheh Heidarzadeh, a PhD computer and electrical engineering student. (Susan Hickman Photo)

Imagine a radio that can set up its own communications network or solar panels co-operatively transmitting energy to a centralized power grid. Picture a bridge embedded with sensors that can forewarn of its own collapse, or a forest that can tell you it’s burning.

The faculty members and graduate students who work in Carleton University’s Broadband Communications and Wireless Systems (BCWS) research centre, under the direction of systems and computer engineering Prof. Amir Banihashemi, recognize the feasibility of such applications. And more so, as the wireless communications field begins to overlap the departments of civil and mechanical engineering, health sciences and biology.

Since the BCWS centre was established in 2000, funding for what is now one of Canada’s largest groups of wireless researchers has grown to more than $2 million annually, from such agencies as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), and Communications Research Centre (CRC), as well as private companies.

The hot topics of wireless communications and information technology, says Banihashemi, is expected to have a significant impact on future developments in the telecommunications industry. Scores of graduate students, he says, are expected to leave the BCWS research centre as highly qualified personnel who will lead future advances in this field.

Students, faculty and industry experts have been offering research-oriented seminars at the centre since 1999, on leading-edge topics from new wireless communications systems to advanced coding and signal processing schemes.

The seminar series “is a good source of interaction for students and other researchers,” notes Banihashemi, who also points to the collaborations occurring within the centre and with external research and development organizations.

Two such projects – in collaboration with Thales, a world leader in information systems for defence and security, aerospace and transportation – involve the relatively new concept of “cognitive radio.” Under a NSERC grant, researchers are exploring advanced wireless systems, in which radios can adapt to their environment, adjusting their transmissions accordingly and setting up communication networks essential to defence or emergency response operations.

“The general goal,” says Banihashemi, “is to come up with new communication algorithms that are faster, require smaller circuits with less power and that can be used anywhere any time more efficiently.

“Wireless is evolving very fast,” he says, “and we are involved in that rapidly changing research. The current research is to make everything ‘distributed’ on a network in a co-operative way, as opposed to a centralized, non-co-operative system.”

In time, Banihashemi envisions a wide interdisciplinary research approach at the BCWS centre, with collaborations, for example, among faculty in the departments of biology and health sciences, which are studying the use of wireless devices for important measurements and the transmission of crucial information about patients.

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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