How Rutgers University is leading the research in beyond next-generation technology

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

“So, computers, antennas, wired interfaces which are unplugged right now,” said Ivan Seskar, COSMOS project director.

Seskar is describing a programmable radio node in the world’s largest wireless academic test bed in Rutgers University’s Wireless Information Networking Laboratory. In July, engineers will modify 50 of these and deploy them in West Harlem, turning the Manhattan neighborhood of 30,000 residents in to an outdoor laboratory.

West Harlem symbolizes the features of an increasingly urbanized world: tall buildings, dense population, and an ever-growing and thirsty demand for more bandwidth to send more data. That all at the same time, and demanding that data more quickly reach their destination, better known as lower latency.

“These latest requirements for lowering the latency and increasing the capacity of the system are actually forcing us to look at the new technologies which don’t exist yet,” Seskar said.

Rutgers, Columbia University and NYU are partners in a National Science Foundation seven year project to create, find, and test those new technologies to accommodate a world that’s projected to have 20 billion internet-connected devices in two years. Among the tests are pushing computing to the edge.

“Which means literally providing computing as close as possible to the user, meaning just next to where the wireless signal gets into the infrastructure,” Seskar said.

Another experiment is using new millimeter wave bands to grow capacity. That would require more cell towers, instead researchers will try out higher frequency antennas for a process called advanced beamforming.

“Which is the idea of focusing radio frequency toward a particular user and doing that on a massive scale. And that is actually one of the main challenges that we are trying to understand, the complexities that this brings in,” Seskar said.

The National Science Foundation and an industry consortium are funding the COSMOS Project for next wireless revolution. Seskar is the project director.

“This is really focusing on massive change in scale of the delivery of wireless,” Seskar said.

Rutgers and its partners anticipate the research bearing exponential benefits for human, among them safer streets and intersections. Researchers say by improving latency, machines can communicate faster with other machines to produce faster times for self-driving cars to act.

“One of the ideas that’s been floated around is to combine video coming out of each of the cars in order to improve safety. Because obviously as we’ve seen recently, if you focus only on the intelligence in a single car, we still have a problem that accidents will happen. The hope is that by combining the knowledge, or sensory output from each of the cars, as well as integrating it with the infrastructure, we can significantly improve performance way beyond what even a single human can do,” Seskar said.

“Since wireless is the glue that connects the information world to human beings, so it’s going to remain super important,” said COSMOS Principal Investigator, Dipankar Raychaudhuri.

Raychaudhuri says COSMOS’ open-access platform will invite experiments and competition from across the country and lead to new technologies and devices.

“The idea is that as these small companies get involved and excited by the capabilities, they’ll bring out their favorite gadget to try out. And certainly virtual reality and augmented reality are two areas where we’re seeing a lot of action right now,” Raychaudhuri said.

During the experiment, the New York City neighborhood will be the first in the world to test the new technologies, making it the proving ground for the city-focused applications.

“It’s really critical because the only real proof that technology is viable is if you show that people can use it,” Seskar said.

Rutgers researchers hope the project adds to the city’s old adage.

“If you can make it work in such dense environments, you can probably make it work anywhere,” Seskar said.