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Programming the Network and the Environment for Sensing, Communication and Computation

ECE Seminar

Location: EER 1.518
Kaushik Chowdhury
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Northeastern University

This presentation delves into how extreme reconfigurability will shape future 6th Generation wireless networks, made possible by exciting new developments in the areas of open radio access networks (O-RAN) and reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS). By embracing programmability at all levels, from centralized cellular architectures to distributed network components, such wireless networks will not only establish resilient communication links but also perform sensing tasks to better perceive and, to an extent, even engineer the surrounding environment. In this two-part talk, we first describe how `programmable networks’ in the form of O-RAN-compliant base stations can evolve their roles from sensing weak radar signals to performing automated network traffic analysis followed by resource allocation. Using implementations on the Colosseum, the world’s largest RF emulator with software defined radios in the loop, we will also describe the challenges in deploying such disaggregated architectures in terms of security, control signaling and computational overheads. In the second part of the talk, we shift towards `programmable environments’ where we experimentally demonstrate how custom-designed RIS can be used for channel hardening in single antenna receivers by intentionally creating multipath diversity. We also explore how such programmability opens up a new domain of wireless computing, where transmitted signals can be used to perform mathematical operations by leveraging the physics of over-the-air propagation. A common theme in programming both the “network” and “environment” is rigorous experimental validation on laboratory and field-deployed systems, leveraging tools of signal processing, machine learning and optimization. We conclude by identifying other ongoing efforts in digital twins, infrastructure design for AI workloads and augmented reality, and non-terrestrial networks.


Kaushik Chowdhury is Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Northeastern University, Boston and Faculty Fellow in the College of Engineering. He was a finalist for the 2023 US Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. He was also the winner of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2017, the DARPA Young Faculty Award in 2017, the ONR Director of Research Early Career Award in 2016, and the NSF CAREER award in 2015. He is the recipient of best paper awards at multiple IEEE and ACM conferences. He currently co-directs the operations of Colosseum RF/network emulator, as well as the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research project office, a partnership between the NSF and  wireless industry consortium to create city-scale testing platforms. He is a member of the NSF AI Institute For Future Edge Networks And Distributed Intelligence and is lead PI for the NSF RFDataFactory community infrastructure project that aims to release datasets and software APIs for RF data collection for the community. He has served as Technical Program Chair for top conferences, including IEEE INFOCOM and ACM MobiHoc. Within Northeastern's College of Engineering, he contributes towards growing interdisciplinary connections as the Assoc. Dean for Research and also serves as the founding Assoc. Director for the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things. He is a Fellow of the IEEE.