BUFFALO, N.Y. – It is rush hour and every motorist on the
highway is driving in the right lane. The center and left lanes are
The scenario, as ludicrous as it sounds, describes how most
wireless communication systems work.
Thankfully, researchers are developing a way to undo the
gridlock resulting from the proliferation of smartphones, laptops
and other gadgets. It centers on the development of cognitive
radio, a type of wireless communication that instantly finds and
uses the best alternative channels.
The technology, while still under development, could make
wireless communications 10 times faster. For example, it would take
three minutes instead of 30 to download a movie.
“We’re not fully using the radio spectrum
that’s allocated to wireless devices,” says Dimitris
Pados, PhD, electrical engineering professor at the University at
Buffalo. “The system we’re developing eliminates those
inefficiencies, allowing the transfer of as much information as
possible while minimizing cross-interference.”
Pados is the principal investigator of a four-year, $2.72
million grant awarded to UB by the U.S. Air Force Research
Laboratory. Co-investigators are Professor Stella Batalama, and
associate professors Tommaso Melodia and Weifeng Su, all from
UB’s Department of Electrical Engineering.
Wireless devices – everything from smartphones to sensors
that monitor rows of soybeans – share an increasingly crowded
radio spectrum. The congestion not only limits how fast information
can be shared via wireless communication systems, it wastes energy,
kicks people off the Internet and causes dropped cellphone
The problem, however, isn’t necessarily a lack of radio
spectrum. It’s how the spectrum is used.
Large bands of radio waves allocated to wireless devices often
sit idle while other bands are crowded, according to the Federal
Communications Commission and counterpart agencies worldwide. An
example of this is AM radio, which in most locations in the United
States is used less than FM radio. Cognitive radio promises to
immediately identify unused channels throughout the radio spectrum
and use them to share information.
“It’s like an air traffic control system where the
maximum amount of planes are taking off and landing at each airport
throughout the world,” Pados said.
The UB researchers will develop algorithms that optimize (as
well as model and simulate) how the platform would work. Then,
working with Rome, N.Y.-based ANDRO Computational Solutions, they
will conduct actual tests of the technology using small unmanned
The grant will support four graduate students who will work as
research assistants, and four undergraduate researchers.
The researchers are members of the Signals, Communications and
Networking Research Group in UB’s Department of Electrical
Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,
which also includes professors Adly T. Fam and Mehrdad Soumekh;
associate professors Michael Langberg and Leslie Ying; and
assistant professors Nicholas Mastronarde, Gesualdo Scutari, Zhi
Sun and Josep M. Jornet.
The group carries out research in wireless communications and
networking, cognitive radios, extreme environment (i.e.,
underwater, underground) communications, secure communications,
data hiding, information theory and coding, adaptive signal
processing, compressed sensing, fault-tolerant data
representation, multimedia systems, magnetic resonance imaging
and image reconstruction, intra-body networks, big data,
electromagnetic nanonetworks, network coding, large-scale
optimization, and machine learning.