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Rutgers Wireless Networking Laboratory Awarded Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technological Innovation

January 14, 2008

EDITOR'S NOTE: Professor Raychaudhuri may be contacted at 732-932-6857, ext. 638 or at ray@winlab.rutgers.edu.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - A research team at the Rutgers Wireless Information Networking Laboratory (WINLAB) today received the fourth annual Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technological Innovation from the I/UCRC Association, a voluntary, independent organization of past and present members of the National Science Foundation's Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) program.

The award, named for the founder of the I/UCRC program, recognizes Rutgers for establishing a unique facility for testing new mobile computing and communications technologies. The facility, known as the ORBIT Open Access Radio Grid Testbed, features a 400-node programmable radio transceiver emulation laboratory and an outdoor field trial system of short- and long-range radios on the university's New Brunswick Campus.

Accepting the award for the Rutgers team is Ivan Seskar, an associate director at WINLAB and project engineer for ORBIT, leading its design and ongoing operations.

The ORBIT facility, funded by a $5.45 milion, four-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, is the world's largest open, programmable wireless network facility for use by academic and industry researchers worldwide. Approximately 200 research teams have conducted more than 5,000 experiments since the lab became widely available to researchers in October of 2005. Studies have included computer networks that can be automatically reconfigured on-demand, networking for security and environmental sensors, vehicular data communications and wireless networking security.

ORBIT is also being used as a proof-of-concept prototyping platform for wireless aspects of GENI, the future $300 million Internet research infrastructure being planned by the U.S. networking research community. In addition, it has been selected as the experimental wireless networking platform of choice for key future Internet projects in Europe.

ORBIT represents an important contribution to the nation's wireless infrastructure," said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, director of WINLAB and a principal investigator of the NSF ORBIT project. "WINLAB's unique wireless technology development and technology transfer capabilities that made a complex project like ORBIT possible were originally nurtured by Schwarzkopf's NSF I/UCRC program."

ORBIT also has been useful in applied industrial projects aimed at improving 802.11 wireless local-area networks, video distribution systems and tactical ad-hoc networks. Several of WINLAB's sponsor companies, including Thomson, Toyota ITC and InterDigital are using the testbed to design future video systems, vehicular applications and security solutions.

The centerpiece of ORBIT is an indoor "radio grid emulator" with 400 programmable wireless nodes laid out in a regular rectangular pattern in an interference-shielded, 5,000-square- foot space. Each radio node is connected to a high-speed wired network for control and code-downloading. System configuration is specified by an experiment script which is interpreted and mapped onto radio nodes within the grid. Power and interference levels corresponding to the selected radio system scenario are emulated through appropriate radio channels. The system definition may include devices such as access points, wired network routers and pure radio nodes.

The resulting emulation environment provides significantly richer evaluation of wireless network protocols than would be possible with conventional simulations. This accelerates the exploratory research cycle, allowing new network concepts to be tested and redesigned in days instead of weeks or months.

ORBIT was featured in MIT Technology Review's annual issue on "10 emerging technologies ... most likely to alter industries, fields of research and even the way we live" in 2006. It was also featured in Signal Magazine, a leading publication in the defense industry.

     Other ORBIT team members recognized by the Schwarzkopf Prize are WINLAB associate directors Wade Trappe and Roy Yates, and WINLAB faculty members Larry Greenstein, Marco Gruteser, Max Ott, Sanjoy Paul and Yangyong Zhang.

The Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize is awarded annually in the name of Dr. Alexander Schwarzkopf, who established the I/UCRC program at the NSF in 1979 and has managed this unique and remarkably effective program since its creation.  His efforts have been recognized by many awards and have been the catalyst for adoption of the I/UCRC model by a number of states and several other countries, the highest form of recognition.

About the I/UCRC program - The I/UCRC program traces its history back to the early 1970s; it is the longest continuously operating cooperative research center program sponsored by NSF. With a modest budget of $6 million per year, the program currently supports 45 centers involving more than 80 universities, 600 member firms, 700 faculty and 850 students. NSF support is leveraged 15-to-1 by other public and private funding sources. Over the years faculty supported by the I/UCRC program have won a long list of scholarly and professional awards and honors for their research.  Remarkably most of the 110 centers formed over the past 30 years are still in existence.  In 1998 the Technology Transfer Society awarded the I/UCRC program its coveted Justin Morrill Award for excellence in technology transfer.  On the occasion of the I/UCRC program's 30th anniversary, Rita Colwell, then director of NSF, commented: "It is seldom that a federally funded program is a real pioneer and yet remains vigorous and innovative more than a generation later... The I/UCRC program continues to be recognized as a model for collaborative research and development between universities and industry, throughout the United States and around the world."

Further information about the I/UCRC program can be obtained from the website www.nsf.gov/eng/iucrc/.

About the I/UCRC Association - The I/UCRC Association is a voluntary, independent organization of past and present members of the I/UCRC program, involving 42 centers, 100 universities, and thousands of faculty and student researchers.

Reprinted from Rutgers University Press Release of Jan 10, 2008

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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