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Get to Know 2020 Young Scholar Yasaman Ghasempour

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This year, the Marconi Society named three Paul Baran Young Scholars, an award that recognizes emerging researchers from around the world whose work shapes the future of advanced communications technology. The 2020 Young Scholars, Yasaman Ghasempour, Vikram Iyer, and Piotr Roztocki, represent three distinct areas of research within communications. In this series of Q&As, we’re highlighting each Young Scholar and digging into the work that earned them the award.

Our first Q&A features Yasaman Ghasempour, who will join Princeton University as an Assistant Professor in January, 2021.

Q. Can you describe the problem you’re solving and how it impacts people?

A. Current WiFi is omni-directional—it blasts everywhere and devices find it. As you go higher in frequency, there is exponentially higher energy loss. The signal dies after just a few centimeters. So we need to form beams (directional communications) and send the signal to them. This is true both outdoors and indoors. There are three main challenges: coordinating the transmitter and receiver to find each other, ensuring signals can avoid potential blockages, and enabling mobility so a device can continue accessing a router as it moves around.

I use common communications signals and hardware (using routers and laptops) to sense an environment and enhance coordination of devices. Imagine if there were a camera in every room and every building in the world: we would be able to pinpoint where everything is. Unfortunately, we cannot have video in every room. By using a standard laptop and router, we can ID nearby devices and sense their motion and the environment that surrounds them.

This work will impact the accessibility and flexibility of high-frequency networks like mmWave and THz (which offer data rates in the 100s of Gbps). With these enhanced capabilities, these large-bandwidth networks could support AR, autonomous cars, remote surgery, and many other applications we haven’t even conceived of yet. I’m interested in this problem because the solution will impact our everyday lives. Higher bandwidth networks are the future and making them usable, affordable, and accessible will have a huge impact on people.

Q. What is the unique innovation or point of view that you brought to the problem you are solving or your overall work?

A. Before my research, people were using a brute force solution, sending signals in multiple directions looking for the receiver. Networks have to repeat for every client and every time there is a motion. Each time this occurs, the network diverts attention from data communications—this communication takes only 2 milliseconds, but it happens every time you want to send a data packet… My system eliminates the overhead by sensing motion and finding a receiver without putting overhead on the network. If you are on a video call and keep moving, your fast connectivity would be seamless with this sensing solution. People will have access to these networks partly in 5G and more completely in 6G, which is a 5–10-year timeframe.

Q. Which applications of your work are you most excited about?

A. For indoor applications, I’m excited about smart home apps such as fall detection, baby monitoring, and wireless VR headsets, which will not need a cable connection because they will have ultra-high data rates. In the outdoor environment, I am excited about this network’s impact on autonomous vehicles and drones for safety purposes. For example, autonomous cars currently use a camera to detect if someone is crossing the street, which might be inhibited by lack of light or environmental elements like clouds. With my technology, we can detect that someone is crossing the street and send the information to another car to give a broader view of the environment. Because we can share the sensor information with giga (or even tera) bit-per-second speed, we can form a collaborative sensing and information environment where every car or every device operates as a sensing node. People have done sensing in lower bands. In higher bandwidth, you get better sensing resolution and smaller antenna sizes mean that orders of magnitude more antennas can be packed into a wireless phone and each antenna is a sensor, as well as a communications enhancer. By utilizing this sensing network on higher bandwidths, we get much higher resolution and a more granular view of the world—it is like bringing HD into your sensing world.