Thesis Proposal: Yang Zhang, "Wide-Area Sensors for Sparse Ubiquitous Sensing"

Yang Zhang

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - 10:00am
Gates-Hillman Center 4405
Chris Harrison (HCII), Chair
Scott Hudson (HCII) 
Lining Yao (HCII)
Gregory Abowd (Georgia Tech)
Computer applications are no longer constrained by the close proximity of devices, but can now extend to larger common spaces due to the ubiquity of sensors. This extension has fueled an emerging concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) and context-aware computing, through which we are approaching a future where computers can not only passively respond to user commands, but also proactively adapt to user tasks and contexts. Key to realizing this future is the development of reliable, accurate, and versatile sensing technology, yet we are far from achieving this due to the limitations of existing ubiquitous sensors. 
In this dissertation work, I identify the critical challenges of current ubiquitous sensing systems, and propose a way to tackle these challenges through sparse ubiquitous sensing – a deployment of fewer sensors that can still achieve a wide range of sensing in particular area such as people’s homes and offices. This sparse deployment requires new wide-area sensors which can sense at distance, ideally through walls, and detect a wide variety of activities (e.g., use of plugged-in, battery- or gas-powered appliances or passive objects). To achieve this, I built three systems based on capacitive sensing, electromagnetic sensing, laser vibrometry and self-powered radio broadcast. These systems demonstrate the feasibility of achieving room- and building-scale sensing through 1) transforming existing common infrastructures into sensors, and 2) leveraging signals that can travel long distances and through walls. In addition, I have conducted a series of background investigations and system performance evaluations to prove that such wide-area sensing systems can be low-cost, maintenance free, versatile, while capable of sensing rich signals. Finally, based on the established work, I propose several future research directions to complete this thesis.
Queenie Kravitz

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