New center headquartered at CMU will build smarter networks to connect edge devices to the cloud

Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor

Computing on Network Infrastructure for Pervasive Perception, Cognition, and Action (CONIX) is a $27.5 million initiative by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) that aims to increase the levels of autonomy and intelligence into the internet of things (IoT) networks.

This initiative is comprised of researchers from six partner universities — University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington, University of Southern California, University of California, San Diego, University of California, Los Angeles — led by and headquartered at Carnegie Mellon University. CONIX is co-directed by Anthony Rowe — an Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University and Prabal Dutta — an Associate Professor at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department of University of California, Berkeley. The initiative had its kick-off meeting on Jan. 26, 2018.

From Wi-Fi controlled string lights for dorm rooms to app controlled car locks to health-monitoring clothes, inter-device communication along with human-device communication has become a virtue of what it means to be a human in the modern age. This space of devices collecting and interacting with each other forms the space that we call the IoT. As such devices - sensing, collecting data, and interacting with humans - become more pervasive and more integrated into our lives, it becomes increasingly important to be able to build networks that are better equipped to handle these interactions between the cloud and the edge devices. In a Carnegie Mellon press release, Dean James H. Garrett Jr. of the College of Engineering stated, “The extent to which IoT will disrupt our future will depend on how well we build scalable and secure networks that connect us to a very large number of systems that can orchestrate our lives and communities. CONIX will develop novel architectures for large-scale, distributed computing systems that have immense implications for social interaction, smart buildings and infrastructure, and highly connected communities, commerce and defense.”

CONIX has divided its research agenda into four broad themes — Physically-Coupled Cognitive Perceptual Systems; Platforms, Programming and Synthesis; Security, Robustness and Privacy; and Interacting Services. Then, CONIX aims to focus on three applications of Physically-Coupled Cognitive Perceptual Systems — Smart and Connected Communities, Interactive Mixed Reality Systems and Enhanced Situational Awareness.

The Interactive Mixed Reality Systems application aims to better integrate the physical and virtual focusing primarily on “short distances, tight latency, and large bandwidths.” The Smart and Connected Communities application looks at “network size, long distances, and human time-scales” which means that it would require creating systems that are better equipped to obtain and handle large amounts of data from the communities. The Enhanced Situational Awareness application will combine the other two applications to “support real-time collaboration among humans, algorithms, and machines in a safe, robust, and secure manner in an information-rich, rapidly-evolving tactical environment,” which means that it will create distributed systems that are equipped to process large amounts of data efficiently and securely. Rowe said, “there isn’t a seamless way to merge cloud functionality with edge devices without a smarter interconnect, so we want to push more intelligence into the network...If networks were smarter, decision-making could occur independent of the cloud at much lower latencies.”

With the possibilities represented by the IoT and the responsibility that comes with handling so much data, this initiative - interdisciplinary and broad — seems to represent a new era of technological change.