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New Calit2 Associate Director at UC San Diego Sees Need for Closer Relations with Industry

Rajesh Gupta
To watch a Windows Media video clip of Calit2's new Associate Director, Rajesh Gupta, talking about Calit2 and reaching out to industry click here.
In a second streaming video, Rajesh Gupta talks about the dynamic new field of cyber-physical systems.
Length: 3:53

 [Streaming clips require Windows Media player and broadband connection.]

San Diego, CA, June 1, 2009 -- He's a newcomer to the title, but not to the job. Jacobs School computer science professor Rajesh Gupta has been appointed an Associate Director in the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). He says he hopes to do for the institute overall what he has been doing in his chosen field of wireless and embedded systems all along: reach out to industry.

"In order to have a national presence with the research we do and the large portfolio of that research, we needed to connect the research with the industry needs," says Gupta. "So my role at Calit2 has been to look out for emerging intellectual trends in academia and their implications on industry, not today but five years from now. Take those, marry them in a way that we could shorten the curve, so whatever would happen in industry 15 years from now through evolutionary trends, can instead happen in five years because, for instance, these two people talked, or we cross-fertilized ideas that allowed us to make an advance that would have otherwise taken much longer."

Gupta was present at the creation of Calit2, but not in San Diego. In 2000, he was still on the faculty at UC Irvine, UC San Diego's partner in Calit2. "I worked to pull the team together while at Irvine, to begin to think about what kinds of mobile platforms we'll face, what architecture they'll need, the memory on them, the amount of energy they'll have, how long the battery will last, and what new sensing capabilities they will have," recalls Gupta, who moved to UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering in 2002. "Since then, mobile computing/communications devices  have also become a platform for sensing and data processing for a variety of applications."

In 2003, Gupta became the first recipient of a faculty chair from Qualcomm, Inc., through the company's initial $15 million commitment to Calit2. He holds the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Embedded Microsystems and is a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department. Gupta earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1993, and was a senior design engineer at Intel Corporation from 1986-89. Gupta also taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before relocating to UC Irvine. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and founding Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly journal, IEEE Embedded Systems Letters launched in 2009

"With his background in both industry and academia, Rajesh Gupta is uniquely suited to the long-term task of bringing the two sides together under the Calit2 umbrella," says Ramesh Rao, director of the UCSD division of Calit2. "His research into energy-efficient mobile computing and embedded systems is at the very core of Calit2's research agenda, so having Professor Gupta in a leadership position will keep the institute looking to the future as Calit2 celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2010."

Gupta is convinced that Calit2 is uniquely suited to bringing industry together with traditional academic researchers with deep expertise in theory and practice behind latest advances in science and engineering.. "Calit2 creates an ecosystem that enables sharp academic minds to work with the best technical talent from the industry in giving us the capability to take an idea from conceptualization to completion in a short amount of time. In doing so, talent flows in both directions, researchers reaching out to companies, as well as engineering fellows reaching out to academic institutions where they interact with university researchers to lower the risk and shorten the time to try out new ideas."

In his own research, Gupta has emerged as a leading expert in the emerging field of "cyber-physical" systems. "The intellectual thrust of cyber-physical systems is rooted in the proliferation of computing as a part of our daily lives," he notes. "If you look at computing and Moore's Law, that has basically done two things: it has improved personal productivity, and allowed enterprises to streamline their processes. But the infrastructures in which we live--beyond our devices and cars to the roads , or the health care infrastructure, or water management systems--all of these lifelines, all these infrastructures are very old and in need of care. The  potential impact of this upgraded infrastructure is enormous in terms of efficiency, quality of life, responsiveness to societal needs."

Case in point: the Smart Grid, an effort to use information technology advances to modernize electric utilities and reduce energy consumption at thethe consumer level. "A number of utilities are deploying smart meters--replacing a meter that basically has not changed in over a hundred years--and use it  to provide real-time information to the consumer via a monitor inside the house," Gupta says. "So if you know where your electricity use is on a minute-to-minute basis rather than knowing it at the end of the month, maybe you can change the behaviors in some ways. You can find where the large power consumers are and perhaps you can change their use methods or even upgrade the equipment to more efficient alternatives. The installation of these meters is very much in progress: more than a million of these devices will be deployed in the next year in San Diego alone."

In a recent post to the Calit2.Life blog, Gupta pointed out that Calit2 has been using a set of 30 modified Watts Up? meters in CSE Building  that monitor and report power usage for the past six months. "The campus network folks are already complaining about unnecessary network traffic being created by these power meters. The notion that machine to machine communications need to be supported by network management group is new to them," he wrote. "Imagine what happens when the Internet does become a network of things."

"So does Calit2 have a role?" asks Gupta, responding in the same breath: "It has a huge role! Indeed, Calit2 has been actively working in the cyber-physical area without always using that title. We have made investments in this area, and from an intellectual point of view, and a delivery point of view, this will be one of the major outcomes of the research Calit2 is doing today." He cites the case of an effort in structural health monitoring, which requires expertise in a number of different fields. "We have (Jacobs School computer science professor ) Sanjoy Dasgupta,  a machine learning researcher, we have an embedded processing node designer in (Jacobs School computer science professor) Tajana Rosing, a sensor node designer Michael Todd (a Jacobs School structural engineering professor), a robotics expert Tom Bewley," Gupta spells out. "They are all working together under an effort headed by Dean Freider Seible with Los Alamos National Laboratory. Together this group of researchers is doing much more that the sum of their parts. That's multiplicative power, and I've been very happy to see this happen in Calit2." The push into cyber-physical systems has also provided an impetus to get researchers to talk to people with whom they normally would never collaborate. "It's a whole new ballgame," enthuses Gupta. "For example here at UCSD, a group of researchers who work on energy are talking to facilities managers. Why? Because for the research they want to do, they cannot go into electrical cabinets and so on unless they have certified electricians working with them. There is no laboratory equivalent of this where a researcher could do it on their bench-top." Gupta adds that in one major way, the field of cyber-physical systems--which has come together in just the past two years--can pay off for society much faster than most other science and engineering fields. "Cyber-physical systems as a research area has already defined its target applications and target beneficiaries," explains Gupta, referring to the lifeline infrastructures for water, transportation, power, healthcare and so on. "This is very different from other academic areas, where we often worry about the application later."

This past April, the Calit2 Associate Director chaired the IEEE/ACM Cyber-Physical Systems Week 2009, and chaired the IEEE/ACM Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks in San Francisco, with three co-located conferences that attracted 450 researchers from around the world. (Next year it will be held in Stockholm, Sweden.) Gupta also sits on the program committee of the 2nd International Workshop on Cyber-Physical Systems (WCPS 2009), which opens on June 22 in Montreal, Canada.

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