In the age of myriad Internet-connected devices generating massive amounts of data, personalization may hold the key to effective use of this data. Dr. Vida Ilderem, Intel Labs vice president and director of Integrated Computing Research (ICR), will address personalization and related topics as the plenary session keynote speaker on Monday, June 2, 2014, at the IEEE MTT-S 2014 International Microwave Symposium (IMS) in Tampa, FL. The title of Ilderem's keynote address is “How Data, Devices, and Personalization are Fueling Demand for Innovation”—with an emphasis on the Internet of things.
“There is so much data being generated by devices—the things we carry with us or that our in our environment,” she said in a recent phone interview. She elaborated on personalization, saying, “Personalization helps you set preferences for the data you receive at a particular time. If you are driving there are only certain amounts of data you want to receive—your personal preferences in that mode. So personalization is the data that you need in the context that you are operating in.”
In the interview, Ilderem discussed a range of topics—from sensors to 5G cellular communications, with an emphasis on the role IMS attendees will play in the roll-out of the Internet of things. And as the first woman to deliver an IMS plenary-session keynote address, she provided unique insights on the role of women in engineering and how to motivate young women to pursue the discipline.
She outlined the role of her team of “Integrated Computing” researchers at Intel Labs: “If you look at computing, you observe you are bringing in other elements and combining them for reasons of power, cost, and form factor. So here you are talking about researching ingredients such as communications, computing, sensors, user interfaces, and algorithms. We want to integrate all these functions together to deliver the use cases that people want to pursue. So 'integrated computing' is the integration of compute, comms, sensors, and user interfaces for flexible platform development.”
“Personalization”—the focus of her IMS address—may seem semantically at odds with the Internet of “things.” However, she explained, the Internet of things is a very broad category. “Maybe things are communicating with each other—we call that machine-to-machine,” she said. “But we have human-to-machine interaction as well. So the idea here is that whatever data is collected on your behalf by machines or by devices or by sensors in the environment—that data is going to do something on your behalf. That's the personalization aspect of it.”
A common example is a fitness device. “You are wearing a gadget that measures how many steps you take or how much calories you burn,” she posited. “It's collecting the data, and it may transfer that data to your phone or to your computer. That’s a thing talking to a thing, but in the end you as the user are accessing that and saying, 'OK, how am I doing, how am I going to react to this data?' Now the more interesting thing would be that as this data is being collected, it interactively feeds back to you, telling you 'go faster' or 'go slower' or 'you're hurting yourself.' As the 'thing' learns more about you it can be become even more personalized.”
Ilderem recently attended the IEEE World Forum on Internet of Things in Seoul, South Korea, where she delivered a keynote address. “It was an interesting forum—the first of its kind from IEEE,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to talk about standardization, interoperability, and security. What I emphasized in my keynote was that, for instance, today you have lots of legacy systems out there: 2G and 3G.” Suppose you've already deployed your Internet of things for 3G, she added. The question becomes, how do you make sure that as you bring up new systems they can still work with the old legacy systems? “Interoperability is very important,” she said, adding, “As things become more and more digitized, security is always something that cannot be an afterthought—it has to be designed up front into the system.”
An interdisciplinary approach is necessary to the rollout of the Internet of things, as engineers contend with sensor design and deployment, signal conditioning, data conversion, digital design, data processing, cloud computing, wireless connectivity, and so on. “You need to bring the different disciplines together to get the whole end-to-end system-wide view of what is needed,” said Ilderem. “An engineer cannot be an expert in all of these disciplines, but it would be nice to know a little bit about your adjacencies.” She elaborated by commenting on the so-called I-shaped person, who is deeply knowledgeable about one topic, and the T-shaped person, who is an expert in one topic but who also has broad exposure to multiple disciplines. “I think we need more T shaped people,” she said.
IMS participants will doubtless include many T-shaped people with expertise in RF/microwave technology. “IMS attendees can obviously play a big role in the communication part of the Internet of things,” Ilderem said. “There is a lot of debate about the actual number—somewhere between 20 to 200 billion things are going to get connected—but even if you say 10 billion, that's more than the number of humans on earth today.” The IMS community will have a role in implementing the different types of communications these devices will use—from short, bursty messages to some video, and they will have a role in defining 5G and ensuring that emerging networks offer sufficient capacity, throughput, and bandwidth. “And then if your application is going to involve public safety,” she continued, “then latency becomes important—you need the data now, instantly, in milliseconds—not seconds or tens of milliseconds. So there is going to be lots of opportunity for innovation in this area.”
Ilderem is the first woman to deliver a plenary session keynote address at IMS, and she sees a key role for women in engineering. She said she had always been interested in math and science and began her bachelor's degree program in physics. But her father advised her to consider engineering, so she double-majored in physics and electrical engineering. “I loved engineering, so for my graduate work I went to electrical engineering,” she said.
She said that encouraging students to study engineering must begin early—in high school. And that might not be early enough. She recounted the decision of her daughter to study biology instead of engineering, despite encouragement from her parents to follow in their footsteps (both Ilderem and her husband have Ph.D. degrees from MIT). “We were wishing for my daughter to go into engineering—she is very strong in science and math. In the end she decided biology because she loves her high-school biology teacher, who was really a huge influence on her.” A son, however, is pursuing engineering.
In any event, said Ilderem, “Diversity is a wonderful thing in terms of not just gender but in the way people think—what they bring into the picture, with different points of view and different ways of doing things. So I think it's very important for women to be in engineering.”
A diverse community of engineers will be instrumental in the evolving technological world of data, devices, personalization, and the Internet of things. Ilderem concluded, “I think this is very exciting research area with plenty of challenges still to be solved. Researchers [at Intel] find this very, very energizing—we can develop some good things for people on earth.”