Home Technology MIT Professor’s IoT Sensors Make Roads Safer

MIT Professor’s IoT Sensors Make Roads Safer

MIT Professor’s IoT Sensors Make Roads Safer


Again in 2005, earlier than smartphones had been usually out there, MIT Professor Hari Balakrishnan was so fed up with commuting delays in Boston that he constructed a cell system to observe street situations.

​Hari Balakrishnan





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Alma maters

Indian Institute of Expertise, Madras, and the College of California, Berkeley

He and his analysis staff at MIT’s Pc Science and Synthetic Intelligence Laboratory developed CarTel, brief for automobile telematics. Utilizing sign processing and machine studying, their sensing gadget for automobiles was in a position to infer the presence of potholes and different impediments from adjustments in site visitors stream, which it measured with GPS and an accelerometer. Their analysis received a number of awards, and the system was coated by The Boston Globe.

In 2010 Balakrishnan and two cofounders commercialized CarTel by launching Cambridge Cell Telematics. In the present day the Massachusetts firm is the most important telematics service supplier on the earth. Insurance coverage firms, automobile producers, rideshare companies, and public businesses use CMT information to evaluate driver conduct, encourage safer driving, dispatch roadside help, and extra.

Balakrishnan, an IEEE Fellow, is that this 12 months’s Marconi Prize winner for his “elementary discoveries in cell sensing, networking, and distributed techniques.” The award, given by the Marconi Society, is taken into account to be the highest honor in communications.

“On paper this award honors me, but it surely actually is a recognition of my 30-plus Ph.D. college students, postdocs, collaborators, and the staff at CMT who’ve labored extremely onerous in inventive methods to take analysis concepts and have them actually affect the world,” he says. “It honors the sphere of cell sensing and networked techniques.”

Hari Balakrishnan talks to the Marconi Society about his profession highlights and his ideas on receiving the prize.Marconi Society

Utilizing information to make driving safer

Balakrishnan got here up with the thought for CarTel whereas speaking with fellow MIT Professor Samuel Madden, a director of the college’s Information Techniques and AI Lab and an professional on information administration and sensor computing.

“I instructed him we should always begin a analysis undertaking that takes sensors that we each know lots about, connect them to automobiles, measure what’s taking place, after which attempt to perceive the info,” Balakrishnan recollects. “This was earlier than iPhones, Androids, and Google Maps.”

They later based CMT, with Madden serving as its chief scientist.

“CarTel was one of many first tasks in cell sensing,” Balakrishnan says. “We confirmed that it may work at scale.

“I used to be making an attempt to determine the way to commercialize it utilizing the notion of cell sensing for social good.”

Assist got here in 2009 from William V. Powers, a seasoned gross sales government who turned Balakrishnan’s enterprise accomplice. He’s additionally a CMT cofounder and the corporate’s CEO.

Balakrishnan says that though the startup had the expertise, it didn’t have a enterprise mannequin. After studying articles about how insurance coverage firms had been utilizing costly {hardware} to measure individuals’s driving to set premium costs and uncover fraudulent claims, they discovered their mannequin.

“Our mission is to make the world’s roads and drivers safer.”

“It clicked in my head that we had proven, in precept, how to do this with client telephones and cheap Web of Issues [IoT] gadgets that may very well be put right into a automobile with out skilled installers,” he says.

That early system developed into DriveWell, an AI-driven platform that gathers information from displays together with accelerometers, gyroscopes, and place sensors in smartphones, dashcams, and IoT gadgets such because the DriveWell Tag.

The platform combines the data with contextual information to create an image of how drivers are working their automobiles, measuring elements corresponding to onerous braking, extreme rushing, and telephone distraction, Balakrishnan says.

“Our mission is to make the world’s roads and drivers safer,” he says.

DriveWell has supplied companies to greater than 30 million automobiles to this point. Insurance coverage firms together with Admiral, Discovery, HUK-Coburg, MS&AD, and USAA use CMT’s packages to supply reductions to raised drivers. CMT lately partnered with Hyundai to supply its prospects real-time roadside help and restore companies. There are additionally DriveWell, FuelStar, and Openroad cell apps for motorists who need suggestions about their driving.

The primary indoor location system

Balakrishnan has created different techniques that use sensors for sensible functions. Between 1999 and 2004, he oversaw the event of the Cricket indoor location system. It mixed radio frequency and ultrasound applied sciences. Beacons mounted on partitions and ceilings publish data on an RF channel, which sends out a chirping sign. The beacon then sounds out a corresponding ultrasonic pulse. Receivers hooked up to cell gadgets hear for the RF indicators and the ultrasonic pulse. Cricket makes use of the completely different speeds of sound and of RF to calculate the space between the receiver and the beacon.

The system supplied area identifiers, place coordinates, and orientation. Cricket supplied distance ranging and positioning precision of between 3 and 5 centimeters. It was utilized in areas the place GPS didn’t work nicely, corresponding to hospitals, workplace buildings, and analysis facilities.

“GPS solely works open air,” Balakrishnan says. “Even at the moment, you possibly can’t get GPS indicators inside. When your apps present you the placement inside, it’s utilizing different applied sciences.”

The analysis staff open-sourced the {hardware} and software program, and greater than 1 million items had been constructed and deployed.

“This method didn’t scale to each gadget on the earth,” Balakrishnan says, “as a result of including ultrasonic {hardware} to each gadget will not be sensible. Nevertheless, with fashionable smartphones able to sending and receiving ultrasonic indicators on their audio system and microphones, the method developed in Cricket may turn into helpful sooner or later. Certainly, some current proposals for contact tracing for COVID-19 have used this method.”

portrait of two men in tuxedos against a green backdrop with white text  Info for editor if needed: This 12 months’s IEEE Medal of Honor recipient Vint Cerf congratulates Marconi Prize winner Hari Balakrishnan on the Marconi Awards Gala, held on 27 October in Washington, D.C.Marconi Society

A love of analysis and academia

Balakrishnan earned a bachelor’s diploma in pc science in 1993 from the Indian Institute of Expertise, Madras. He picked the sphere, he says, as a result of he thought it might let him make sensible use of arithmetic.

“I knew nothing about pc science,” he says. “I had by no means programmed a pc earlier than. However I knew I used to be involved in issues that had been mathematical in nature, and I loved each math and physics tremendously. After a couple of 12 months and a half, I felt like I understood what the sphere was about. By the point I completed my undergraduate diploma, I completely beloved it.”

Whereas pursuing a Ph.D. in pc science on the College of California, Berkeley, he turned keen about conducting analysis, he says. He loved it a lot, he says, that he wished to make a profession of it.

He’s additionally recognized for his early analysis on the way to enhance wi-fi networks—which could be discovered within the IEEE Xplore Digital Library and which received the 1998 Affiliation for Computing Equipment’s Doctoral Dissertation Award.

Within the last 12 months of his Ph.D., in 1998, he determined to pursue an instructional profession. He interviewed for a college place at MIT and knew instantly it was the place he wished to work, he says. The college employed him that 12 months, and he has labored there ever since.

“I felt like this was the place the place individuals had been on the identical wavelength as me,” he says. “It’s at all times good to go to a spot the place individuals respect what you do.”

Regardless of his entrepreneurial success, Balakrishnan continues to show.

“I simply actually take pleasure in working with college students and simply love analysis,” he says. “I take pleasure in educating college students and, frankly, they train me as a lot as I train them.”

The IEEE group

Balakrishnan says he intially joined IEEE as a scholar to get the discounted fee for membership and convention registrations. However after he started working, he realized that it’s necessary to be a part of a “skilled group that has like-minded individuals who care in regards to the fields that I care about,” he says. “IEEE has benefited my profession as a result of I’ve been at conferences and occasions the place I’ve made skilled connections that may final a lifetime.”

He’s additionally a member of the U.S. Nationwide Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

IEEE acknowledged him in 2021 with its Koji Kobayashi Computer systems and Communications Award for “broad contributions to pc networking and cell and wi-fi techniques.”

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