Spring 2018 – 497-201: Building Sensor-Based Applications and Solutions to Real-World Problems

Meeting Days/Time
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:25 am to 12:40 pm
Carol Davids (ITM) (davids@iit.edu)
Appropriate Majors
All interested students are welcome
Technological Innovation

Students work in the IIT Real-Time Communications Lab to build systems that use sensor data to solve real-world problems. This IPRO project offers team members experience with Internet of Things (IoT), Real-Time Web (WebRTC), BlueTooth Low Energy (BLE) systems, Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1), database design, Smartphone application development,  Voice and Video applications, Smart Buildings, Cloud-based systems, and coding languages of various kinds.  Experienced mentors will work with IPRO team members to support the learning process, and tutorials will be scheduled as needed.

Among the problems to be addressed are (1) How to find the indoor location of an emergency caller in a tall building, and (2) How to gather and use environmental data, including temperature and humidity, to manage the heating and cooling system in a building. Work on solutions to both these challenges has already begun and the IPRO team can add new features and functions to these systems and develop new applications and services. A Proof-of-Concept system for use by the IIT Public Safety Department to learn the room and floor of a person who calls their emergency number is one goal of the Indoor Location project. A System for use by the IIT Facilities Department to understand and control the environments in campus buildings is one goal of the Environmental Controls Project. The IPRO team can also consider developing an application that uses both indoor location and environmental data.  An application that maps an escape route for a person in a burning building for example might use the both types of information. A list of other hands-on projects is found at the end of this project description.

Testing, experimentation and data analyses will be needed to support the project goals. These can help determine where to place sensors and how to write optimal algorithms for calculating location and manipulating environmental data. Tests are also needed to determine how sensor arrays impact the performance of other communications networks such as the local WiFi network and how the building’s structural elements impact the detection of signals sent by the sensors.

Previous project teams created a database to record the locations of the current set of sensors, along with many other sensor characteristics and identifiers. Various tools and APIs were also developed by previous teams, and a github repository and a website were created that contain documentation and designs that the current team can use for reference and can add to and modify during the course of their work. The current IPRO team will be encouraged to develop new applications and systems that use sensor arrays to solve real-world problems as well as to develop, modify, expand on or re-design the ones that have already been built.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE. This on-going set of projects was initiated by the mobile operator, T-Mobile. T-Mobile’s interest was to design a solution to the problem of identifying the indoor location of a mobile phone user who calls for emergency assistance (such as 9-1-1 in the US) while in a multi-story building. Per a Federal Communications Commission mandate, the solution needs to be based on the locations of WiFi Access Points and/or BlueTooth beacons. T-Mobile and other wireless carriers continue to be interested in the results and development of the project and they are supplying the team with mobile phones and accounts as required. Other industry sectors with an interest in this solution include architectural engineering firms, building managers, building engineers and public safety officers.

Today, the solution has five major areas of work (1) An array of BlueTooth Low Energy (BLE) devices that are deployed on the inside walls of buildings at selected locations; (2) A database that contains the location of the BLE devices and their identifiers; (3) A location server that queries the database to discover the location of particular BLE devices and calculates the location of the caller based on the  location and received signal strength of each beacon;  (4) A smartphone application that detects the emergency call, collects the Identifiers of close-by beacons, sends the identifiers to a location server, receives the caller’s location from the server, and then forwards the call, including location information, to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP); (5) A test bed in the RTC Lab that simulates an Emergency Services IP backbone Network (ESINet) and follows the industry standard for carrying IP-based emergency calls.

IPRO team members interested in learning how to operate and maintain this test bed will be in a position to support industry testing as well as the ongoing development work. This test bed is also used by vendors throughout the year who are preparing new products and versions of their code for the Industry Collaboration Events (ICE) that are held in the IIT RTC Lab. The IPRO team will work with industry sponsors to maintain and grow this test bed, adding and testing new equipment as it is received.

PROJECT GOALS. The overall project goal is to develop a set of solutions to significant real-world problems using sensor and RESTful Web technologies. The work proposed for this and subsequent semesters includes the following range of development opportunities:

(1) Create a Proof-of-Concept system for use by the IIT Public Safety Department to learn the room and floor of a person who calls their emergency number. This can use a web interface for the operator as well as a web-based application for the caller.

(2) Create a System for use by the IIT Facilities Department to understand and control the environments in campus buildings.

(3) Create innovative new applications that use the Indoor Location and Environmental data available on existing system, such as an app that maps an escape route for a person leaving a burning building.

(4) Develop a web-based emergency calling system (caller and emergency operator) that can be used by both civic and private emergency response teams to locate and support emergency callers.

(5) Develop operations, maintenance and expansion strategies and implementations for the current platform that will allow building owners to efficiently obtain and deploy the system.

(6) Identify different use cases and scenarios into which the current platform and its tools can be incorporated and build systems to support those new use cases.

Commercialization of the systems that are developed in this project is a likely outcome of this work. In the area of emergency services, companies as diverse as Cisco and Telestax have expressed great interest in the solutions already generated. In the area of indoor environment controls, the interested parties were architectural and building engineers as well as forward-looking building managers.

The IPRO team will benefit from working in the IIT Real-Time Communications Lab and its leadership, as well as the following teams format and resources.

  • A weekly team meeting with the IPRO instructor helps to review progress and set short term and long term goals.
  • Tutorials related to the specific technologies will be provided.
  • Hands-on instruction related to the current systems will be provided.
  • Documentation is available on a project web site and on a github repository. The project teams will add to and maintain these resources.
  • Small teams will be created to work on different parts of the project. These work teams will meet with the IPRO instructor on a weekly basis during class and as needed on conference calls or in the lab.
  • Industry speakers will be invited throughout the semester to describe related work or to provide tutorials related to their company’s technology.
  • The IPRO team will create a project report describing its goals, progress, and next steps, and will also present its work at a public meeting of technologists to be held at the end of the semester.
  • Student teams with an interest in commercializing parts of their projects will be encouraged to do so and will be introduced to entrepreneurs and other industry and university contacts who can help with the process. The lab and its personnel and facilities will be available for this continued development. We are eager to place some of the solutions developed in this IPRO into use by the public and industry.
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