07 Nov 2019 |
Research article |
Information and Communications Technologies
Improving Communication Efficiency with Polar Codes
Electrical Engineering Professor Pascal Giard is specialized in a field that falls midway between computer science and electronics. His main area of application is communications—wired and wireless communications or memory storage.
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Polar Codes: A Growing Field
Pascal Giard, Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, creates and integrates algorithms into digital systems to make them as energy efficient as possible while catering sufficient quality for the application.
In the last decade, Pascal Giard focused on an even more specialized field: error-correcting codes. These codes are an essential ingredient of all modern communication systems as they detect and correct errors in communications. His research on polar codes, a disruptive new family of error-correcting codes, has significantly contributed to position polar codes as serious contenders for next-generation communication systems. According to him, “Now that polar codes made it into the new mobile communication standard (5G), even more researchers will be drawn to them and will come to realize their theoretical beauty and clear practical advantages.”
He adds that the engineer’s mission is to “ensure that messages are well received with acceptable latency while minimizing retransmissions in order to reduce the energy required in both wired and wireless communications.” When messages are decoded correctly, quickly and efficiently, consumers get better communication and longer-lasting cell phone batteries.
Midway Between Computer Science and Electronics
After studying computer systems technology at the Teccart Institute, where he “discovered the merging of computer science and electronics,” Pascal Giard completed a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electrical engineering at ÉTS. He then earned a PhD at McGill University, where he focused on the design of high-speed decoders for polar codes. Finally, he was a postdoctoral fellow at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. He is also interested in blind detection, networks towards the Internet of Things, and the efficient hardware implementation of blockchain technology.
“It was during my undergraduate studies, while I was a teaching assistant, that I got hooked on teaching,” he explains. He chose ÉTS. “I don’t like it when research is too nebulous. I like engineering to have tangible applications,” explains Pascal Giard.
Polar Code Decoders for Connected Objects
His penchant for tangible applications led him to become co-founder, in 1998 (while in CEGEP), of a company in the field of open-source software development. This experience taught him how to communicate with industry, especially in the context of his research on error-correcting codes, because as polar codes were relatively new, industry was reluctant to adopt them.
“Faced with the prospect of bugs in the deployment of new technology and the costs associated with change, customers often delay the adoption new technology,” explains Professor Giard who developed strategies to reassure them and to demonstrate the benefits of polar codes. He adds, “We make the chip, test it, take measurements, and publish the results.”
At ÉTS, Pascal Giard just received a first five-year grant from the NSERC Discovery Program. His work will focus on improving the energy effeciency decoders for polar codes, notably for connected objects. The research aims to limit energy consumption as much as possible while ensuring communications whose reliability is adjustable depending on the application, but also depending on the operating environment conditions.
Other research projects on which Giard will be working are the application of machine learning techniques to the online advertising sector, in collaboration with M32 Connect, and the efficient physical deployment of consensus mechanisms, mechanisms central to the blockchain technology.