15 Sep 2016 |
Research article |
Sensors, Networks and Connectivity
Tactical Communication in Emergencies: Progress and Prospects
What do the 2013 Boston Marathon or the more recent Orlando nightclub shooting, military operations in Afghanistan and humanitarian operations in places like Haiti have in common? In these emergencies, the communications systems were found wanting and their limitations revealed. Yet it is precisely at such times that these systems are vitally needed to save lives and protect those involved. People expect them to work regardless of circumstances.
This is the challenge Professor Gagnon and his team have been addressing since 2001. It is what led them to work with Ultra Electronics TCS, a global leader in high-capacity radio communication systems, and with a number of world-renowned academics. Their collaboration has led to the development of the technologies required to make communication systems more powerful and, above all, more reliable. The NSERC Wireless Emergency and Tactical Communication Chair is dedicated to the development of cognitive technologies and high-capacity wireless systems.
From 2009 to 2013, the Chair received a little over $1.2 million in annual funding from its industrial partner, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Prompt Québec and other agencies that support research in Quebec and Canada. This made it possible to distribute over $500,000 annually in study grants to master’s and doctoral students and provide research funding to five other researchers and professionals.
Since direct NSERC support began, some 25 master’s students, 12 doctoral candidates, 5 postdoctoral students, 10 research professionals and two institutional researchers have received financial and academic support through the Chair. Over the last five years, as a result, some twenty researchers have come together to develop the technology of the future that will make it possible to achieve the goal pursued by Professor Gagnon. A fair number of graduates produced by the partnership are now working in such highly competitive enterprises as Samsung, Amazon, Ericsson, Bell, Vidéotron, Kontron and Accedian Networks.
The results have been conclusive: During the first five years of the Chair’s operation, 80 articles have been published in scientific journals and at conferences that are among the most prestigious in the field, and more than 800 citations have been generated. Three patents have been filed jointly by Ultra Electronics TCS and Chair researchers. The areas covered by these technological advances are broad, but all are directly related to the primary goal of improving the performance and reliability of wireless communication systems.
More specifically, the research covers the development of better-performing and more agile radio frequency (RF) devices. Thanks to leading-edge facilities for the production of low temperature cofired ceramic (LTCC), two of professors Kouki and Gagnon’s students – Nouria Belambri with a low-noise broadband amplifier and Abdelkhaled Kallel with a broadband power amplifier – came 5th in 2011 and 4th in 2013, respectively, at two international symposia on microwaves attended by the very best students in their field.
The Chair’s expertise also extends to making wireless communications more secure by rendering the signals more difficult to detect and intercept. Research in this area has been led by Professor Georges Kaddoum, formerly a postdoctoral researcher with the Chair, in cooperation with a number of Chair researchers and other universities seeking solutions to the problem. Professor Kaddoum’s team utilized chaos theory in proposing innovative high-performance solutions.The Chair has also been involved in network optimization, and more specifically in research into optimal distributed coding schemes for energy and cost efficiency in the fading relay channel for networks using decode-and-forward signal relay strategies. Like any research that provides a demonstration of a basic concept, this work by Fanny Parzysz has had a significant academic impact. It is also related to the use of aerial drones in the dynamic optimal positioning of communication relays. The issue was a central to another research project led by Professor Akhrif’s team in collaboration with Professor Gagnon’s team.
The research being carried out by the Akrhif-Gagnon team is described in an article entitled “How a blind drone can serve as a relay for moving ground nodes?” on the Substance ÉTS website and describes the use of drones to relay signals in urban areas or wherever obstacles tend to block relatively short-range wireless signals.
Another research project has explored the adaptation of radio parameters to improve the reliability of communications in a changing environment. Adaptation is essential in cognitive radios, and Chair researchers have developed a number of original dynamic adaptation techniques that can maintain radio performance and wireless communication regardless of environmental disruptions and other hazards.
During the Chair’s second mandate, the lines of research will remain essentially the same, but researchers will endeavour to explore the use of new technologies, particularly the affordable receivers that are in increasingly wide use, in order to improve the user experience, and radio performance and adaptability. Expectations with regard to results and spin-offs will remain equally high, however, and we have no doubt that they will be met.
Samuel Gagné is in charge of technological and IT applications in the Department of Electrical engineering at ÉTS. His areas of expertise include digital signal processing, wireless communications and software-defined radio.
Program : Electrical Engineering
François Gagnon is a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at ÉTS. His research focuses on digital wireless strategies, modulation, microelectronics, signal processing, software radio and mobile communication.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Research laboratories : LACIME – Communications and Microelectronic Integration Laboratory