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Embracing Interference in Wireless Systems

Date and Time
Monday, March 26, 2012 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Computer Science Small Auditorium (Room 105)
CS Department Colloquium Series
Jennifer Rexford
The wireless medium is a shared resource. If nearby devices transmit at the same time, the transmitted signals interfere, resulting in a collision. In traditional networks, collisions cause the loss of the transmitted information. For this reason, wireless systems have been designed with the assumption that interference is intrinsically harmful and must be avoided.

My research takes an alternate approach: Instead of viewing interference as an inherently counterproductive phenomenon that should to be avoided, I design practical systems that can successfully reconstruct the transmitted information even in the presence of collisions; hence, rendering the interference harmless. Moreover, these new systems can exploit interference constructively to increase throughput and improve security.

In the talk, I will present the first WiFi receiver that decodes colliding packets, rendering WiFi interference harmless. I will also show how to inject useful interference that increases network throughput using a system called analog network coding. Then, I will talk about the role of interference in improving security. I will use interference to secure insecure medical implants, and establish secure wireless connections without having users enter passwords or use pre-shared secret keys.

Shyamnath Gollakota is a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research in networking focuses on addressing wireless interference and security. He has been awarded the ACM SIGCOMM 2008 Best paper award for ZigZag decoding, ACM SIGCOMM 2011 Best Paper Award for securing medical implants, and AT&T Applied Security Award for password-free wireless security. His work has appeared in venues like Slashdot, BBC Radio, Forbes, and Network World. He received his masters in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and a bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Madras.

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