Vinod Kulathumani, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at West Virginia University, is part of a research team that has won the R&D 100 Award. The awards, known as the “Oscars of Innovation,” honor the top 100 proven technological advances of the past year as determined by a panel selected by “R&D Magazine.”
Working in partnership with researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Kulathumani developed an ultra large scale sensor network for detection of storm water overflow in real-time. To the best of his knowledge, it is the largest flat, multi-hop sensor network in terms of the area covered.
“Flat networks have no high-power gateways or cellular links in the middle, which are simply infeasible to deploy in rugged terrains,” Kulathumani said. “The deployed system, which has been operational for about a year, covers about 40 square miles of rugged mountainous terrain with a 300-plus feet vertical change using more than 120 sensors.”
While Kulathumani notes that the network is critical due to the chemical nature of storm water runoff, he added that it has applications beyond that, including applications arising from requirements of remote monitoring in large inaccessible areas such as deserts, forests and arctic regions, even for space exploration.
“The system configures itself when nodes are added, deleted or moved,” Kulathumani explained. “It is also robust to transmission-related losses arising from harsh terrain. Unlike satellite- and cellular-based systems, this solution does not require a third party infrastructure and data access fees. Instead, the network software and data is owned by the customer.”
“Dr. Kulathumani is an outstanding teacher, researcher and mentor. His work in networking techniques to build wireless sensor networks in rugged terrain without external infrastructure is groundbreaking,” said Brian Woerner, chair of the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. “While there are significant military applications of this technology, the commercial applications of these networks to monitor civilian infrastructure in rural regions such as West Virginia are equally as exciting.”
The R&D 100 Awards span industry, academia and government-sponsored research organizations. The winners were announced at the 2018 R&D 100 Conference, held November 15-16, in Orlando, Florida. This is the fourth R&D 100 Award won by researchers at WVU since 2011.