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Indian American Doctoral Student Named 2020 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar

Indian American Doctoral Student Named 2020 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar

  • Vijay Iyer of University of Washington has beeb recognized for developing bio-inspired and bio-integrative wireless sensor systems.

Vikram Iyer, a Ph.D candidate in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Washington was recognized as the 2020 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar for his innovative work to develop bio-inspired and bio-integrative wireless sensor systems. The Marconi Society Young Scholar Award recognizes the world’s most innovative young researchers who are creating tomorrow’s information and communications technology in service of a digitally inclusive world.

Iyer works in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering’s Networks and Mobile Systems Lab under the direction of Associate Professor Shyam Gollakota. His research focuses on wireless technologies including the development of bio-inspired and bio-integrative wireless sensors.

Marconi Society says “Iyer’s contributions enable traditionally stationary Internet of Things (IoT) devices to move, putting a new and scalable category of data collectors into the world to help us understand our environment at scale and with a fine degree of detail.” 

According to a profile on GeekWire, Iyer made headlines in July as co-lead author of a University of Washington study in which a low-power, low-weight, wireless camera system was attached to the back of a live beetle to better understand how to deploy wireless vision in very small robots. “Vision has become an integral part of most larger robotic systems — think cameras on drones and autonomous cars,” Iyer told GeekWire. 

“When we start talking about really small robots though, about the size of a penny, wireless vision becomes pretty challenging due to power size and weight requirements. While the camera chips we have in things like our phones can be small, they still have pretty large batteries and processors. This work now enables robots at this very small scale to ‘see.’”

Iyer began by developing ultra-low power wireless communication and localization techniques for IoT devices and then became interested in applying these to tiny, bio-inspired robots the size of an insect. “I realized many of the technologies I had been developing for IoT devices were ideal for these robots that are so small they can’t even carry a battery,” Iyer said. His work on wireless power transfer resulted in the first wireless liftoff of the lightest aerial vehicle to mimic insect flight.

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This inspired him to explore an alternative, biological solution for sensor mobility. Iyer has recently integrated more complex sensors, like wirelessly steerable cameras, into his insect “backpack” so that biologists could understand the world from the insect’s perspective.

Before coming to University of Washington, Iyer received his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley. In addition to his University of Washington work, Iyer is part of the Urban Innovation Initiative at Microsoft Research working on Project Eclipse, a low-cost cloud connected air quality monitoring platform for cities.

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