Intel gives $60,000 USD to UBC software engineering team researching the Web of Things

UBC software engineers Dr. Karthik Pattabiraman and Dr. Ali Mesbah want to introduce your mobile phone to your office building. Sound too futuristic? It might not be.

In 2016, an estimated 6.4 billion devices were connected to the internet. This number is projected to skyrocket up to 20.8 billion by 2020. Predictably, many of these devices are computers and mobile phones, but a plethora of other web-connected ‘smart’ devices such as automobiles, health monitors, and buildings have also appeared on the market in recent years. The “Web of Things” (also referred to as the Internet of Things or IoT) is a term used to describe the interconnection and exchange of data between all of these devices.

Pattabiraman and Mesbah, both associate professors in UBC’s department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, recently received a grant from Intel titled “Automatic Secure Code Migration in the Heterogeneous World of the Web of Things”. The grant is awarded on a competitive basis for $60,000 USD a year for three years, and will allow them to pursue significant research designed to help us understand how best to use and develop the Web of Things. Both researchers have worked with Intel in the past, and this grant will build on their previous collaborations.

There is no doubt that further research in this field is warranted, as the Web of Things’ formidable potential is currently tempered by a few substantial performance and security challenges. First, the Internet is by nature an open network. This means that serious security is needed for private devices, as consumers certainly don’t want their car controls or their home alarm code to be available to everyone using the web. Performance challenges stem mainly from the limited power and memory size of systems used by simpler devices.

In collaboration with several graduate students, Pattabiraman and Mesbah will be using their Intel grant funding to develop a framework to transparently and safely partition and migrate JavaScript code between Web of Things devices and the Cloud without a great deal of programmer intervention. The framework will take into account the aforementioned security and performance constraints of the Web of Things, as well as the data dependencies of JavaScript code. Sharing seems to be the way of the future, so it’s fitting that all of Pattabiraman and Mesbah’s findings will be available to the public, both as open source code and in the form of traditional publications. Their discoveries will be relevant to every single one of us; indeed, whether we know it or not, we are all part of the Web of Things.