Creating intelligent systems for smart buildings and infrastructure
Sixth-year Ph.D. candidate Aveek Das’ research deals with data analytics, wireless networks and cyber-physical systems. In particular, his thesis focuses on how context-aware mining of wireless network data, in conjunction with information from sensor networks, electrical systems and users’ devices, can help build intelligent systems for smart buildings and infrastructure.
The program and the academy helped me to understand and appreciate many of the things that happen in industry and in business that we as doctoral students and post-docs are either unaware of or are oblivious to.
Describe your project or venture.
Widespread deployment of wireless networks and wireless sensors, increase in the number of wireless-enabled devices owned by users, and development of intelligent physical systems with the ability to make decisions on their own have resulted in generation of a large amount of very rich user-related data. My project focuses on aggregating these seemingly unrelated data sources to produce useful inferences for all systems and entities involved. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how such information, when mined together, can build intelligent systems to deploy in smart homes and smart cities. One aspect of my project focuses on generating a user occupancy heat map based on real-time occupancy in different buildings in a smart city. By aggregating the data sources, I hope to build overall smarter and more intelligent infrastructure.
What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?
The recent trend toward the Internet of Things—where most household devices have the ability to connect to the internet—has prompted the need to understand network data from a number of nontraditional devices, like fitness trackers, thermostats, coffee makers and speakers (Alexa, Google Home, etc.). Such ubiquitous connectivity brings with it a number of security and user privacy issues. My research, through the mining of data from various devices, tries to understand how these “things” connect to the internet. As a next step, I want to focus on how user-privacy threats can prevented, without compromising user experience in their smart homes.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Over the past few years, while doing research and reading about technological trends, I have realized that analyzing data from real world sources in a proper way can lead to a number of very intelligent and nonintuitive insights. Throughout my research, I have been interested in finding insights and angles that can help build systems to improve network connectivity, provide better user experience and provide better network security. Working with real-world datasets and the sheer scope of sophisticated applications that can be built based on data analytics excites me the most about my work.
What was the most important thing you learned at the Entrepreneurship Academy?
Entrepreneurship was always a big scary animal for me before attending the academy. The academy made me realize that entrepreneurship is an animal I can tame with the right idea, the right guidance, the right team and hard work. The academy prompted me to think about a number of research products in a way I had never thought before—especially giving me ideas on how to build a prototype for testing.
What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?
Discussing my research and my experience as a data scientist with the mentors made me realize the current amount of big data in the industry and the amount companies invest in putting dedicated teams behind data work. I was surprised by the advice of many to consider careers in the field of health, genomics, agriculture and sports. There was a large scope of understanding data patterns, trends and making intelligent estimations.
Briefly, describe your immersive experience—and the most important insight or knowledge you gained from it.
I did a summer internship at Siemens at Davis, working as a data scientist building a prediction model to understand how fossil fuel plants would generate electricity in the future. This was a tremendous learning experience as I got to learn new tools and data science related libraries, and applied the same to a rich dataset. Working on a project end-to-end gave me to the opportunity to explore some aspects related to data engineering and visualization.
The most important takeaway, in addition to the new techniques I learned, was the importance of communication with your peers and supervisors in an industry setting. I was working with two different supervisors—with one of them being located remotely—and I realized that communicating my observations, takeaways and expectations and keeping everyone on the same page is essential to keeping my project moving forward smoothly. Over the three months, I gained a lot of insight on how to do that in an industry setting and it is sure to help me in the future.
What is the most important thing you discovered in the Leaders for the Future program?
Learning about the translation of skills from academia to industry makes me feel confident in pursuing a career in industry. Through the program, I realized a number of skills that I normally employ in my research career—specifically, project management and technical report writing—are very valuable in industry. The program also led me to interact with people from different programs who have very different backgrounds from me. This was a great opportunity to learn about many other fields, and has enabled me to dive a bit deeper into understanding how my research applies to cross-disciplinary fields.
Leaders for the Future also led me to interact with people from different programs who have very different backgrounds from me. This was a great opportunity to learn about many other fields, and has enabled me to dive a bit deeper into understanding how my research applies to cross-disciplinary fields.
How will your experiences help you to change the world?
I sincerely hope to keep building my technical skill set and adapt to all the rapid changes in technology happening around us.
At the same time I wish to interact with people with similar goals and interests and to keep doing little things, be it in an established company or as an entrepreneur, that can help everyone to have a better experience and that can impact individuals’ day-to-day lives.
How will your experiences as a Leader for the Future and at the academy shape your professional future?
The program and the academy helped me to understand and appreciate many of the things that happen in industry and in business that we as doctoral students and postdocs are either unaware of or are oblivious to. I believe that for many of the fellows, this experience was a revelation of what is ahead. The chances to interact with mentors and speakers from various fields and with varying backgrounds especially showed me this. The program also made me realize the importance of networking and communication, since that is one of the best ways to hear about recent trends and become aware of what is happening in the research and business communities.
Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I am very appreciative of the time and effort put in by everyone behind the Leaders for the Future program and the Entrepreneurship Academy. It was one my best experiences in graduate school, and I met many genuinely nice people who care about the success of the fellows and the program.