Wireless Video Network Research At Virginia Tech Wins Onr Grant, Could Aide National Security And Military Efforts

BLACKSBURG, Va., March 24, 2003 – Thomas Hou, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, has won a Young Investigator Award worth $300,000 from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to support his attempt to bring about the successful marriage of two technologies that have been flirting for some time--wireless sensors and video networking.

Hou's project was one of only 26 selected nationally out of 220 proposals submitted to the ONR Young Investigator Program for 2003. In announcing the awards, the ONR called the recipients "the best and brightest young academic researchers in this country."

Hou envisions video-based wireless sensor networks--composed of interconnected, miniature video cameras and low-power wireless transceivers capable of processing, sending and receiving data--that could be deployed quickly to provide accurate, real-time visual data.

"Wireless video sensor networks have important applications that could have significant impacts throughout society," Hou said.

Unlike wireless sensors that are designed solely to collect simple scalar data, such as the temperatures and vibrations, a video-capable wireless sensor network can provide rich visual details in rapidly changing situations, Hou explained. This, in turn, can maximize accuracy and minimize false alarms.

"In addition to conventional surveillance and monitoring applications, wireless video networks can be used in a number of novel applications that will enhance national security," Hou said. These include reducing the impact of security breaches on the nation's critical infrastructure and improving the government's ability to prevent, detect, respond to and recover from both man-made and natural catastrophic events.

However, video information is demanding of both network resources and power. Hou explained that his research will tackle three major challenges: "How can we design such networks so that they can grow as needed and not be limited in size? How do we manage the very heavy video traffic so that all the information gets were it needs to at the right time? And how do we maximize the lifetime of such networks using components with limited battery power?"

To resolve these problems, Hou will apply new techniques and algorithms he is developing for wireless video sensor networks. "Developing good solutions for these networking problems is the key to unlocking the full potential of a large-scale wireless video sensor network," he said.

Hou's research attracted ONR attention because wireless video sensor networks could be used by the Navy in a number of ways, including on-land and at-sea surveillance, video-assisted navigation and ship management, and remote monitoring of naval training exercises.

After graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1991, Hou earned his M.S. from Columbia University in 1993 and his Ph.D. from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn in 1998, all in electrical engineering. From 1997 to 2002, he was a research scientist and project leader at Fujitsu Laboratories of America in Sunnyvale, California (Silicon Valley). He joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 2002.

Hou is a co-recipient of the 2002 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Network Protocols Best Paper Award and the 2001 IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology Best Paper Award.

For more information about this research, contact Thomas Hou at (540)231-2950; email thou@vt.edu.