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Faculty Spotlight: Samik Sengupta, John Jay College

January 22, 2014 | Announcements, Awards, Faculty, News, Research

In 2012, the National Science Foundation recognized Shamik Sangupta’s research with a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, given “in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.” Dr. Sengupta also received a 10% matching grant from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research as part of our CAREER Award Incentive for his project, Survivability and Self-coexistence in the Battle of Cognitive Radio Network Societies.

Dr. Sengupta joined the faculty of John Jay College in 2009 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, where he established the Security in Wireless & Ad hoc Networks (SWAN) Lab.  Dr. Sengupta graduated with honors from Jadavpur University in India and received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Central Florida.

Dr. Shamik Sangupta in his lab discusses the educational impact of his work

Dr. Shamik Sangupta in his lab discusses the educational impact of his work

Public safety first-responders—firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical operatives—all communicate using licensed radio bands. Because these bands are static and hardware enabled, groups of public safety responders are not able to communicate with each other across their assigned bands. Communication failures lead to critical inefficiencies and confusion in emergency situations. To address this, government agencies decided that a new paradigm was needed that allowed radios to function in a flexible manner across frequencies.

To achieve this goal, the concept of dynamic spectrum access was developed, allowing unlicensed radio networks to access licensed bands when they are not in use and open up the spectrum to allow radios to operate in different frequencies as needed.

The main obstacle to implementing this new paradigm is that the hardware currently used by all public safety and military radios is programmed to transmit and receive on only one frequency, and all emergency communication devices are hardware enabled and use statically assigned bands. In order to communicate securely, emergency responders need designated licensed bands that safeguard unblocked frequencies for emergency communications.

Sengupta is working on the first generation of smart radios, developing software that will enable radios to learn from their environment. These next generation radios can be programmed to detect all the frequency bands within their range and are no longer subject to hardware limitations or statically assigned bands. All next generation radios will be software driven and will have cognition capability.

There are, of course, drawbacks and vulnerabilities to this process. Sengupta acknowledges that the opportunity for attack and disruption is greatly increased: “Given these new cognition capabilities how can emergency responders operate and survive in a world with greater chances of being attacked? We have to be able to predict the ways in which the radios will be attacked, and we need to have contingency plans for how to respond.”

Sengupta’s CAREER project tries to solve these issues. With researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology (where he completed postdoctoral research) and funding from the National Institutes of Justice, Sengupta has developed a cognitive radio prototype, which has been able to sense harmful interference and secure two-way communications in a new band.

Once Sengupta and his collaborators are done with the prototyping he will deploy the cognitive radios with the NYC fire department. His major aim is to get the technology into the the hands of public safety workers.

Dr. Sengupta is applying inter-disciplinary research methodologies based on game theory and stochastic learning to investigate the survivability of these radio networks. Several graduate students work in his lab as well as undergraduates and a high school summer intern. Perhaps most excitingly, in terms of future development in this new field, the educational model he developed for his CAREER project introduces wireless security into the curriculum. Dr. Sengupta is forging a whole new area of study.