John McNeill Receives Nearly $178,000 from the NSF to Study Network Data Freshness

September 26, 2018

John McNeillJohn McNeill, professor of electrical and computer engineering and interim dean of engineering, has received a two-year, $177,776 award from the National Science Foundation for a research project titled, “Collaborative Research: Fundamental Limits on Information Freshness.”

McNeill and Rick Brown, professor and associate department head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, are focused on developing a better understanding of the basic limits on how new, or fresh, information can be included in status updates on networks, including intelligent vehicular systems, robotic networks, the Internet of things, and real-time monitoring and control in cyberphysical systems. The research also is focused on developing techniques and technologies that will keep information fresh.

Information freshness is critical to a growing array of networked monitoring and control systems that need the most current information possible to function properly. When it comes to information-update and data analytics applications, including financial trading, social networks, crowdsourcing, consensus systems, and online learning, stale information can lead to incorrect decisions, unstable control loops, and even compromises in safety and security.

An example is a network of autonomous vehicles. Each vehicle measures its own speed and position on the road, so within any particular vehicle, this information is always fresh. But each vehicle needs to send its information to the other vehicles in the network. Depending on network congestion and other stalling factors, this information may be stale by the time it reaches the other cars. This can lead to safety problems if vehicles are making decisions based on outdated speed and position information for nearby vehicles.

A PhD student is working on the project with McNeill.

Award Date: Aug. 18, 2018