Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

Nahrstedt's QoS Routing Achievements Honored by IEEE Computer Society

ITI's Klara Nahrstedt has been named the winner of a prestigious IEEE Computer Society Technical Achievement Award for 2012.

The Technical Achievement Award honors "outstanding and innovative contributions to the fields of computer and information science and engineering or computer technology" that are from the last 10 to 15 years and significantly promoted technical progress in the field. According to the citation for the award, Nahrstedt is being honored "for pioneering contributions to end-to-end quality of service and resource management in wired and wireless networks."

Nahrstedt has a long history of distinguished contributions to quality of service (QoS) routing. In the earliest phase of that work, running from 1997 to 2005, she addressed the problem in the context of wired networks, eventually producing a suite of leading QoS routing algorithms.

Around 2002 she turned her attention to the much greater challenge of QoS routing in wireless networks. Whereas wired networks enjoy a physically protected environment in which strong guarantees are relatively easy to provide, wireless networks are subject to highly unpredictable conditions and interference. "The physical environment, when buses pass by -- you can't control," Nahrstedt notes. "You cannot control weather." She responded by developing mechanisms for dealing with such disturbances by providing statistical QoS guarantees in place of the tightly controlled guarantees that can be obtained for wired networks.

In the third and most recent major phase of this work, she has studied ways to provide QoS guarantees in the even more challenging context of tele-immersion. In tele-immersion, geographically separated people interact with each other within a virtual environment that strives to replicate the experience of a face-to-face physical interaction. Naturally, such interaction involves stringent real-time guarantees. Nahrstedt has been tackling ways to organize resources in order to guarantee latency in this demanding area, so that it will become feasible to use tele-immersion technologies in a variety of important application areas, such as telemedicine. "It's a much, much more sophisticated, interactive environment than we currently have," she notes.

Today, she is pursuing QoS management research on multiple fronts. The tele-immersion work, which has been supported by the National Science Foundation, has been ongoing since 2004. In other work -- funded by Qualcomm, Intel, Google, and the Boeing Trusted Software Center in ITI -- she has been working to address the QoS problems of mobile telephones and mobile computing through grouping strategies. She is developing approaches that would allow phones to help each other via collaborative groupings.

To illustrate the potential value of grouping technologies, Nahrstedt points to a tragic disaster at a 2010 concert in Germany, at which multiple fatalities occurred when an unexpectedly large crowd panicked and became crushed in a pedestrian tunnel. She notes that the strategies she's developing could be lifesavers in such emergency situations. "They had mobile phones, but there was no kind of peer-to-peer ad hoc communication that could actually inform somebody. I felt that there should be phones, in this kind of really tense situation, with which you can push a button and get this information out."

Finally, through work in ITI's Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) Center, she is also looking at how competing QoS and security demands can both be answered in the context of critical cyber-physical systems, such as the power grid.

"Many of these cyber-physical systems have been quite isolated, and operated under the assumption of getting real-time, very fast information to their control centers," she explains. "Introduction of the Internet and other computing resources has been making these systems less isolated. The interesting aspect is that as the barriers were removed, more attacks started to happen. But the basic requirements in terms of quality of service have stayed. So the interesting thing is, how can security fit in and not violate the real-time requirements?"

Nahrstedt has been on the faculty of the Department of Computer Science at Illinois since 1995 and has received numerous prior honors, including the IEEE Communications Society Leonard G. Abraham Prize, the University Scholar Award, and the Humboldt Research Award, among others. She is a Fellow of the IEEE.

The IEEE Computer Society is widely considered the world's leading organization of computer science professionals. Its Technical Achievement Award consists of a certificate and $2,000 honorarium, which will be presented to Nahrstedt at a banquet in June 2012.