Engineering Next Generation Wireless
Kai Hong's childhood was filled with those experiences that inevitably lead to careers in engineering.
"I would dissemble my father's watch, the clock, and my toys," Kai remembers. "I was born to be an engineer."
Now, a PhD candidate in Computer Engineering, Kai works with Dr. Rajarathnam Chandramouli to develop the foundation for the next-generation wireless experience. Kai researches what is called "cognitive radio," a new paradigm for wireless networking that enables devices to understand when they have a bad wireless connection, and then seamlessly identify and switch to a better frequency.
As an undergraduate student in China, Kai was looking for a hobby to fill the hours after completing his other studies. His roommate had a book on Cisco hardware, and Kai read it cover-to-cover.
Despite his interest, he never believed that it would amount to a career. "I thought networking was just configuring routers," he says, "and as an engineer I wanted to create something new."
Kai found the perfect opportunity to be innovative through the emerging field of cognitive radio. "I chose this field because there was lots of space to create something new," Kai recalls. As a PhD student, he has had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the cognitive radio movement, especially by helping to build the Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering's first cognitive radio test bed.
He also recognized in Stevens a community that supports and encourages innovation in engineering. "There is a good environment for creativity here. I'm an engineer, not a theoretical guy. I didn't want to do something just on paper, but really make something that affects our lives."
At Stevens, Dr. Chandramouli has already created a working cognitive radio prototype, SpiderRadio, which also serves as the name for the company founded to market the prototype as a technology product. Kai has been part of this research, funded by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Justice. Now in trials with first responders, who will be among the system's early adopters, SpiderRadio has given Kai essential experience for a professional career after graduation.
With wireless networking an intrinsic part of modern life, Kai is poised to influence the way that we communicate, gather information, and live. As more applications demand always-on wireless connectivity, cognitive radio will be an essential part of the software toolkit built into every device and wireless network stack. This added intelligence is indeed essential to creating the complex, robust wireless networks to support an "embedded wireless experience," as Kai calls it.
Kai is enthusiastic about his ability to capitalize on his Stevens education and make a real difference in the world. "I want to go out there and make new things that create jobs for other people and improve everyday life. That's my dream."