Research & Innovation

Rapid Spectrum Sensing for Cognitive Radio

Hoboken, NJ - As proliferating wireless devices make greater demands on communications spectrum, researchers seek to develop new technologies that allow smarter utilization of these frequencies. Dr. Hongbin Li of Stevens Institute of Technology recently presented a paper on a new method for sensing spectrum use in schemes to dynamically switch between frequencies, in a paradigm known as cognitive radio. In recognition of the quality his research and its applications, Dr. Li received the Outstanding Paper Award at IEEE Africon 2011.

The paper, "Rapid Spectrum Sensing with Multiple Antennas for Cognitive Radio," is a joint work with Dr. Li's current and former PhD students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: Dr. Pu Wang, now a research assistant professor at Stevens; Dr. Jun Fang, now on faculty at the University of Science and Technology and China; and current student Ning Han.

The research group's goal was to develop a rapid spectrum sensing method by leveraging multiple antennas with efficient algorithms. This combination was selected to overcome the limitations of existing detection methods, which are limited by being either computationally demanding or requiring large amounts of prior knowledge. Dr. Li and his colleagues were successfully able to model a system that could rapidly scan spectrum to determine use, but does not require prior knowledge of the primary spectrum user's signaling scheme, channel information between users, or noise power.

"This research has many practical applications for the coming era of ubiquitous wireless communications, wherein devices will need to be able to rapidly scan spectrum without using enormous resources of data or memory," reports Dr. Yu-Dong Yao, Department Director for ECE. "That they took home this award from a major IEEE event demonstrates the value of the group's research."

Cognitive radio, a term coined by Stevens Vice President of The Research Enterprise, Dr. Joseph Mitola, is an approach to wireless networking incorporating dynamic spectrum access to more efficiently utilize communications spectrum. Beyond enabling more device connections and faster, more robust communications, cognitive radio also lays the foundation for a new generation of flexible and customized wireless services.

Dr. Hongbin Li is a leading individual conducting research that advances fundamental understanding and novel applications in signal processing, sensing, and wireless communications. He has attracted high-profile funding from NSF, AFRL, AFOSR, ONR, and other sponsors, and is Director of the Signal Processing and Communications Lab. Together with his PhD students in the Lab, Dr. Li is developing the software for technologies that enhance our nation's security and communications infrastructure.

Founded in 1983, Africon is Africa's top IEEE event, bringing together professionals, academics, and industry representatives to exchange ideas, present research findings, and to network. Africon 2011 brought together leading individuals from the international engineering community on the theme of sustainable energy and communications development, with special interest in development within Africa. This year's conference was held in Livingstone, Zambia on September 13-15.

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Founded in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University™, lives at the intersection of industry, academics and research.  The University's students, faculty and partners leverage their collective real-world experience and culture of innovation, research and entrepreneurship to confront global challenges in engineering, science, systems and technology management.

Based in Hoboken, N.J. and with a location in Washington, D.C., Stevens offers baccalaureate, master’s, certificates and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences and management, in addition to baccalaureate degrees in business and liberal arts.  Stevens has been recognized by both the US Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Excellence in the areas of systems engineering and port security research. The University has a total enrollment of more than 2,350 undergraduate and 3,600 graduate students with almost 450 faculty. Stevens’ graduate programs have attracted international participation from China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America as well as strategic partnerships with industry leaders, governments and other universities around the world.  Additional information may be obtained at and