Potential Research Projects

This page describes potential undergraduate research projects in the SPAN Lab. These are open projects which have potential research impact which have not (yet) been attempted by other SPAN researchers. This is not an exhaustive list. For more detail on any of these projects, please contact Dr. Neal Patwari.

Outdoor RSSI data mining

Our lab has developed considerable expertise in environmental monitoring (localization, breathing and pulse rate monitoring) using RF measurements. We are now deploying tens of remotely accessible software-defined radios (SDRs) on towers and building tops in Salt Lake City, Utah. These can be controlled from anywhere and used to emulate current or next-generation wireless protocols. This project is to program a module that has the deployed SDRs to have a time-division protocol to transmit and receive, and measure the radio channel in between each pair of deployed SDRs. Radio channel measurements might include signal strength, Doppler, and/or channel impulse response. These measurements will change over time as the environment changes, for example, when the weather changes. This project is to characterise what kinds of changes are observed as a function of weather, and perhaps other environmental variables.

Relevant Funded Projects:

Relevant Publications:


Experimental comparison of long range IoT wireless standards

There is a current explosion of wireless protocols designed specifically for the use in Internet-of-things (IoT) systems. These are long-range compared to Wi-Fi, and also lower in data rate. The goals of these wireless protocols are to connect sensors and actuators to the internet, so that they can make systems "smarter", but to consume very little power, even when sending data to a distant base station. Popular long-range low rate protocols include LTE-M1, LoRa, IEEE 802.11ah, NB-IoT, SigFox, and Weightless-P. This project would be to implement one or more of these protocols on a software-defined radio (SDR) and to test performance experimentally.

Relevant Funded Projects:


Extending a PiCar with ultra-wideband (UWB) impulse radar

This project will extend a PiCar's sensing capabilities using impulse radar. A network of PiCars, each with this sensor, can know their relative locations, thus share information about the map of the environment, and move in coordinated ways together without collision. This project will use a custom UWB-IR platform already developed in our lab and connect it to the Raspberry Pi (that also controls the PiCar).

Relevant Funded Projects:


Breathing monitoring under rubble

In this project, we want to experimentally test the ability to detect a breathing person trapped underneath a collapsed building, for use in search and rescue operations after an earthquake. We have developed a RF-based breathing monitoring system which uses a 900 MHz CW signal to detect breathing without contact. The system monitors for the changes in the radio channel caused by changes in a person's chest caused by breathing. Our device can be operated at lower frequencies, for example, down to 169 MHz. The lower frequencies experience less attenuation due to concrete and other building materials. This project will be to develop the system to be best able to detect and monitor breathing rate when a person is located in rubble. Success will likely require modifying the system for low frequency operation (169 MHz), including the development of through-wall directive antennas at this frequency. Experimental evaluation could be done using concrete walls, or traveling to a search and rescue training site.

Relevant Funded Projects:

Relevant Publications:


Audio eavesdropping attack via IoT RSS measurements

Recent research has shown that high rate received signal strength measurements can be used to record audio in the vicinity of a transmitter and receiver. The mechanism is that sound vibrates surfaces, like walls and tables; the vibration then changes the phase of radio waves which interact with these surfaces; and finally the signal strength is affected by the phases of the waves which arrive at the receiver. We have demonstrated this effect using software-defined radios recording RSS while the Harry Potter theme song plays on a speaker on a table in between the transmitter and receiver. This project will use standard IoT devices to demonstrate this attack.

Relevant Funded Projects:

Relevant Publications:

  • Alemayehu Solomon Abrar, "Improving Radio Frequency Sensing for Smart Health Applications", Ph.D. dissertation, Jan. 2020.

Using inertial measurement data to improve prediction of collisions

This project will develop a new algorithm to predict that two objects will soon collide based on measurements of ranges between many objects in the area and the inertial measurements of these objects. Alemayehu Solomon Abrar's dissertation developed the Friend-based Autonomous Collision Prediction and Tracking (FACT) algorithm and showed that it works well when the velocity is constant. This project will extend this algorithm to include accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer measurements, commonly measured with an inertial measurement unit (IMU). The project will use a team of robots, as we have in past research, to collect measurements to test the new algorithm.

Relevant Funded Projects:

Relevant Publications:

  • Alemayehu Solomon Abrar, "Improving Radio Frequency Sensing for Smart Health Applications", Ph.D. dissertation, Jan. 2020.