Tomorrow is Yesterday (or nearly so): Historical Lessons that Foretell the Future of Mobile

Tuesday Nov. 13, 2012
HH 1107
12:00pm (noon)

Bob Iannucci (CMU-SV)


The evolution of mobile computing strongly resembles the evolution of the three generations of computing that preceded it, but with a few crucial differences. Like the past generations, value shifts between hardware, software and services in fairly predictable ways. Unlike past generations, mobile computing is encumbered both by the complexity of distributed computing and by the hard limits imposed by physics and human physiology.

This talk examines the evolution of mobile computing, probes some of the difficult problems at its heart, and identifies a handful of challenges that could drive new research. We will examine one of these in some detail.

Time permitting, we will also explore connected computing beyond the phone, drawing on the speaker's personal deep-dive into hardware, firmware, software and services for an application of interest to emergency first responders.


Areas of Interest

• Mobile and embedded computing, scalable systems, sensor networks, emergency communications systems


• Ph.D. 1988, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT

Bob Iannucci is Director of the Mobility Research Center at Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley and is known for leading both software and systems research in scalable and mobile computing. Most recently, he served as Chief Technology Officer of Nokia and Head of Nokia Research Center (NRC). Bob spearheaded the effort to transform NRC into an Open Innovation center, creating “lablets” at MIT, Stanford, Tshinghua University, the University of Cambridge, and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Under his leadership, NRC's previously established labs and the new lablets delivered fundamental contributions to the worldwide Long Term Evolution for 3G (LTE) standard; created and promulgated what is now the MIPI UniPro interface for high-speed, in-phone interconnectivity; created and commercialized Bluetooth Low Energy - extending wireless connectivity to coin-cell-powered sensors and other devices; and delivered new technology initiatives including TrafficWorks (using mobile phones to crowd source traffic patterns), Point and Find (augmented-reality using the mobile phone’s camera for image recognition and “zero click” search) and the Morph Concept (opening new directions for using nanotechnology to significantly improve mobile phone functionality and usability).

Previously, Bob led engineering teams at startup companies focused on virtualized networking and computational fluid dynamics, creating systems that offered order-of-magnitude improvements over commercial alternatives. He also served as Director of Digital Equipment Corporation's Cambridge Research Laboratory (CRL) and became VP of Research for Compaq. CRL created some of the earliest multimedia indexing technologies, and these became part of Alta Vista. During this time, Bob, the CRL team and Dan Siewiorek's team at CMU created MoCCA - a mobile computing and communications architecture - that prefigured and anticipated (by more than a decade) much of what has become well-known as today's smartphone technology. MoCCA won the IDEA Gold award for its innovative approach to facilitating real-time interaction within teams. Bob spent the earliest days of his career at IBM.

Bob remains active as a hands-on systems builder. His most recent iPhone app for radio direction finding is in use in over 70 countries, and he is actively engaged in building WiFi-based “internet of things” devices and the cloud services behind them. He also serves as advisor to companies developing new technologies for ultra-low-power computing, mobile video systems, and cloud-connected mobile apps.

Bob earned his Ph.D. from MIT in 1988, and his dissertation was on the hybridization of dataflow and traditional von Neumann architectures, offering advantages over both. He has served on a number of scientific and engineering advisory boards and was on the program committees for the 3rd and 4th International Sympoisia on Wearable Computing. Bob also served as a member of the selection committee for the Millennium Technology Prize in 2008.

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