The coming era of the Internet of Things, when billions of connected devices will depend on technology that enables them to be small, low-cost and low on power consumption, isn’t just about high-tech wearables.

While sleek smartwatches and futuristic eyeglasses are cool, connectivity technologies can have an impact on the greater good, too.

The finalists for the 2014 University Research Competition
The finalists for the 2014 University Research Competition

That’s what Kostas Galanopoulos, an electrical engineering graduate student, sees low-power digital sensors for healthcare — such as ultra portable medical equipment and diagnostic gear — at the forefront of the Internet of Things. His research, which resulted in a new type of transmitter design that turns all of its signals into digital frequencies, comes goes a long way toward achieving that vision.

The transmitter developed by Galanopoulos and his team at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece could enable short range wireless capabilities in almost any device.

Galanopoulos said the out-of-the-box design enables IoT device makers to “ implement the solution in about a week.” It has the potential to help creative entrepreneurs or global corporations bring new devices to market that can connect to each other, the Internet or the cloud, while minimizing start-up costs.

Galanopoulos’ visionary project, and a dozen more like it, are made possible thanks to unrestricted gifts donated to universities around the world by the Broadcom Foundation.

University students working with professors who receive support from the Foundation came to Irvine, Calif., this week for the third annual Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition.

The graduate-level engineering competition is where a selection of students present their research to a panel of judges for cash awards. The goal of the competition is to inspire and encourage young researchers to become the next generation of great innovators.

“The Broadcom Foundation is charged with supporting research of professors who nurture and inspire their students, who invariably will define the future of electrical engineering and related fields,” said Henry Samueli, Broadcom Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Technical Officer and Chairman of the STEM University Committee for the Broadcom Foundation. “The research of these talented competitors will translate into breakthroughs in many fields, which will improve quality of life and advance society as a whole.”

Meet the Winners

  • First Place: Jonathon Spaulding, Stanford University, for his project “Finite Rate of Innovation for Ultrasound Imagers.” Spaulding showed that it is possible to drastically lower the power consumption and hardware complexity for ultrasonic probes. This technology is designed to allow doctors to bring ultrasound imaging on the go and into offices where power and funding put most ultrasound imaging devices out of reach.
  • Second Place: Shir Landau Feibish, Tel Aviv University, Israel, for her project “Automated Signature Extraction for High Volume Attacks.” Feibish researched algorithms that can be used to detect and stop DDOS attacks much faster and more accurately than current manual methods.  The algorithm Feibish helped develop can be used for other purposes such as DNA sequencing, detecting patterns in DNA such as cancer vulnerabilities in large populations.
  • Third Place: Hans Meyvaert, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, for his project “Monolithic Mains AC-DC Step-down Converter with Custom High-voltage Passives in CMOS Technology.” Meyvaert created an alternative power source for devices that consume power while in standby mode. Maeyvert’s research reduces average standby power consumption by an astonishing 250 percent, while affordable enough to be an attractive solution for device manufacturers.

About the University Research Competition

The competition kicked off with three-minute “elevator speech”  presentations by the students before hundreds of Broadcom engineers, who also serve as judges. The competitors received guidance in presentation skills and assistance in sharpening their pitches by the Competition Select Committee, chaired by Broadcom Associate Technical Director David Garrett.

After their formal presentations, the students answered questions from engineer judges during the formal poster session at the opening reception of the 2014 Technical Conference, a yearly Broadcom confab. Competitors had to the opportunity explain their research and its implications in greater detail.

Jonathon Spaulding from Stanford University with Broadcom Foundation Chairman Henry Samueli
Jonathon Spaulding from Stanford University with Broadcom Foundation Chairman Henry Samueli

A major modification to this year’s competition is that students were limited to presenting their research on a single poster board, with no other electronics or laptop displays. The new rule created a more even playing field among competitors.

“Our goal was to create a level playing field whereby each competitor is applying his or her knowledge by dialoguing one-on-one with the judges,” Garret said.

Cash prizes for the Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition were awarded during the Tech Conference Banquet:  Awards include $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third. The students were judged on their presentation skills and their ability to show that their projects were scientifically rigorous with immediate, real-world applications.

“We are excited to have had such a vibrant group of competitors this year,” said Paula Golden, Executive Director of the Broadcom Foundation. “David and his committee did a masterful job in preparing these talented young engineers to convey complex ideas in a concise manner, a skill that they will use often when they complete their academic careers and work for companies such as Broadcom.”

Scott McGregor, President and CEO of Broadcom and President of the Broadcom Foundation, noted the expanding reach of the competition, which this year had university representatives from all over the world, including representatives from China, the Netherlands, Greece, Belgium and Israel.

“As a global company, it’s important for Broadcom to be able to introduce students from around the world to STEM competition, as we continue to expand our outreach to even more countries, including Europe and Asia, where our Foundation provides vital academic support,” he said.