Cisco Sustains Research Support with Georgia Tech

Cisco is widely known as a worldwide technology leader that has been making the Internet work with its agile networking routers since 1984. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Georgia Institute of Technology and Cisco, which has maintained a strong and lengthy geographic presence in Atlanta, have maintained a relationship spanning decades related to information technology, communications, and varied research projects.

Over the course of time, that relationship has blossomed into Cisco’s active support of research initiatives at the Institute—many projects conducted specifically with the research faculty expertise residing within Georgia Tech’s Institute of People and Technology (IPaT). Several Cisco supported research projects included the Georgia Tech Research Network Operations Center (GT-RNOC). GT-RNOC accelerates innovation in networking, computing, sensing, mobility and convergence by enabling communities of collaboration and includes partnerships with industry. Outside of IPaT, many other entities across the Institute have conducted projects with the support of Cisco.

Cisco’s current chair and CEO, Chuck Robbins, spearheaded many of those early joint research initiatives when he led initiatives for Cisco’s southeast region. While in Atlanta, Robbins also served as a member of the Georgia Tech advisory board working with the president of Georgia Tech.

"Cisco Research is super excited to partner with Georgia Tech IPAT to fund several research projects in the Future of Work area. As the world is grappling to deal with the one-in-a-century pandemic, a key aspect of remote work that was particularly of grave concern is remote worker wellness and productivity, which is one of the key themes along with GT researchers are conducting cutting edge research in,” said Ramana Kompella, a Distinguished Engineer and the Head of Research in the Emerging Tech and Incubation group at Cisco where he leads university research collaborations.

“In addition, Cisco Research is excited to fund research along the usage of AR/VR in improving worker productivity, improving contact-less inventory management toward efficient contactless supply chains, and other themes that will better prepare the world to deal with disruptions due to covid. If these projects are successful, this research can help achieve significant societal impact, which is especially exciting for Cisco Research.”

One of the early Cisco projects with Tech was called CMX, an acronym for connected mobile experiences. This project was focused on the application-side of telecommunications. Many projects have been undertaken since in a wide variety of areas. As a supporter for student projects, Cisco has been a major sponsor for Georgia Tech’s Convergence Innovation Competition (CIC), a bi-annual event dedicated to helping students create innovative and viable products and experiences with the support of industry guidance and campus resources.

In early 2021, Cisco continued its research support with Georgia Tech by sponsoring the following five research projects:

1) Cognitive AR Toolkit: Manipulating Augmented Reality to Enhance Healthcare Work Environments
The high-level goal of this research is to develop augmented reality (AR) techniques to support workers’ cognitive processes while performing tasks in healthcare settings. Specifically, the augmentations will be used to enhance and/or diminish signals from the environment in order to help the [healthcare] worker focus attention, maintain situational awareness, and make effective decisions.

The principal investigator is Maribeth Gandy Coleman, principal research scientist in Georgia Tech’s Institute of People and Technology and Interactive Media Technology Center.

2) Understanding and Improving the Wellness of the Remote Worker in a Post-Pandemic World
The proposed deliverables of the project involve developing innovative technologies that will contribute towards reducing workplace stress and contribute to changing work life into one full of engagement, high energy, dedication, and absorption in work for people specifically engaged in remote work.

The principal investigator is Munmun De Choudhury, professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing.

3) Smart Homes for Effective and Safe Remote Work During a Pandemic and Beyond
This project will develop and validate methods that utilize smart home technologies to support home office workers. Passive sensing technology will be deployed to capture working conditions and develop ways to optimize remote working in a shared dwelling space. Through multimodal sensor data analysis, they will be able to infer challenges to working from home. The key motivation for this project is for home office workers to maintain their effectiveness as well as their mental health. Sensing and analysis methods should allow the team to recognize mental health challenges, either directly or indirectly, and to provide the basis for effective intervention. The proposed work will be conducted within the Aware Home Research Initiative (AHRI) at the Atlanta campus of Georgia Tech. The Aware Home is a purpose-built single-family home with integrated state-of-the-art smart home technology.

Project leaders: Thomas Ploetz, associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing. Siva Jayaraman, director of strategic partnerships for the Institute for People and Technology. Additional research team members include: David Anderson, Brian Jones, Laura Levy, Mehrab Bin Morshed, and You Wang.

4) Autonomous Mobile Sensing Platforms for Inventory Auditing
Inventory management continues to be an important challenge for a wide range of industries. From ports to warehouses to large-scale outdoor storage depots, it is difficult to track the location, quantity, and status of materials and supplies. This project will advance the field of automated inventory auditing through the use of novel techniques leveraging mobile, autonomous devices that continuously explore and document outdoor storage spaces to inventory tagged items. The project will incorporate Active ID tags that include shipping conditions such as shock and temperature exposure. The locations of tagged items will be determined through the integration of multiple sources including robot location and tag signal triangulation. The inventory service will include cloud-based interactions to correlate tag-id with products to provide up to date, near real-time inventory status.

The principal investigators are Russell J. Clark, senior research scientist in the School of Computer Science, and Stephen Balakirsky, chief scientist, Aerospace, Transportation & Advanced Systems Laboratory located in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

5) Dynamic Social Spaces Support Group Activity Awareness
Online and remote work has often suffered several shortcomings, especially the casual and social interactions that happen when people are in the same space. These interactions come in many forms: casual conversation in the halls, quick impromptu meetings spurred by a comment or seeing what someone is working on, and the awareness of someone’s workflow and activity that lets colleagues know if it’s a good time to interrupt them or not. This project will create and study immersive social spaces with dynamic content, designed to support awareness of group activity, and promote serendipitous interactions that reduce out-of-band interruptions.  The project team will build working prototypes of virtual reality (VR) spaces designed to be visited throughout the day by members of a work team or class, to create opportunities for serendipitous interaction. 

The principal investigator is Blair MacIntyre, professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing.

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Walter Rich