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07/12/1999 07:00:00

Advanced networks and ubiquitous computing to be the focus of new technology center

PASADENA-The David and Ellen Lee Family Foundation has donated $10 million to the California Institute of Technology for a center to improve computer networking through innovations such as wireless links.

The center will include broad participation from Caltech researchers in a variety of disciplines, from electrical engineering, computer science, and applied physics to economics. The center will develop research programs in advanced networking, sponsor seminars and cross-disciplinary teaching programs, develop technology exchange programs with industry, and encourage entrepreneurship in the area of advanced networking.

The new campus facility will be named the Lee Center for Advanced Networking, according to Caltech president David Baltimore.

"Our goal is to create new communication technologies that will help change the world," Baltimore says. "The generosity and vision of David and Ellen Lee have made it possible for Caltech to become a leader in advanced computer networking."

Caltech provost Steve Koonin says the new center will help revolutionize the ways in which information moves from place to place. "With this donation, we will develop information space where people can communicate, regardless of where they are geographically, or whether they are mobile or stationary."

The center will focus on creating a worldwide distributed computing system that connects people and appliances through wireless and high-bandwidth wired channels, Koonin says.

Dr. David L. Lee is president and chief operating officer at Global Crossing and holds a doctorate from Caltech in physics with a minor in economics.

"Deregulation in the telecommunications industry and breakthroughs in optronics technologies have caused fundamental, structural changes in global communications," said Lee. "New types of global networks are being built at a fraction of the cost of the legacy networks they replace. A world of seamless, ubiquitous connectivity is now within our reach, with a networked computer in almost every human tool and habitat. It is my hope that this new center will help realize that new future."

"The traditionally interdisciplinary nature of Caltech will help develop unique research and teaching programs that span all the components of engineering, sciences, and the social sciences," says Caltech Professor of Engineering David Rutledge, who will be charter director of the center. "The research will span everything from optical fiber and silicon substrates, to applications such as e-commerce, e-service, and distance learning."

E-service, for example, would expand communications far beyond the capabilities of standard e-mail. An automobile might be installed with wireless communication so that an automated message is sent to emergency services when the car's air bag goes off in an accident.

Virtual learning and long-distance collaboration, too, would greatly benefit from improved networking capabilities. In an age when social and market forces are making the boundaries between workplace and home more vague, the new technologies could allow parents to do their jobs while at home with much greater ease than currently possible. Multinational collaborations would be easier, and state-of-the-art teaching at remote facilities would be improved.

Caltech faculty to initially be associated with the center:

-David Rutledge, director, Lee Center for Advanced Networking; and executive officer for electrical engineering;

- Jehoshua Bruck, professor of computation and neural systems and electrical engineering;

-Mani Chandy, Simon Ramo Professor of Computer Science and executive officer for computer science;

-John Doyle, professor of control and dynamical systems and electrical engineering;

-Michelle Effros, assistant professor of electrical engineering;

-Ali Hajimiri, assistant professor of electrical engineering;

-Robert McEliece, Allen E. Puckett Professor and professor of electrical engineering;

-Charles Plott, Edwin S. Harkness Professor of Economics and Political Science and director of the Caltech Laboratory for Experimental Economics and Political Science;

-Kerry Vahala, professor of applied physics.

With the support of the grant announced today, Caltech will also recruit new faculty members to expand the scope and depth of the Center's research capabilities.


Written by Robert Tindol