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Interview with Dr. Ekram Hossain



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Journalist: Jeryn Anthonypillai


Jeryn Anthonypillai:

Hello and welcome to SciSection. My name is Jeryn Anthonypillai and I'm a journalist for SciSection radio show broadcast on the CFMU 93.3 FM radio station. We are here today with Dr. Ekram Hossain, a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Manitoba.


Dr. Ekram Hossain:

Thank you Jeryn. I’m pleased to be able to join you today.


Jeryn Anthonypillai:

Perfect. So to get started, could you provide a quick background about yourself, like your past academic history and career?


Dr. Ekram Hossain:

So I'm a professor currently at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Manitoba. I am here since January 2001. I had my Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Victoria in BC, and I had my bachelor's, BSC in Bangladesh. I was born there actually. And, I had my BSC in computer science and engineering in 1995. And then I had my third one, of science in computer science and engineering again in 1997. And I came to the University of Victoria in 1998 and I finished my Ph.D. in 2001. And then I came to the University of Manitoba as an assistant professor. I think that's pretty much my educational background.


Jeryn Anthonypillai:

So what would you say is the main focus of your research?


Dr. Ekram Hossain:

My research focus is in the area of wireless communications. So to solve these wireless communications-related problems, I use some theories and tools from optimization, queuing theory, game theory, and also from machine learning. And if you want me to talk a bit more, you know these wireless systems design, they have a lot of problems, you know, one of the big problems I should say, the fundamental problems is what they call the resource allocation and management in wireless systems. For example, for any wireless communications, you need a wireless channel, right? You need to be able to transmit the signal using a channel. Now, the number of channels is basically limited. It's like real estate. You can think of it as a size of a city, for example, I mean, or a country like it's fixed, but you can have an increasing number of populations, right? I mean, every year you get more population, you know, more people, in the population, but you have to accommodate everyone. So same problem arises in a wireless system. I mean, you have got a limited number of channels, but you have an increasing number of users. So how do you manage these resources, you know, and try to make everyone happy? Right. So, this is a fundamental challenge. And as you can probably guess you do by proper allocation of the resources. So one of my main research focuses on resource allocation, like how to allocate channels among the users. And if you are familiar, like in a silhouette kind of systems, you have got these base stations, right? Those towers, you see occasionally, so basically you can allocate channels to the base station so that they can serve the users, who connect with those base stations. So how they allocate those channels in the different base stations for example, and also another very important resource is like the power. Like, for example, if you think about the base station, they have a limited amount of power, right? And that power for transmission they use for the different users to serve. Like when you receive something, for example, if you're browsing something you're using your cellular radio. So the base station is transmitting to you and the base station has to use some transmission power. Now it has got many users to serve and each got a limited amount of power. So how does it allocate the power among the different users, again to satisfy their requirements? Power is another very important resource that has to be allocated again, to be able to do it optimally so that you can make the best use of the power and also satisfy the maximum number of users. This is kind of the problem, you know, at the high level, it's not only the cellular wireless systems, but you can have like other, wireless sensor kinds of systems, which work in a kind of a different way, like, one sensor, you know, can transmit sensor maybe or another receiving device. Like, you know, there could be a station which collects all the sensor data, any transmission, another station, maybe. So it could involve multiple hop transmissions. So again, similar problems arise, but we can have a different setup. So depending on the configuration of the system, you can have a different look at the problem. So basically my research group tries to solve this problem in the different kinds of wireless setups.


Jeryn Anthonypillai:

What made you interested in pursuing this field?


Dr. Ekram Hossain:

Actually, I can tell you when I was doing my bachelor since then, I had an interest in communication, and that stuff. So I grew my interest back when I was a bachelor's student and you know during my thesis and project, I continued to do kind of similar stuff on communication networks, design-related problems. And I again continued kind of a similar topic when I came for my Ph.D. But I did more wireless, kind of research there. And, I started I mentioned in 1998 at that time, just kind of a very right time to do wireless communication research, you know, like the cell phone started to become very popular, you know, those second-generation GSM phones. I don't know maybe, you are not even born at that time. I mean, so those phones are very popular. Those text messages just started actually, you know, those services just started. So it was kind of a very exciting time to do wireless-related research. And when I came for my Ph.D. and everybody like in the wireless research community, they are working on these 3G phones. If, you know, like this, CDMA phones, there are probably still many people using those phones. So this 3G research started and a lot of enthusiasm. So, you know, I also liked to do something on these 3G wireless systems and yeah, so that's how I think, you know, I continued to do wireless research.


Jeryn Anthonypillai:

And I actually started reading some of your books like Introduction to Network Simulator NS2 and I thought it’s a great introduction to network simulation. What did you want readers to take away from this book?


Dr. Ekram Hossain:

Thank you. So that is a book that can be used by, you know, by students, as well as the practitioners. That is a book, basically, which provides a kind of background, I should say, quite an in-depth background, on how to write simulators, for a communication network. Right. So if you have a system of connected computers or cell phones, like a network system, right. So how do you simulate the system? Like from an end-to-end basis, you know, starting from the application, going to the transport layer, routing layer, link layer end to end, like including all the protocols, TCP, UDP, you know, so basically for an end to end system simulation that provides a thorough introduction, using this NS2 simulator that is available. So, that's kind of a well-accepted software tool. I can say, so that book was the first book I should say of this kind, which provides the kind of a thorough introduction to this, and it's two based simulations. So it can be used for, you know, for an undergraduate or communication systems, for experimentation and for a lab. And it also has a wireless part as well. So if you want to simulate a wireless kind of system, you still can, you know, use any tool. That book provides a kind of introduction and examples. A lot of examples there, you know, on how to write those simulations. Now I should probably mention NS2 basically has evolved to its next version NS3, recently. I mean, few years, you know, people are now moving more on to NS3 so I'm not sure whether these days people would be using NS2, or maybe they prefer to do NS3 now, but now NS3 is a little bit different than NS2 though, but still, you can use NS2 there's no restriction or, you know what I mean, many students or researchers can still use NS2. And then the book will still be usable.




Jeryn Anthonypillai:

And another book I thought was really intriguing was Radio Resource Management in Wireless Networks: An Engineering Approach. So what do you think were the most important concepts from this book?



Dr. Ekram Hossain:

Thank you. So that book particularly focuses on resource management as I was mentioning at the beginning, and now, basically, this book deals with modelling and analysis of different kinds of resource allocation problems in different kinds of cellular systems. Now, what was interesting in the book is we covered different kinds of cellular systems starting from homogeneous, like a single type of cellular, like old fashioned cellular to a more advanced, like you might've heard about this 4G system having the cell phone that you are using, for example, now LTE phones. So now they're in the 3G technology because the architecture is different where they use what is called a head net architecture, like a heterogeneous networking architecture, where in a single cell, you can have multiple base stations. You can have multiple kinds of cell towers, like big, small, and like there could be a hierarchy like big cells, macrocells, and then microcells and picocells. So you can have a hierarchical architecture in the system. So when you have this kind of a hierarchical system, a heterogeneous system, and the problems are kind of more complicated, because different base stations and users can associate to different kinds of base stations, they're more options. So the problems, in general, get more complicated, more degrees of freedom. So we basically dealt with resource allocation problems in these multitask systems really in addition to cellular systems. So, the problem is that we don't include a channel allocation, and also like power allocation. So, that book is quite, you know relevant to this 4G type of technology. And, also summarizes the latest kind of state of art technologies, methods and algorithms.


Jeryn Anthonypillai:

And where do you think this topic is headed in the future in terms of wireless networks?


Dr. Ekram Hossain:

You know, wireless is like a vital technology, as you can imagine. I mean, everywhere, you know, it's becoming pervasive, right? It's not only for like communication but also in industry, industrial control, you know, etc. So in transportation systems, and all kinds of IoT applications like wireless technology. So it's like pervasive technologies, like power technology, right? Those electric power technologies, like a vital fundamental technology. So wireless communications are also becoming like a fundamental kind of technology. And, the ultimate vision is to have what they call the internet of everything. I mean, everything on this planet could be interconnected and of course, we can't do it without wireless, right. So, that's what I think, the technology is evolving toward to enable the internet of everything. And it's going to be a very heterogeneous kind of a system, lots of different technologies, all integrated together, cellular, wifi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, all these technologies will work kind of together, you know in a converged system. And also not only that you will also have non-terrestrial systems like drone-based communications. You can put base stations in the drones and they can serve as a mobile base station. So in the end it will be like an integrated terrestrial and non-terrestrial communication system, you know, which will be enabled by this wireless technology. And at the end, we'll have an internet of everything. So I think that's what you know, technology is evolving towards.


Jeryn Anthonypillai:

So that was our final question. So that brings us to the end of the interview. Thank you again for joining me today and that's it for this week of Scisection. Make sure to check our podcasts available on global platforms for all our latest interviews.