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Student research focuses on security of 5G devices

Sahereh Sabandabadi, a master's student, poses outside

We live in a world where cars drive themselves, thermostats are set via smart phones, and home security systems can be armed and monitored remotely.

But how can we ensure the tiny components connecting these devices to the Internet are safe from malicious interference?

That’s the problem UWindsor graduate student Sahereh Sahandabadi is probing. As part of a larger research project in collaboration with Canadian telecommunications company Telus on 5G technology, the Master’s student in engineering is looking for ways to build safeguards into Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“A crucial factor for the IoT devices is security and reliability,” said Sahandabadi. “Since these devices have limited battery power and can’t accommodate complicated processes in their sensors, new algorithms and methods are needed to provide this reliability.”

Sahandabadi’s research is being funded by the University. She is one of 107 UWindsor students receiving $6,000 grants as part of $642,000 in overall funding for research internships.

UWindsor is contributing an unprecedented $471,000 toward these research opportunities. The grants are going to undergraduate and graduate students from Canada and abroad, and are across all disciplines, said K.W. Michael Siu, UWindsor’s vice-president, research and innovation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected research internships for students everywhere,” said Dr. Siu. “At the University of Windsor, we are trying to make sure our students continue to have exceptional research opportunities despite the current circumstances.”

Sahandabadi is part of a research team in UWindsor’s Research Centre for Integrated Microsystems supervised by engineering professor Rashid Rashidzadeh.

“The 5G technology and the Internet of things are predicted to profoundly affect the everyday life of many across the globe,” said Dr. Rashidzadeh.

“5G technology will provide foundational infrastructure for smart cities, connected vehicles, and cybersecurity…. Working on the TELUS project in the area of 5G technology and the IoT gives students a unique opportunity to learn from industry experts and work on real-world projects.”

TELUS recently announced its collaboration to transform the University of Windsor into a 5G connected campus.

Eros Spadotto, TELUS’s executive vice-president, technology, strategy and business transformation and a UWindsor alumnus, said the partnership “will bring some of the most cutting-edge telecommunications technology available today and in the future to our students, building on our promise to advance higher education and science, and unlocking new ways for technology to improve Canadians’ lives.”

Sahandabadi, an international student who first came to UWindsor as a visiting scholar, is researching multi-input single output and millimeter wave technology as a means to enhance security in new 5G IoT devices. Alternatives, like using coding, would deplete the battery in these devices.

“This is called physical layer security, using the innate properties of the sensors in the device to make them secure,” she explained.

It’s projected there will be more than 75 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2025, Sahandabadi said.

“I came here to research this. I thought this is something I really want to do.”

—Sarah Sacheli

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