University plans to send research to Singapore

By Emily Bardales

Come January, Benjamin Wah, professor in electrical and computer engineering, is expected to move to Singapore where he will research with a team of University participants as well as participants from Singapore to take technology to a new level.

“This is the first time that the University has set up any partnership with a foreign government,” Wah said.

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During the next five years, A*STAR, a Singapore agency that stands for the Agency for Science Technology and Research, will be appropriating $50 million to University research which Wah will direct in Singapore.

In order for the University to retain the ownership of the research, it has set up a limited liability company in Singapore. This company is also able to eliminate one step in the transferring of money.

With it’s location in Singapore, the limited liability company is able to serve as a middle man and receive the money from the Singapore government and use it for the research.

In order to continue receiving funds, Wah said they must continue to meet standards based on a key performance index. The company will also keep the University of Illinois Board of Trustees informed about progress.

On Nov. 13, the Board of Trustees will vote on the contract, which if passed, will ensure Wah’s departure in January.

“If the project is successful, it will mean a lot to the University and to the world because this is something that we hope to expand and leap-frog our success to other countries in Asia, allowing us to work with other talents in neighboring countries,” Wah said.

Wah’s research is for the Human Sixth Sense Program, which aims to seek a better understanding of how humans interact with computers.

“Normally humans would have five senses,” Wah said. “The sixth sense that we have conceived is how humans communicate with computers and how humans will be in the loop when working with computers.”

There are different components in which this project will be carried out. The first step is designing the computer and the computer networks to connect them together. Wah said the researchers will also be looking at the study of cyber infrastructure agents to understand what kind of data is inside a computer.

In addition, the researchers will consider dependability, reliability and trustworthiness of the information as well as security. Research will be done on the design of image processing, image understanding and human-computer interfaces in order to allow humans to be in control when interacting with technology.

“Many of the components may already exist in an isolated fashion, but the difficulty is making them work in an integrated fashion so that it can actually solve some new applications and bring this to a new level of success,” Wah said.

One of the many applications of this research is a medical information system.

“This would allow doctors to access patient information anywhere in any form,” Wah said. “We want this information to be available to any doctor all over the world.”

Wah is aware that this can be done with the use of the Internet. He said that having all the information readily accessible in real time while still dependable and secure is one of their challenges.

“Campus is very enthusiastic about the opportunity presented,” said Melanie Loots, associate vice chancellor for research. “We see this engagement with the Pacific Rim as essential to our stature as a first rate research and education institution.”