I am fascinated by technologies that create pervasive computer devices; I contributed to this with research in secure hardware design techniques and network protocol implementation at Columbia University. I have seen applications for novel computer form factors at Boeing. However, future computers that are both smaller and bigger than current tools pose challenges to industrial product development. Research is needed to push those knowledge boundaries.
Pervasive computers developed from research help companies endow objects with information. At Boeing, radio-frequency identification chips help industrial engineers track millions of components on an assembly line. Distributed sensor networks have helped Boeing lighten its aircraft and build reliable avionics. In my research on suppliers for hardware components, I see a need for better hardware supply chain security. This industry setting has fueled my curiosity about pervasive computing, hardware security, and network architectures.
As integrated circuit designers create specialized chips, they rely on components licensed from other design teams. These designs may conceal backdoor circuitry that delivers secrets to an unauthorized party, obliterating all the software security built on top of the hardware. As chip design becomes a global effort, secure design techniques are direly needed to mitigate these backdoors. I contributed a security design pattern in my research project titled Security Engineering for Backdoor-Free Crypto Hardware, where we masked secret data to untrusted components.
Improved hardware security would help teams to collaborate in production of cheaper specialized computers. As pervasive computing allows more information to be attached to physical objects, better networks are required to aggregate and present that information.
My research provides background for me to go toward either end of the computer size spectrum—in tightening the security of embedded systems, or in expanding on global network architectures. However, future computers would pull the two ends together; they would bear no resemblance to computers of today. They would revolutionize applications including aerospace, energy distribution, and human-computer interaction. I would love to conduct research in this unfolding domain, and I am eager to see the commercial products that would result from these new tools.