What would it be like to have a completely seamless integration of your cell phone, home phone, instant-messaging and video-conferencing services? Rather than having a separate phone number, video-conferencing ID and instant-messenger ID, you could have one personal identification that could be used to handle all of your communication. This is the unified vision behind a research project of Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janardhan Iyengar.
Aided by students Jeff Wise ’12 and Sam Lewis ’10 this summer, Iyengar is trying to develop just such a network. “We are working on a next-generation integrated communications infrastructure called SIP, which stands for Session Initiation Protocol,” he said.
A cell phone once was used purely for making phone calls over a network, but today is far more than that. You can send messages on it, access the Internet and even transmit files, as the phone network and the Internet merge. “Right now, when you go to a Web site, it may say Ã«Click Here’ to send me an e-mail,” said Iyengar. The idea of the SIP infrastructure is you would also be able to click to make a phone call or send an instant message or start a video-conferencing session with the other person.” SIP is not widely used yet, but Iyengar expects large-scale deployment soon. “My students and I are trying to make SIP work well when there are millions of people using it.”
Both Franklin & Marshall students received financial support to help with this project. Lewis is working as a Hackman scholar, while Wise is funded through Google Summer of Code 2009—a global program that provides stipends for students to participate in writing code for open-source projects. According to Wise, “Open-source code is sort of a movement. It’s code that’s free that everyone can see and modify, and it’s good because it allows anyone to contribute to a project.” Wise is one of 1,000 students selected by Google, and he credits Iyengar for helping him with the application process. This year, Google funded about a third of the students who submitted applications.
Although Wise is spending full workweeks in the LAIR (their nickname for their computer science lab, which stands for “Lab for Advanced Internet Research”), he is enjoying plenty of opportunities to connect with other members of the Google community through its mailing lists.
“The Google Summer of Code program is a prestigious award and it puts us on the map for students who are interested in working with and contributing to open-source software,” Iyengar said.
Iyengar also noted that there are many exciting developments happening in the burgeoning Computer Science program as it constructs a new major. “We are starting from scratch and designing the whole curriculum. We are very excited. We want to make it a major with a strong research component, since this is one of F&M’s greatest strengths, and our work this summer is part of this emphasis.”