Welcome to a more secure, connected future

In Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Featured, Research & Innovation, Security

Leveraging core strengths in data analytics, sensors, networking and cybersecurity with cross-campus disciplines – like transportation and healthcare – that are fundamental to the growing Internet of Things, or “IoT,” the University of Florida has just announced a new resource for the design, development and testing of state-of-the-art IoT systems: The Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World.

David Nelms, Chairman and CEO, Discover Financial Services, MAE ‘83

David Nelms, Chairman and CEO, Discover Financial Services, UF MAE ‘83

“For our students, this institute will open up opportunities for hands-on learning in a field many are calling the next industrial revolution,” said UF President W. Kent Fuchs. “For the rest of the world, the research and technology transfer we’re focusing on will help to create a more secure and connected future.”

The new institute is named in honor of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) alumnus Warren B. Nelms, a New Engineer who built his own solar “smart” house where he raised his children – who both went on to become UF engineers as well. His son and daughter-in-law, David and Daryl Nelms, have honored him by generously investing $5M to help create this institute.

The institute will work closely with industry, as well as with resident expert faculty in the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research (FICS Research) to integrate comprehensive security considerations into all design efforts. Additional faculty in ECE along with other engineering departments will contribute their established leadership in IoT research and enabling technologies, including those in the Multi-Functional Integrated System Technology Center (MIST), and Collaboration to Enable Transnational Cyberinfrastructure Applications (CENTRA).

“There are many examples of IoT devices being hacked, and that’s a huge problem,” said John Harris, professor and chair of ECE. “We believe we can help with every aspect – from the sensors, the communication systems, processing in the cloud, machine learning and more.”

From left: Stephen Nelms, UF President Kent Fuchs, Dr. Sachio Semmoto, Bradlee Nelms

From left: Stephen Nelms, UF President Kent Fuchs, Dr. Sachio Semmoto, Bradlee Nelms

ECE faculty member Daniela Oliveira will receive a term professorship within the institute, as will Yier Jin, known for his work exposing vulnerabilities in “smart” thermostats and over 100 other commercial IoT devices, who will join the department in July. A $1.5 million gift from Dr. Sachio Semmoto, Japanese telecommunications mogul and ECE alumnus, has established a professorship for the institute director.

“My vision for the Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World is that UF will become one of the leading places anywhere for educating the best and brightest engineers to securely connect all the world’s devices,” said David Nelms, chairman and CEO of Discover Financial Services and a mechanical engineering alumnus. “UF will become a magnet for attracting people like my dad, engineers who can dream big and create a future that most people can’t imagine.”

“We are enormously grateful for this generous gift from the Nelms family, and what it will mean for future generations,” said Cammy Abernathy, dean of UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. “A number of universities are working with IoT, but I believe we will be among the first with an institute dedicated to the connected world in all of its forms, including the security of the Internet of Things and the safety of future technologies.”

Lily ElefteriadouLily Elefteriadou, Ph.D., director of the University of Florida Transportation Institute, is taking the lead on designing sensor-infused infrastructure and signal controls that can accommodate both traditional and “smart” vehicles.
Prabir BarooahPrabir Barooah, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, develops IoT algorithms and hardware for smart buildings and the smart power grid.
Jennifer RiceJennifer Rice, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment, monitors the health and integrity of bridges, wind turbines and other structures using IoT systems.
YK YoonYK Yoon, Ph.D., a professor of electrical engineering, collaborated with UF’s College of Dentistry to create a smart mouthguard that can monitor vital statistics – including hydration levels – in athletes and emergency responders.
Toshi Nishida
Toshi Nishida, Ph.D., director of UF’s Center for Multi-functional Integrated System Technology, develops the fundamental physical infrastructure for IoT sensors and devices.
José Fortes
José Fortes, Ph.D., AT&T Eminent Scholar and director of the Advanced Computing and Information Systems Laboratory, creates the cloud-based infrastructure that IoT systems interface with.