Zhiyuan Yan, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has received a five-year CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research on error control for a new and advanced method of data transmission called network coding.
The goal of Yan’s research is to develop error-control schemes that achieve superior performance and efficient hardware implementation while maintaining low complexities.
Network coding, which is also called “combine-and-forward” data transmission, occurs when the nodes in a communication network (such as the Internet) combine multiple incoming packets of data into a single packet and pass it on.
Network coding increases the speed and efficiency of data transmission and also improves the performance of multicast, in which data is transmitted from one node to multiple nodes. One example of a multicast is a site like YouTube, which allows multiple users to download the same movie simultaneously.
The downside to network coding, particularly in wireless applications, is its vulnerability to errors caused by noise, jamming and other types of interference, which can undermine the integrity of the data being transmitted. Therefore, says Yan, it is critical to overcome this vulnerability by using error control schemes.
“Existing error control schemes suffer from inferior performance, unrealistically high complexities, and inefficient hardware implementations,” he says. Yan proposes to address these problems jointly by developing an integrated framework that harnesses what he calls “the intricate relation between algorithms, their complexities, and their hardware implementations."
In a highly theoretical field, Yan and his students have utilized three branches of mathematics – abstract algebra, finite field theory, and combinatorics – to design classes of error control codes for network coding. They have led the way in adapting rank metric codes to error control in network coding, and have also worked with subspace codes and constant dimension codes.
Yan’s group has published more than 70 articles in top journals and conference proceedings. His research has been supported by NSF, the Air Force Research Lab and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance (PITA), as well as industry sponsors.