Education  September 20, 2013

Grant helps professor tame data streams

Speed. Accuracy. Efficiency. In an age of technological advances, new developments are constant. A variety of professional industries and individuals can benefit from the improvements, but they have to be sparked by an innovator.

Shrideep Pallickara, a Colorado State University associate professor of computer science, is helping generate some of those sparks. This spring, Pallickara won a $400,000 research award from the National Science Foundation for his work on computer system development. The award, generated by the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, will allow Pallickara to explore how to tame and better utilize real-time data streams that tell us everything from how our hearts are beating to how chemicals are reacting.

“There is a huge proliferation of devices that measure something: temperature, heart function, respiration,” Pallickara said. “The idea is to process data from these censors in real time.”

The five-year study will focus on data stream management in areas such as health care and homeland security. These computer data streams are an integral part of electronic health monitoring devices in hospitals. These fast-flowing data sequences provide accurate information almost instantaneously so doctors can update their care protocols as soon as data indicates there’s been a change.

Additionally, chemical and biological sensor data streams can aid homeland security in information processing and assessing a potential threat. These too rely on both accuracy and speed.

One of Pallickara’s goals is to refine medical data stream processing so precisely that it can monitor changes down to the millisecond.

“It’s not feasible for humans to do these measurements. A nurse cannot take a temperature every second,” he said. “It can also be unsafe and dangerous when it comes to measuring chemicals. There are several reasons why you would want sensors to do the measuring and process the data.”

The medical monitoring devices stream patient data in hospitals and assisted living facilities. Doctors rely on the devices to provide accurate information in a timely manner. Efficiency relies on effectiveness; if the monitors are faulty or damaged, the results can be harmful rather than helpful.

“Sensors continuously generate data and can get ‘hosed,’ overwhelming the processing infrastructure,” Pallickara said. “We’re working on the notion of backup computations; if a machine fails, (the data) can get switched over to another computation in seconds where it is still processed in real time. Just because one machine fails, health is still monitored.”

The importance of health-care technology is growing, with financiers dramatically increasing investment in the field. Venture capitalists invested $543 million in medical devices in the second quarter of 2013, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. This was a 25 percent increase over the first quarter.

Pallickara has teamed up with Dr. Gary Luckasen in the cardiology center at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. Luckasen and Pallickara will accumulate electronic data from a group of patients to be used in experiments for developing real time sequencing across several machines.

Pallickara also is working on methods that prevent the system failures that can occur when multiple streams of data interfere with each other.

Pallickara is using open-source software for his research, allowing collaboration and shared information with other scientists and field researchers for observational purposes. This software can be accessed by a number of machines to process various – and large – streams of data in multiple locations.

The grant also provides educational outreach opportunities for local middle-school students to study mathematical concepts throughout the year.

The NSF awards the CAREER grant to nominees who prove successful integration of education and research within their respective field of interest. Pallickara has been a recipient of additional NSF grants in the past, as well as funding from the Department of Homeland Security for a variety of research projects.

Speed. Accuracy. Efficiency. In an age of technological advances, new developments are constant. A variety of professional industries and individuals can benefit from the improvements, but they have to be sparked by an innovator.

Shrideep Pallickara, a Colorado State University associate professor of computer science, is helping generate some of those sparks. This spring, Pallickara won a $400,000 research award from the National Science Foundation for his work on computer system development. The award, generated by the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, will allow Pallickara to explore how to tame and better utilize real-time data streams that tell us everything…

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