Hot Topics in Computing: Hari Balakrishnan, Mind the App!

Thursday, December 09, 2021 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Patil/Kiva Seminar Room, 32-G449

(Register for Tim Ticket Event at MIT ID badges will be scanned on arrival for contact tracing purposes)

I was recently honored with a “lifetime” (?!) achievement award from ACM SIGCOMM and was invited to give a keynote at the conference. Rather than give a technical talk, I decided to reflect on how research ideas originate. More so than technology trends, operational know-how, or close attention to weaknesses in the state-of-the-art, much of my research has been inspired by interesting applications. I will talk about how this has been both fruitful and exciting, and hope it will inspire others, especially students, to pay close attention to apps and users and use them as a driver of interesting and impactful research in systems (and perhaps also in other areas). This is a version of my SIGCOMM talk, tailored for the CSAIL audience.

Hari Balakrishnan is the Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science at MIT. His research is in networked computer systems, with current interests in networking, sensing, and perception for sensor-equipped mobile devices connected to cloud or edge services running in datacenters. He has made many contributions to mobile and sensor computing, overlay and peer-to-peer networks, congestion control, Internet routing, and data management systems.

In 2010, based on the CarTel project, Balakrishnan co-founded Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT). CMT's mission is to make the world's roads and drivers safer. Using mobile sensing and IoT, signal processing, machine learning, and behavioral science, CMT's platform measures driving behavior to improve driving behavior and reduce risk, provides crash alerts and roadside assistance, and creates a smooth connected claims process. Today, CMT is the world's leading telematics and analytics provider, serving millions of users in 20 countries by partnering with insurers (including powering telematics programs at 20 of the top 25 US insurers), rideshares, automotive manufacturers, and mobile network operators.

Balakrishnan received his PhD in 1998 from the EECS Department at UC Berkeley, which named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 2021, and a BTech in Computer Science in 1993 from IIT Madras, which named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 2013. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (2015) and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2017). His honors include the ACM SIGCOMM Award for lifetime contributions to communication networks (2021), the IEEE Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award (2021), the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the New England region (2021), the Infosys Prize for Engineering and Computer Science (2020), Fellow of the IEEE (2020), Fellow of the ACM (2008), Sloan Fellow (2002), and the ACM doctoral dissertation award for Computer Science (1998). He has received several best-paper awards including six test-of-time awards for papers with long-term impact and the IEEE Bennett paper prize (2004). At MIT, he has received several honors including the Harold E. Edgerton faculty achievement award for research, teaching, and service (2003), the HKN best instructor award (2018), the Jamieson teaching award (2012), the Junior Bose teaching award (2002), and the Spira teaching award (2001). He has advised ~25 PhD students and 10 postdocs, who have made their mark in resarch and industry at leading universities and companies.

Balakrishnan was an advisor to Meraki from its inception in 2006 to its acquisition by Cisco in 2012. In 2003, Balakrishnan co-foundedStreamBase Systems (acquired by TIBCO), the first high-performance commercial stream processing (aka complex event processing) engine. Between 2000 and 2003, he helped devise the key network QoS algorithms for Sandburst (acquired by Broadcom).

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