Faculty at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing Leading the Development of Smartphones-Satellite Technology

Faculty members at Florida International University’s (FIU) College of Engineering and Computing are spearheading a groundbreaking research project to develop technology that will directly connect smartphones to satellites. This technology aims to provide high-speed internet access without the need for traditional cell towers and communication bases. The project is generously funded by Digital Locations, an innovative satellite communications company.

The goal of this research is to address the current limitation of smartphones, which often lack the capability to establish strong wireless links with satellites. Associate Professor Elias Alwan, who specializes in electrical and computer engineering and serves as the principal investigator for the grant, emphasized the disruptive nature of this technology. He believes that their proposed idea could help overcome this challenge and bring about significant benefits.

By enabling direct satellite to smartphone connections using existing devices and potentially leveraging current satellite constellations, the technology being developed at FIU has the potential to revolutionize various sectors. Residents in rural areas can look forward to consistent high-speed internet access, while passengers on cruise ships can make video calls even in the open ocean. Furthermore, in the aftermath of natural disasters such as hurricanes, this technology could facilitate high-speed communications in areas where cell towers have been damaged.

The pursuit of this technology poses unique challenges within the industry, requiring breakthroughs in areas where FIU faculty possess specific expertise. These areas include circuitry, antenna design, and frequency choices. Co-principal investigator Arjuna Madanayake, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at FIU, expressed the transformative potential of the project, emphasizing the value of the radio spectrum as a natural resource. The team hopes to create technology that offers massive capacity and global access.

Notably, Alwan and Madanayake bring extensive experience and receive substantial research grants in their respective fields. Alwan is an expert in wireless radios, a National Science Foundation Career Awardee, and has received over $14 million in research grants since joining FIU in 2017. Madanayake is an expert in digital radio design and has received multiple grants from government agencies and the National Science Foundation.

The research team at FIU is excited about the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the telecommunications industry. With access to state-of-the-art labs for radio frequency systems research, they are well-positioned to pursue this ambitious project successfully.