Wireless Laboratory

A rather appropriate name as we tend to ask a lot of “WHY” type questions. The Ylab is part of the Centre for Telecommunications (CfT), in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science at the University of Johannesburg.

The purpose of the Wireless Laboratory is to undertake research in the wireless communications field. The research philosophy includes both analytical and empirical approaches. Postgraduate students are required to build actual systems to validate designed algorithms and theoretical results.

The Wireless Laboratory (YLab) primarily focuses on short range wireless communication. Some problems experienced in wireless communication, such as scattering, multipath fading and interference is similar to that experienced in long range wireless  communication systems. Therefore in those specific areas there is some overlap in research focus. For example, we are investigating using software defined radio to change to unoccupied channels that are experiencing less interference from neighbouring nodes.

The main areas of interest of the research team are in mobile wireless systems, including smart-phone-based computing applications and wireless sensor networks. The focus areas in wireless sensor networks are on precision agriculture and underground systems.

1. Precision Agriculture

The laboratory is currently developing mechanisms to overcome the effects of foliage on short range wireless communication. As  plants grow the amount of foliage increases, which results in a deterioration of signal strength and reduced reliability. This project has  three aspects, namely (i) the development of a model for optimum placement of wireless sensor nodes within a field, (iii) the design of a low-cost wireless sensor node for deployment in outdoor environments, and (iii) the design of a surge protection circuit to protect the nodes from electrostatic discharge caused by for example lightning.

2. Smart Grid Communication Infrastructure

Members of the laboratory are collaborating with industry and other local and foreign universities to develop a system that allows a HAN and NAN to collaborate and share electricity usage data with the final objective being to reduce the need for total suburban blackouts. We are developing the equipment required for a smart home as well as the cooperative algorithms to enable the NAN-ecosystem to ensure that the load is balanced.

3. Underground Wireless Communication

This project analyses typical wireless communication issues encountered in underground tunnels such as mines. Members of the team are investigating the possibility of using a combination of static and mobile sensor nodes to monitor underground infrastructure and water and air quality to improve the safety of the underground worker.

4. e-Health

Students are investigating the usability of wireless communication technology such as RFID and NFC tags combined with mobile smartphone applications to improve the quality of healthcare in developing countries.