Connecting Devices (and Cultures): The Internet of Things Platform Development Project

By Jeff Gardner

San Diego, Calif., Sept. 7, 2016 — Fifteen computer science students from South Korea’s Keimyung University have spent the past few weeks working at the Qualcomm Institute (QI) to create new technologies that could eventually be used to treat illnesses more efficiently and effectively as part of QI’s health-related Internet of Things (IoT) Platform Development Project.

 Changeun Mason Park (far right) a senior in Computer Science at Keimyung University, was one of the members of the QI2Max team, which ultimately took home the "Best in IoT" award at the Smart City Hackathon. 

The emerging IoT is a network of various everyday devices embedded with software and electronics that enables them to share information. These “smart” devices can include pacemakers, cars, thermostats, refrigerators and streetlights. In the case of the QI-Keimyung collaboration, the students created air pollution and heart rate monitor applications for Android and Apple phones, as well as software for the apps’ back-end server and database. They were able to track and visualize the location of IoT sensors in real time, then forward the data to the web server and have that information displayed by the app.

“The goal of this project is to expose students to the health-related IoT systems and explore ways to collect, transmit and save data,“ says Qualcomm Institute (QI) project investigator Prof. Seokheon Cho. “The project is a great opportunity for both us and the students.” 

The program divided students into three groups: the data sensor team (for hardware-related work), the data collection team (which developed the app) and the data storage team (which received and saved data).

“From this I think they can learn how to collaborate,” said Cho. “Each student has a different skillset. It’s important to be able to communicate on projects like this.”

The project stems from a partnership between Cho and Professor Beomjoon Kim at Keimyung University in South Korea. Cho met Kim in 2005 while Kim was working  for LG Electronics in Korea and Cho was working as a senior researcher for the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI). The idea for the program came about three years ago when Kim, now a professor at Keimyung University, hosted a program bringing some 30 Keimyung University students to the San Diego and Los Angeles area. Although originally just in the area for a visit, Kim and Cho saw the potential to develop an innovative program.

“We saw it could be turned into an educational experience,” Cho said.

The first incarnation of the program, which is held during the winter and summer quarters, took place for six weeks in the winter of 2015 with 15 students. The second incarnation – the equivalent of an internship -- happened this past June and July, with five students from the pilot program returning to continue their research and gain a deeper understanding of the subjects they studied earlier in the year. 

Three of the students from the pilot program also competed in San Diego’s SmartCity Hackathon, a three-day competition where student teams compete to design technology for climate-related solutions for the city. The competing students, Changeun Mason Park, Hojun Justin Lee and Junhee Jack Park, all undergraduate computer science majors at Keimyung University, were flown back to the United States in May for the Hackathon, where they competed under the name “Spectre” and “Qi2Max” on behalf of QI. Their contribution was a software platform for aggregating city databases for greater ease-of-use by city planners, contractors and others with a use for such data. (QI2Max took home the “Best in IoT” award.)

From the third to final week of the QI’s health-related IoT platform development project, the students only slept four to five hours a night because of the intense workload and immersion into a new culture.

“I don’t think it’s an easy program,” Cho said. “It requires close cooperation and coordination amongst the three teams in order for the project to be successful.”

“I hope we can maintain our relationship and improve this program in the future,” Kim said.

Although the students were at QI for six weeks, the IoT Platform Development Project only lasted for five, giving them one free week in the United States to act not as engineers, but as tourists.

As for their time in San Diego, the Korean students offered an outside perspective on American culture. “I was surprised there were so many boys and girls riding skateboards,” said Sangwon Kim, who was in charge of the app team.

“It was a good experience to me,” said Chansig Jang, who worked on the web server. “In Korea professors aren’t too friendly to students, but instructors in USA are like friends.”

“USA’s summer weather is much better than Korea’s summer weather,” Jihye Pyo, who helped design the app, said. “I love the U.S.’s people, culture and weather. I’d want to come back.”

“In addition to learning technologies in the class, the students also learn English. Even though they can’t speak English very well, we had them all do their weekly presentations in English to show how much they’ve learned,” Cho said. “Overall, we would be excited to do this project again.”

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Keimyung University