The prestigious DARPA challenges are global competitions in which teams of researchers work around a specific theme to overcome a problem that affects the entire world. The team that develops the best solution to a specific technological challenge is awarded the DARPA cash prize, enabling them to develop their technology further.
The most recent DARPA Challenge (2017-2019) requires scientists to develop the best possible wireless network system – one which also works reliably in crisis conditions.
“After an attack, current wireless technologies such as 4G can sometimes become unusable,” said Professor Steven Latré (UAntwerp/imec). “Communication also plays an essential role in situations like forest fires, for example. But in areas with no 3G or 4G signal, it’s often impossible to exchange information and keep up with the situation as it evolves minute by minute.”
Colleagues Ingrid Moerman (UGent/imec) and Steven Latré (UAntwerp/imec) entered the DARPA Challenge with their IDLab research group. The project also sees them collaborating with scientists from Rutgers University in New Jersey. The Belgian-American team came in with a provisional fifth place after the first round of the competition.
“We hope to do even better in the next few years,” says Latré. “But we already received a cash prize of $750,000 dollars for fifth place, by far the biggest prize we have ever won. This prize money will definitely give us the boost we need to develop our technology further and to implement it in other wireless communication applications, such as Wi-Fi and Internet of Things technology.”