Since 1876, AT&T ingenuity has connected individuals the world over and helped companies find better ways to do business. From Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone to the first transatlantic phone call, from the development of transistors and communications satellites to today's powerful networks that support global enterprises, AT&T's inventiveness has forever changed the way people and enterprises communicate.
Innovation today comes not only from within AT&T, but from AT&T supported researchers working to develop next-generation networking advancements. The company has a long history of collaborative research and mentoring programs with leading universities, conducting joint trials of new technologies and developing prototypes from innovative ideas.
One exciting example of this is the new University of Houston (UH) AT&T Technology Lab, an idea and information exchange hub for the educational, industrial and research communities. Funding from the AT&T Foundation gives UH researchers in the university's College of Technology access to telecommunications, networking and computing resources designed to acquire, analyze, integrate and visualize large volumes of data in real time.
Benefits Beyond the Ivory Towers
With its ability to simulate wide area networks and network protocols, the lab's impact will reach far beyond the university campus. In conjunction with the non-profit Greater Houston Education Collaboration group, the lab already extends into local communities through outreach programs for students in kindergarten through grade 12. High definition video conferencing and video streaming have the potential to connect students via distance learning with hundreds of thousands of their peers around the globe.
Businesses can use the lab to explore ideas, develop and test new technologies and upgrade the skills of their workers. The lab also provides opportunities for engineers, technicians, IT consultants and other industry professionals to maintain their licensure through seminars and networking training programs.
Dr. Enrique Barbieri, UH professor and chair of the Department of Engineering Technology, formed a team of faculty and staff whose proposal resulted in the awarding of a $250,000 grant used to create the facility. The funds were part of a million-dollar gift from AT&T that supports the university's commitment to education, diversity and excellence. "We wrote this proposal with the idea of creating a center of communications operations that would educate our own graduate and undergraduate students with outreach to community colleges and K-12 schools, create strong links with industry and provide research and training to create a revenue stream to sustain the lab," he said.
Locating the AT&T research lab at the University of Houston is a natural fit, Barbieri asserts. "The university really embraces technology. There are more than a dozen university centers researching different aspects of technology, such as the genome project, nano materials, biotechnology and biochemistry." Barbieri predicts the AT&T Lab will become a top-tier center supporting focused research in instructional fields and network communications, attracting additional support from industry and government agencies.
Messages from the Space Shuttle
The lab brings many advantages to the UH campus. "Our faculty and students, along with those in other departments, have access to state
of the art network communications equipment," Barbieri said. "They also have the opportunity to interact with faculty and researchers in
other parts of this country and around the world."
Less than a year after it opened, the lab has already reached what Barbieri calls a critical mass of faculty and staff actively seeking potential collaborative projects with companies. Much research is already underway including a project for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that tests intelligent sensors that can relay information on their own health to other parts of the system. For example, the space shuttle might use thousands of these sensors, Barbieri said. With the volume of information being transmitted from one place to another, an intelligent sensor is invaluable to ensuring the integrity of the data being collected.