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Spectrum Observatory ThinkTank

The Microsoft Spectrum Observatory ThinkTank 2014 aims to create a forum where like-minded individuals come together to discuss and provide additional feedback so the platform can better serve the community’s research needs even more than today. During this ThinkTank we will be presenting the vision of Microsoft Spectrum Observatory, demo of current version (which is being actively developed), describe its architecture and provide an opportunity for you to provide suggestions and feedback to make the Microsoft Spectrum Observatory a success. It is also an opportunity for the Spectrum Observatory development team to describe their future plans, look at research currently being done in this space, and how you can become part of this exciting project.

Want to listen in? Then click here for details.


Time Event 
8:00 AM Opening Remarks and Meeting Goals
8:15 AM

Keynote - US Federal Government Spectrum Monitoring

Mr. Michael Cotton, US Department of Commerce 

9:00 AM

Tutorial of the Spectrum Observatory and a Walkthrough of the Technology 

Mr. Anoop Gupta, Microsoft

10:00 AM Break 
10:15 AM

Research Talks

Mr. Lixin Shi, MIT - Beyond Sensing: Multi-GHz Realtime Spectrum Analytics

Dr. Sumit Roy, University of Washington - Integrated Sensing and Database Architecture for White Space Networking

Dr. Mariya Zheleva, SUNY - TxMiner: Identifying Transmitters in Real-World Spectrum Measurements

Dr. Heather Zheng, UCSB - Towards Commoditized Real-time Spectrum Monitoring

12:15 AM

Panel Discussions with Speakers

1:15 PM Break 
1:30 PM

An Overview of the Global Policy and Regulatory Landscape – Opportunities and Risks for Alternative Forms of Spectrum Access

Mr. Paul Garnett, Microsoft

2:30 PM Interactive session commenting on posed questions 
3:30 PM

Closing Remarks and Next Steps

Dr. Victor Bahl, Microsoft

 *All times are in Pacific time zone

 What is Microsoft Spectrum Observatory?

Researchers who participate in spectrum monitoring and associated technologies often want to conduct large-scale field studies to collect data, but conducting such studies today is quite challenging. Considerable custom engineering is required to ensure hardware and software prototypes work robustly, and recruiting and managing more than a handful of locations can be difficult and cost-prohibitive. To lower the barrier for field studies, data collection and developing and evaluating new technologies for wireless spectrum research, Microsoft has developed a shared infrastructure, called Microsoft Spectrum Observatory. The vision of the Microsoft Spectrum Observatory includes a large number of geographically distributed measurement stations, each running a common, flexible framework in which measurements are collected and then centrally stored. The use of a common framework and shared dataset will enable engineering effort, along with experience and expertise, to be shared among many research groups.


Talk Details


US Federal Government Spectrum Monitoring by Mr. Michael Cotton

Link to Slides


Tutorial of the Spectrum Observatory and a Walkthrough of the Technology by Mr. Anoop Gupta

Link to Slides

Beyond Sensing: Multi-GHz Realtime Spectrum Analytics by Mr. Lixin Shi, MIT

Spectrum sensing has been an active research area for the past two decades. Nonetheless, current spectrum sensing systems provide only coarse occupancy data. They lack information about the detailed signal patterns in each band and can easily miss fleeting signals like radar.

We present SpecInsight, a system for acquiring a detailed view of 4 GHz of spectrum in real-time. SpecInsight’s design addresses the intrinsic conflict between the need to quickly scan a wide spectrum and the desire for obtaining very detailed information about each band. Its key enabler is a learned database of signal patterns and a new scheduling algorithm that leverages these patterns to identify when to sample each band to maximize the probability of sensing active signals.

SpecInsight is implemented using off-the-shelf USRP radios with only tens of MHz of instant bandwidth, but is able to span 4 GHz of spectrum, and capture very low duty-cycle signals in the radar band. Using SpecInsight, we perform a large-scale study of the spectrum in 6 locations in the US that span major cities and suburban areas, and build a first-of-its-kind database of spectrum usage patterns.

Link to Slides

Integrated Sensing and Database Architecture for White Space Networking by Dr. Sumit Roy, University of Washington

The evolution of cognitive (secondary) networks to enable more efficient spectrum usage will rely on fast and accurate spectrum sensing/mapping, supported by a suitable architecture for data integration and model building. In the first part of the talk, fundamental aspects of the wide-area RF mapping problem as a grand challenge will be highlighted; and some recent work at UW that underpin sub-system level trade-offs (between scan latency and channel status estimation accuracy) for channel sensing described. Next, the role of centralized databases in RF map creation for enabling primary-to-secondary and secondary-to-secondary coexistence is explored and a hybrid architecture proposed – that involves both distributed (crowd-sourced) local sensing as well as it’s integration into databases. Finally, some ongoing work regarding a fundamental question: how much white space capacity is actually available – will be described.

Link to Slides

TxMiner: Identifying Transmitters in Real-World Spectrum Measurements

How should regulators re-assign spectrum optimally? How do licensees identify spectrum usage in order to provision for future needs? How do Dynamic Spectrum Access devices determine on which frequency to operate? All these questions require knowledge about active transmitters, which is not straight-forward to obtain with currently-existing techniques. In this talk I am going to present TxMiner: a system that automatically identifies transmitters without prior knowledge of their characteristics. TxMiner makes use of machine learning methods in order to tease apart transmitters from raw spectrum measurements. I will start by outlining several key insights that enable TxMiner; I will then show results from transmitter identification using traces collected by Microsoft’s Spectrum Observatory.

Link to Slides

Towards Commoditized Real-time Spectrum Monitoring

We are facing an increasing difficult challenge in spectrum management: how to perform real-time spectrum monitoring with strong coverage of deployed regions. Today’s solutions use dedicated hardware that is bulky and expensive, making the monitoring task extremely difficult and cost prohibitive. We propose a practical alternative by leveraging the power of the masses, i.e. millions of wireless users, using low- cost, commoditized spectrum monitoring hardware. We envision an ecosystem where crowd sourced smartphone users perform automated and continuous spectrum measurements using their mobile devices, and report the results to a monitoring agency in real-time.

In this talk, we will introduce our initial feasibility study to verify the efficacy of the mobile monitoring platform compared to that of conventional monitoring devices. Our results indicate that commoditized real-time spectrum monitoring is indeed feasible in the near future. We conclude by discussing a set of open challenges and potential directions for follow-up research.

Link to Slides

An Overview of the Global Policy and Regulatory Landscape – Opportunities and Risks for Alternative Forms of Spectrum Access

It has been three decades since the United States Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) created the first unlicensed spectrum access. Although only available commercially in the last fifteen years, it is hard to imagine consumers doing without technologies now used in the unlicensed spectrum bands – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID. There are now many more wireless devices reliant on unlicensed access to spectrum than wireless devices reliant on licensed access to spectrum. Driven by growing demand that risks outstripping the current allocations of spectrum for wireless broadband applications, governments and regulators around the world are now looking at making more spectrum available on an exclusive-use licensed basis for 4G LTE, as well as make more spectrum available on an unlicensed (or licensed-exempt) basis for Wi-Fi and other technologies. Governments and regulators are likewise now looking at alternative forms of spectrum access which will not require incumbent licensees to be cleared and reallocated, such as spectrum sharing opportunities in the TV white spaces, 2.3 GHz, 3.5 GHz, and 5 GHz either on an unlicensed, licensed, or lightly-licensed basis. This presentation will provide an overview of efforts by governments and regulators around the world to address these issues – with a particular focus on alternative forms of spectrum access. This presentation will also discuss how spectrum observatories, standardization, technology trials, commercial pilots, partnerships, and industry and academic coalitions can and are being used to support these efforts.

Link to Slides

Interactive session commenting on posed questions

This where participants will have the opportunity to discuss some of the following questions:

1. What are good examples of field studies you conduct which may use wireless spectrum usage data?

2. What other kind of data do you collect along with power at a specific frequency when conducting your field studies?

3. How big (number of collection points, bands, etc) are your typical field studies?

4. What are the common devices you use in your research?

5. What software environments do you use to collect and analyze data generated in your field studies?

6. How can you benefit from the shared infrastructure and shared data in this space?

7. What are your big concerns for implementing a spectrum monitoring solution at scale?

8. What granularity of data is desired to be stored and retrievable?

9. How long should data be stored?

10. Would you like to be part of the Microsoft Spectrum Observatory? How would you like to participate?


Speaker Bios

Mr. Michael Cotton

Mr. Cotton joined NTIA/ITS in 1992. He has been involved in a broad range of research topics including applied electromagnetics, atmospheric effects on radiowave propagation, radio channel measurement and theory, interference effects on digital receivers, ultrawideband technologies, spectrum sharing with Federal systems, and spectrum occupancy measurements. In 2002, he earned the DOC Gold Medal Award for research and engineering achievement in the development of national policies for UWB technologies. In 2010 and 2011, Mr. Cotton was the General Chair for the International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) on Developing Forward-Thinking Rules and Processes to Fully Exploit Spectrum Resources. Currently, he is the project leader on NTIA’s Spectrum Monitoring Pilot Program. Michael has authored or co–authored over thirty technical publications. He received a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1992 and an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis on electromagnetics in 1999, both from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Mr. Anoop Gupta

Anoop Gupta has worked for Microsoft for over 13 years and is currently managing the development team for Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group. The team is chartered with identifying and responding to major scientific, cultural, social and business shifts which may have long-term, disruptive effects on Microsoft, our competitors and society at large. By taking a pro-active and intentional approach to these shifts, our team seeks to form thoughtful information, communication and computing policies for Microsoft and the industry as a whole. Included in are efforts around Datacenter Efficiency, Connectivity, and Environmental Sustainability.
Previously Anoop was an Architect for OEM Consulting Services, a senior consultant within Microsoft Consulting Services, and a developer for both the Microsoft Office and Windows Phone teams. He has a BSE in Computer Science from Princeton University and a MS and an MBA from the University of Washington.

Dr. Sumit Roy


Sumit Roy (Fellow, IEEE) received the B. Tech. degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur) in 1983, and the M. S. and Ph. D. degrees from the University of California (Santa Barbara), all in Electrical Engineering in 1985 and 1988 respectively, as well as an M. A. in Statistics and Applied Probability in 1988. Presently he is Integrated Systems Professor of Electrical Engineering, Univ. of Washington where his research interests broadly encompass analysis/design of wireless communication and sensor networked systems. His recent research emphasis includes multi-standard wireless inter-networking and cognitive radios, vehicular and sensor networking involving RFID technology and networking for the emerging Smart Grid. He spent 2001-03 on academic leave at Intel Wireless Technology Lab as a Senior Researcher engaged in systems architecture and standards development for ultra-wideband systems (Wireless PANs) and next generation high-speed wireless LANs. He served as Isaac Walton Fellow at University College Dublin for Jan-Jun 2008, and as a UK Royal Acad. Engineering Distinguished Visitor for summer 2011. His activities for the IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc) includes membership of several technical and conference program committees, notably the Technical Committee on Cognitive Networks and is currently a ComSoc Distinguished Lecturer for 2014-15. He has served as Associate Editor for IEEE Trans. Communications, IEEE Trans. Wireless Communications and IEEE Trans. Smart Grids, and currently serves on the Editorial Board for IEEE Trans. Circuits & Systems II Express Briefs. Most recently, he served as a Guest Editor for the 2014 J. Selected Areas Communications Spl. Issue on Smart Grid Communications.


Mr. Lixin Shi

Lixin Shi is a third-year graduate student in MIT CSAIL, advised by Prof. Dina Katabi. He is also part of the Wireless Center at MIT. His research focuses on building wireless communication systems and designing signal processing algorithms. He interned at Microsoft research in summer 2013 working on wireless spectrum sensing with low-cost devices such as USRPs. He received his S.M. degree from MIT in 2013 and B.S. degree from Tsinghua University in 2011.


Dr. Mariya Zheleva


Mariya Zheleva is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at University at Albany, SUNY. She completed her Ph.D. degree in Computer Science at University of California Santa Barbara in 2014. Mariya's research interest is in the intersection of wireless networks and Information and Communication Technology for Development. She has done work on small local cellular networks, Dynamic Spectrum Access, spectrum management and sensing and network performance and characterization. Her work has been published in top-conferences such as MobiSys, inter-disciplinary journals and featured in popular media.


Mr. Paul Garnett

Paul Garnett is a Director in Microsoft's Technology Policy Group, where he focuses on promoting affordable broadband access. Paul and his team work with governments, research institutions, companies, and NGOs around the world to foster new wireless technologies and business models that will reduce the cost of wireless bandwidth and enable billions of people to get online more easily. Throughout his career, Paul has consistently been drawn to the challenge of universal access. Prior to joining Microsoft, Paul spent 17 years in Washington, DC, where he focused on telecommunications law and policy. As Assistant Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, at CTIA-The Wireless Association, he represented the U.S. wireless industry before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Congress. Paul also worked at the FCC in its Wireline Competition Bureau leading complex rulemakings on universal service and intercarrier compensation regulations. Paul was an Associate in Swidler Berlin's telecommunications practice representing telecommunications and broadband start-ups. In addition, Paul was a Consultant at Price Waterhouse advising on the privatization of state-owned telecommunications and utility monopolies. Paul earned his bachelor's degree in political science at Union College and his law degree at the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

Dr. Heather Zheng


Heather Zheng received her PhD degree from University of Maryland, College Park in 1999. After spending six years as researchers in industry labs (Bell-Labs, NJ, and Microsoft Research Asia, Beijing), she joined UC Santa Barbara Computer Science Department as a faculty in 2005, where she is now a Professor. Prof. Zheng’s research spans from wireless and mobile networking, dynamic spectrum systems, to social networks and graph analysis. Some of her recent awards include the MIT Technology Review’s TR-35 Award (Young Innovators Under 35) and the World Technology Network Fellow Award, IEEE DySPAN best student paper, and ACM Sigmetrics best practical paper. Her work has been featured by a number of media outlets, including New York Time, Boston Globe, MIT Technology Review, Computer World, Extreme Tech etc. Her work on cognitive radios was named the MIT Technology Review’s top-10 Emerging Technologies in 2006.

Dr. Victor Bahl


Victor Bahl is a Principal Researcher and the Director of the Mobility & Networking Research (MNR) Group. He believes that he has one of the best jobs in the industry - pursuing untethered research, shepherding brilliant researchers and helping shape Microsoft's long-term vision related to networking technologies through research, industry partnerships, and associated policy engagement with governments and research institutions around the world. His personal research spans a variety of topics in mobile computing, wireless systems, cloud services and datacenter networking & management. Over his career he has built many seminal and highly-cited systems, published prolifically in top conferences and journals, authored over 100 patents, given over 30 keynotes, won many awards and honors, and engaged in significant professional and company-wide leadership activities.



































































































































































































































































































































































August 6th, 2014

More information






Dr. Victor Bahl

Dr. Elizabeth Belding UCSB
Dr. Joseph Camp SMU
Dr. Ranveer Chandra Microsoft
Dr. Minghua Chen CUHK
Mr. Michael Cotton  ITS
Dr. Joseph Evans University of Kansas
Mr. Paul Garnett Microsoft
Mr. Anoop Gupta Microsoft
Dr. Kyle Jameison UCL
Mr. Paul Mitchell Microsoft
Dr. Giovanni Pau   UCLA
Dr. Sumit Roy UW
Mr. Lixin Shi MIT
Dr. Michael Souryal   NIST 
Dr. Kannan Srinivasan Ohio State
Dr. Rouzbeh Yassini UNH
Dr. Mariya Zheleva SUNY
Dr. Heather Zheng UCSB