New funding will help rural and remote internet users

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Internet users from Canadian rural and remote communities suffer from frequent Internet interruptions, which generally result from various network issues. The lack of human resources, expertise and support make these issues difficult to identifyand fix. Remote areas lack responsive and cost-effective operations or maintenance efforts.

Professor Yeying Zhu and her collaborators will use today’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to develop data-driven approaches to an automated diagnosis and trouble shooting process of network operational issues for remote communities in Canada. This includes AI-assisted solutions for Internet fault detection and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for fault compensation in under-served and under-connected areas. The solutions developed as part of the project will lead to self-maintainable and zero-touch management for future community networks.

The National Research Council (NRC) of Canada awarded Zhu, the principal investigator from Waterloo, a grant worth $298,650 to complete this work jointly with Dr. Peng Hu from the NRC. The grant is part of NRC’s Collaborative research and development (R&D) programs, specifically the Challenge programs, which focus on disruptive technologies to address Canada’s economic, social and environmental challenges.

“Yeying’s project, AI-assisted solutions to network operations automation for remote communities, is an important step in helping improve our rural and remote internet access,” said Stefan Steiner, chair of the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science. “We look forward to seeing the results.”

The Government of Canada has provided $150 million over five years, with $30 million per year ongoing to fund NRC researchers and their innovative partners from post-secondary institutions and businesses on multi-party research and development (R&D) programs. Collaborative R&D at the NRC joins collaborators together to work on game-changing scientific discoveries and technological break throughs to advance specific objectives in a variety of disciplines. The Challenge programs, a component of the Collaborative R&D programs, are part of the Canada Innovation and Skills Plan and commitment to supporting business innovation. Zhu was one of two University of Waterloo researchers to be awarded one of the grants as part of the Challenge programs.