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Designing security software that recognizes your unique movements

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Imagine doing a jumping jack or a yoyo trick to unlock your smartphone or laptop. It may seem like the stuff of science fiction movies, but that’s exactly what ENG professors Janusz Konrad and Prakash Ishwar are trying to accomplish with the security software they’re developing to recognize specific body motions.

You want security and privacy; nobody else should be able to authenticate on your behalf.

Armed with the knowledge that each person’s body movements are unique, the BU duo is developing algorithms for ever-smarter motion sensors. They hope this is the future security portal to your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or the locked door: software programmed to recognize a gesture, from your torso, your hand, or perhaps just your fingers.

Konrad and Ishwar are working to develop gesture-based authentication software to be test-run on Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect camera, used with the Xbox video game and the Windows computer operating system. They also hope to use start-up company Leap Motion’s smaller motion-sensing device (about the size of an iPod) for notepads and laptops.

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The work of computer engineers is all around us, in smartphones, smart homes and smart cars. Computer engineers are experts in the hardware and software that make up all computer systems—and the networks that connect them. Computers are the brains inside nearly every piece of modern technology, be it cell phones, household appliances, automated manufacturing systems or medical instruments. This means computer engineers are in high demand and have the potential to impact nearly every facet of daily life.

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Computer engineers can be found driving innovation in a wide range of industries. Here are just a few examples:

  • Automotive: developing controllers and software to reduce gas mileage in hybrid cars and improve safety and reliability
  • Computers: developing application software; designing and manufacturing multicore processors, massive memory and peripherals
  • Communication: securing smartphones and softphones; designing processors for 4G cell phones
  • Health Care: creating secure databases for electronic health records; programming medical instruments
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Research and graduate education in computer engineering focuses on hardware platforms, software applications and computer networks. As part of an Electrical & Computer Engineering Department that has one of the nation’s top doctoral programs, computer engineers work with support from some of the nation’s leading funding agencies. Computer engineering faculty and graduate students conduct research in areas such as:

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Two words: our faculty. As leaders in their respective fields, they are well-grounded in the latest technologies and are often the masterminds behind them. Faculty members provide undergraduate students with one-on-one advising and opportunities to work in their research labs.

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Our graduate students have opportunities to work in cross-disciplinary topics, ranging from computer systems to fiber lasers to cybersecurity. They collaborate with researchers throughout the BU campus and work with other Boston-area universities and companies. We expect our graduate students to present their work at national and international conferences, publish in leading journals and become active members of our community, and we offer excellent possibilities for funding and support.

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