research

image of Professor Shan Wang!
April 2019

[Excerpted from Stanford News]

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and a growing problem around the world, but not because it's a particularly difficult cancer to detect and halt. The problem, doctors and researchers believe, is that not enough people are being screened for early signs of the disease, either because they do not know the recommendations or because they are avoiding getting a colonoscopy, which many perceive as an unpleasant procedure.

The current alternatives, said Professor Shan Wang, aren't exactly more pleasant – most of those involve gathering and testing stool samples.

But Shan, his graduate student Jared Nesvet and Uri Ladabaum, a professor of medicine, may have at least a possible solution: a blood test to detect colorectal cancer, which in principle would be less expensive, less invasive and more convenient than colonoscopies and other current tests, the researchers said. Wang and Nesvet have already developed a test that works in the controlled environment of a materials science lab, and now, with help from a Stanford ChEM-H seed grant, the trio are working to validate their approach in the real world of clinical medicine.

[...]

Shan and Nesvet have tested their idea in the lab, and it works well so far, Nesvet said. Now, with help from Ladabaum and the ChEM-H grant, they'll start testing it on blood samples from real patients. Among the questions they'll address are practical ones about how to identify the right people to study, when to draw blood or how to handle the samples.

"That's where we as clinical researchers can help," Ladabaum said.

Shan cautions that a new screen for colon cancer is still a ways off, and that it could involve hundreds, if not thousands, of blood samples before they can be confident their blood test really works. "I expect this will be a five- to 10-year study to bring this technology to fruition," he said.

 

Read full story, "Stanford doctors, materials scientists hope a blood test will encourage more colon cancer screenings."

 


 

Related Links

 

image of professor Eric Pop
April 2019

Professor Eric Pop was featured in a "People Behind the Science" podcast. People Behind the Science's mission is to inspire current and future scientists, share the different paths to a successful career in science, educate the general population on what scientists do, and show the human side of science. In each episode, a different scientist talks about their journey by sharing their successes, failures, and passions.

Excerpts of Eric's conversation follow.
Please visit People Behind the Science for the full episode.


The Scientific Side (timestamp 3:20)

Research in Eric's laboratory spans electronics, electrical engineering, physics, nanomaterials, and energy. They are interested in applying materials with nanoscale properties to engineer better electronics such as transistors, circuits, and data storage mechanisms. Eric is also investigating ways to better manage the heat that electronics generate.

A Dose of Motivation (timestamp 5:17)

Eric is motivated by curiosity and ensuring that the work they do in the lab is useful to people.

Advice For Us All (timestamp 53:40)

Clearly communicating your research is critically important. This includes all forms of communication, whether it is verbal, written, or visual. Before you give a presentation or communicate your work, you should really try to understand your audience. Get a sense of who they are, what they care about, and the best way to convey the cool things you are working on to them. Regardless of what career you choose, being able to share your ideas with people and convince them of the importance of your work will define your career.

 

Related Links

image of Professor Balaji Prabhakar
April 2019

Professors Balaji Prabhakar and Darrell Duffie (GSB) held a moderated conversation about the next generation of finance and high-speed technologies.

Balaji described the accelerating timeframes that gird securities trading infrastructure, where the time from "tick to trade" is now measured in tens of nanoseconds. He also highlighted the potential problems and advantages to be gained by exploiting such lightning-fast speeds. At that nano-scale, it can be hard for networks to properly sequence packets of data being sent over even the faster fiber-optic wires. "If you see a price that's favorable to your trading strategy and you cross the gate ahead of me, then your transactions should happen first," he said. "Unfortunately, in the world where these networks have 'jitters,' this is not easy to guarantee."

The speakers also agreed that one way or another, massive disruption is coming for financial institutions. "There is a mantra that is being repeated on Wall Street, 'We are a tech company that happens to be an investment bank,'" said Balaji. Redefining the role of banks from being consumers of technology to creators of technology will mean that "any bank that's not big enough or not nimble enough is going to lose out," said Duffie.

 

Excerpted from "How is Silicon Valley changing Wall Street?", Stanford Engineering News, April 02, 2019

Watch the conversation in its entirety.

 

Related Links

 

image of professor Tsachy Weissman
March 2019

The project resulted from a collaboration between researchers led by Professor Tsachy Weissman, and three high school students who interned in his lab.

The researchers asked people to compare images produced by a traditional compression algorithm that shrink huge images into pixilated blurs to those created by humans in data-restricted conditions – text-only communication, which could include links to public images. In many cases, the products of human-powered image sharing proved more satisfactory than the algorithm's work. The researchers will present their work at the 2019 Data Compression Conference.

"Almost every image compressor we have today is evaluated using metrics that don't necessarily represent what humans value in an image," said Irena Fischer-Hwang, an EE grad student and co-author of the paper. "It turns out our algorithms have a long way to go and can learn a lot from the way humans share information."

The project resulted from a collaboration between researchers led by Tsachy and three high school students who interned in his lab.

"Honestly, we came into this collaboration aiming to give the students something that wouldn't distract too much from ongoing research," said Weissman. "But they wanted to do more, and that chutzpah led to a paper and a whole new research thrust for the group. This could very well become among the most exciting projects I've ever been involved in."

Weissman stressed the value of the high school students' contribution, even beyond this paper.

"Tens if not hundreds of thousands of human engineering hours went into designing an algorithm that three high schoolers came and kicked its butt," said Weissman. "It's humbling to consider how far we are in our engineering."

Due to the success of this collaboration, Weissman has created a formal summer internship program in his lab for high schoolers. Imagining how an artist or students interested in psychology or neuroscience could contribute to this work, he is particularly keen to bring on students with varied interests and backgrounds.

 

Lead authors of this paper are Ashutosh Bhown of Palo Alto High School, Soham Mukherjee of Monta Vista High School and Sean Yang of Saint Francis High School. Weissman is also a member of Stanford Bio-X and the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Stanford Compression Forum and Google.

 

 

Excerpted from "Stanford experiment finds humans beat algorithms at image compression", Stanford News, March 25, 2019. 

Professor Subhasish Mitra and Professor H.-S. Philip Wong
February 2019

Computers have shrunk to the size of laptops and smartphones, but engineers want to cram most of the features of a computer into a single chip that they could install just about anywhere. A Stanford-led engineering team has developed the prototype for such a computer-on-a-chip.


Electronic computing was born in the form of massive machines in air-conditioned rooms, migrated to desktops and laptops, and lives today in tiny devices like watches and smartphones.

But why stop there, asks an international team of Stanford-led engineers. Why not build an entire computer onto a single chip? It could have processing circuits, memory storage and power supply to perform a given task, such as measuring moisture in a row of crops. Equipped with machine learning algorithms, the chip could make on-the-spot decisions such as when to water. And with wireless technology it could send and receive data over the internet.

Engineers call this vision of ubiquitous computing the Internet of Everything. But to achieve it they'll need to develop a new class of chips to serve as its foundation.

The researchers unveiled the prototype for such a computer-on-a-chip Feb. 19 at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. The prototype's data processing and memory circuits uses less than a tenth as much electricity as any comparable electronic device, yet despite its size it is designed to perform many advanced computing feats.

"This is what engineers do," said Subhasish Mitra. "We create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts."

EE professors Mitra and H.-S. Philip Wong, worked with scientists from the CEA-LETI research institute in Grenoble, France, to design this chip of the future.

New memory is the key

The prototype is built around a new data storage technology called RRAM (resistive random access memory), which has features essential for this new class of chips: storage density to pack more data into less space than other forms of memory; energy efficiency that won't overtax limited power supplies; and the ability to retain data when the chip hibernates, as it is designed to do as an energy-saving tactic.

RRAM has another essential advantage. Engineers can build RRAM directly atop a processing circuit to integrate data storage and computation into a single chip. Stanford researchers have pioneered this concept of uniting memory and processing into one chip because it's faster and more energy efficient than passing data back and forth between separate chips as is the case today. The French team at CEA-LETI was responsible for grafting the RRAM onto a silicon processor.

In order to improve the storage capacity of RRAM, the Stanford group made a number of changes. One was to increase how much information each storage unit, called a cell, can hold. Memory devices typically consist of cells that can store either a zero or a one. The researchers devised a way to pack five values into each memory cell, rather than just the two standard options.

A second enhancement improved the endurance of RRAM. Think about data storage from a chip's point of view: As data is continuously written to a chip's memory cells, they can become exhausted, scrambling data and causing errors. The researchers developed an algorithm to prevent such exhaustion. They tested the endurance of their prototype and found that it should have a 10-year lifespan.

Mitra said the team's computer scientists and electrical engineers worked together to integrate many software and hardware technologies on the prototype, which is currently about the diameter of a pencil eraser. Although that is too large for futuristic, Internet of Everything applications, even now the way that the prototype combines memory and processing could be incorporated into the chips found in smartphones and other mobile devices. Chip manufacturers are already showing interest in this new architecture, which was one of the goals of the Stanford-led team. Mitra said experience gained manufacturing one generation of chips fuels efforts to make the next iteration smaller, faster, cheaper and more capable.

"The SystemX Alliance has allowed a great collaboration between Stanford and CEA-LETI on edge AI application, covering circuit architecture, circuit design, down to advanced technologies," said Emmanuel Sabonnadière, CEO of the French research institute.

 

Source: Stanford News "A Stanford-led enginering team unveils the prototype for a computer-on-a-chip", February 19, 2019.


 

Related Links

EE Professor Jelena Vuckovic
February 2019

Professor Jelena Vuckovic is the director of a new initiative - Q-FARM. Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have launched the Quantum Fundamentals, ARchitecture and Machines (Q-FARM) initiative to leverage and expand the university's strengths in quantum science and engineering and to train the field's next generation of scientists.

"Our mission is not only to do research, it's also to educate students, bring the community together, fill the gaps that we have in this space and connect to the world outside, both to industry and to other academic institutions," said Q-FARM director Jelena Vuckovic.

Q-FARM emerged from Stanford's long-range planning process as part of a team focused on understanding the natural world. The idea for it originated from faculty across departments who recognized that the university is uniquely positioned to become a leader in the field of quantum research, said Q-FARM deputy director Patrick Hayden, a professor of physics in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

"I think it is very possible for Stanford to establish itself as the leading center in quantum science and engineering," Hayden said. "We have advantages that other schools do not, including top-ranked science and engineering departments that are a short distance away from technology companies and SLAC, a renowned laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy."

[...] 

On the theoretical front, quantum mechanics merged with computer science, mathematics and other branches of physics to give rise to a new field known as quantum information science (QIS). QIS aims to harness the spookier properties of quantum mechanics – superposition, wave-particle duality, entanglement – to manipulate information. Surprisingly, insights and techniques from QIS are proving useful not only for the design of quantum computers, algorithms and sensors but also for providing powerful new tools for investigating old questions in physics. [...]

As QIS has matured, so too has the ability of engineers to fabricate quantum-mechanical systems. Phenomena such as quantum teleportation that were once purely theoretical can now be created and studied in the lab. "This is what's supposed to happen in science, that there is this feedback loop between theory and experiment, but it's not always true," Hayden said. "This is an area where it's really happening and that's very exciting."

[...]

With many world-leading research groups already established at Stanford, Q-FARM's role will be to build bridges between them and create a community that can tackle the major emerging challenges in the area. Among Q-FARM's initial priorities are the creation of postdoctoral and graduate fellowships and organizing research seminars where faculty, students and visiting scholars can present their research.

Q-FARM will also focus on developing an educational program for undergraduate and graduate students to bolster the current curriculum. "We already have an excellent collection of classes, but we want to coordinate the program between physics and engineering so that we can better educate our students," Vuckovic said.

Demonstrating a united front on the research end will also help with faculty and student recruitment in an increasingly competitive field and attract some of the significant government funding that will target quantum research.

In 2018, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the National Quantum Initiative, which authorizes $1.275 billion to be spent over the next five years to fund American quantum information science research and to create multiple centers dedicated to quantum research and education.

"Bringing one of those centers to Stanford and SLAC will help us maintain the strengths we already possess and establish ourselves more broadly in this field," Vuckovic said.

"If we can sustain this pace, Stanford will be the place where people who work in this field will want to be," she added. "We have leading physics and leading engineering. We are in Silicon Valley. This is what makes us the right place to carry this forward."

 

Excerpted from Stanford News, "Q-FARM initiative to bolster quantum research at Stanford-SLAC", February 8, 2019.


Related Links

 

 

Professor Ada Poon presenting at 2019 World Economic Forum
February 2019

| Source: Stanford Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine

The theme of the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, was "Globalization, 4:0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution.'" The term, handily shortened to 4IR, was coined to describe the confluence of the physical, digital and biological, and how technologies in these realms are combining to alter the human experience. Think AI and Machine Learning. It's already happening with autonomous vehicles, predictive content curation, and facial recognition. In health, it's enhancing medical imaging, personal health tools, and the capability to record and process massive amounts of data to advance research and treatment. However, there is much more to come; a "world-to-be" to craft and prepare for.

Watch Professor Poon's Video (below)

Into this international meeting of the minds in snowy Switzerland stepped the team from Stanford, themselves a perfect example of 4IR expertise in operation. In their case, to treat and solve mental illness. From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Leanne Williams and Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez partnered with Dr. Ada Poon of Electrical Engineering. They made up the fifth group of Stanford scientists sent to Davos in as many years by the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute to highlight the interdisciplinary research in neurosciences underway at the university. The fit could not have been better.

For the first time, the WEF featured a "dedicated mental health track," as Dr. Rodriguez described it, "raising the visibility of mental health as a global challenge, and laying the foundation for supporting ongoing global mental health initiatives."

A prime time "Mental Health Matters" panel featuring Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the tone. At the premier world gathering revolving around economics, this panel drew at-capacity attendance. And no wonder. The two most common mental health issues – depression and anxiety – combine as the number one disability in the world and account for an annual loss in the global economy equivalent to one trillion U.S. dollars. The cost in human suffering is even higher. Between eight hundred thousand and one million people die by suicide every year- the world's biggest silent killer, especially of the young.

CEOs and leaders of nations squeezed in alongside funding analysts and health professionals to hear the discussion. Looking around the audience, Dr. Poon knew mental illness had finally been universally recognized as a critical public health concern when she realized she was sitting next to the Queen of Belgium, rapt as the rest.

The Stanford team unveiled its groundbreaking work at the Wu Tsai-sponsored IdeasLab.

"We presented around the theme of the Dawn of Precision Psychiatry," said Dr. Williams, founding Director of the PanLab for Precision Psychiatry and Translational Neuroscience, and architect of the Stanford Center for Precision Health and Mental Wellness. "We presented complementary perspectives on how to use precise neuroscience-based measures to develop a new system for subtyping and tailoring treatments for depression, how to use neuroscience to develop rapid-acting novel interventions for anxiety, and how to harness novel bioengineering approaches to achieve precise "readouts" of important human capacities such as memory, in order to optimize them."

Dr Leanne Williams
 
Dr. Williams explained how she uses advanced neuroimaging technology to detect the measurable biology of depression, then subtypes the disease for precise treatment. Her breakthrough in identifying specific "short circuits" underlying the disorder means the trial and error method of therapy can be replaced by targeted remedies tailored for a half dozen distinct "biotypes." Dr. Williams' research shows her approach can double the rate of patients who go into remission with the first form of treatment administered.

As big a leap forward as this is, her message in Davos was to keep the proverbial foot on the accelerator to develop a new, integrated system for mental health.

"Just think of the technologies we can harness – genomics to refine the biotypes, machine learning for innovative classifications, a fusion of biotypes with wearable sensors for scale and expansion to new interventions as they are developed. These solutions are imperative for public health and humanity. They are also an imperative for development – knowing that each new dollar invested in mental health will generate at least a four dollar return."

Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez, Director of the Translational Therapeutics Lab and Associate Chair of Stanford Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, shared her advances in developing a fast-acting treatment for anxiety sufferers for whom standard therapies have been ineffective. The World Health Organization reports anxiety disorders as the most common mental health conditions on the planet. However, Dr. Rodriguez says the development of medications for psychiatric illnesses falls far behind those of other diseases; for eleven new compounds being tested to treat cancer only one will be studied to address a psychiatric disorder.

Her lab has been tackling one particularly disabling condition, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which research shows is linked to a hyperactive brain circuit.

 

"Unfortunately, it can take a long lag time of two to three months to bring about major symptom relief, and complete symptom relief is not common." Hence Dr. Rodriguez's focus on a rapid-acting treatment with longer-lasting effects. Research suggesting glutamate - the main chemical messenger involved in circuit activity - may play a role in OCD led to her work with the drug ketamine, found to block glutamate docking ports. "We found that a single low dose of ketamine caused an immediate decrease - within hours - in OCD symptoms in all participants. In half, this rapid benefit lasted up to one week."



As her lab continues testing the underlying mechanisms of ketamine's fast-acting effects, it's also got next-generation drugs with fewer side effects and longer-lasting benefits under study.

Hardware plays a vital role in both research and clinical application. In partnership with Stanford experts in transcranial brain stimulation and neurosurgery, Dr. Rodriguez is examining the use of non-invasive as well as surgically implanted devices for treatment delivery, and Dr. Williams is integrating imaging technology with other sensors to individualize early detection and treatment prediction.

Here is where the work of Dr. Ada Poon, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator, completes the 4IR triad in precision psychiatry. In her research of bioelectronic medicines – the use of electronic devices to treat illnesses - Dr. Poon discovers ways to miniaturize implantable devices so they can be seamlessly integrated with the human body. She felt a charge go through the IdeasLab when she displayed her implantable pacemaker and brain stimulator, smaller than a grain of rice.

"The audience was excited by the size of the device, and by research showing how it is remotely-controlled in mice, and in pigs because of their closeness to human scale in terms of size. Compared to pharmaceutical drugs which act globally throughout the body causing side effects, bioelectronic devices can directly communicate with the specific area of the body, acting on it immediately. Bioelectronics provides exquisite spatial and temporal resolution, and they can be easily programmed and personalized."
The marriage of electrical engineering and medicine makes perfect sense to Dr. Poon, "Our nervous system is coordinated through neural impulses which are electrical in nature; bioelectronics is speaking the language of our nervous system. We can use it to communicate with our bodies as a therapeutic treatment."

Dr. Poon is broadening her research to use micro-implants for treating other diseases currently incurable through drugs. She is developing a memory recovery micro-implant that would progressively reverse short term memory loss in Alzheimer's disease, an "electronic" pancreas to address the global shortage and skyrocketing cost of insulin, and an EEG sticker to monitor overall mental health as a preventative tool.

"What is the equivalent of diet and exercise for the body, for the brain and mind?"
It is no small feat to coordinate a team of this caliber, sending scientists six thousand miles from their labs, but the consensus of Stanford's 'Precision Psychiatry' doctors, with gratitude to Wu Tsai Neuro, is that it was well worth the trip. The message they carried to Davos was that mental illness is real, there are solutions, and the time is now to utilize innovation to scale up the response in a big way. By all accounts, it was well received. Each scientist reported new opportunities for collaboration, investment, and implementation they say would not have been possible in any other setting. With the world view the WEF provided them, they see Stanford as well-positioned to lead the future of neuroscience-based mental health solutions.


 

"I was struck by the profound and notable attention to mental health at WEF. It is a sea change for our field, and there are new opportunities for collaboration and team science opening up across nations." -- Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez


"It was rewarding, as an engineer, to share the message that there are different ways to think about solutions to big global problems like mental illness. It was inspiring to see so many concerned about mental health, and reinforced the belief in the work we are doing." -- Dr. Ada Poon


"This was a moment I had hoped I would witness in my research lifetime ... It was a rare opportunity to experience alignment of our neuroscience message with alignment of development priorities." Dr. Leanne Williams concluded, "The WEF does receive criticism that it reflects privilege without action for all. My experience on this occasion was that there is an openness and hunger for mental health solutions based in hardcore science – in our case neuroscience – and that if privilege can be used to drive real change, then that will ultimately be of benefit to our global community."


 

 

VIDEO: Watch Professor Poon's WEF Presentation

November 2018

Researchers from the Pop Lab, with help from UC Davis researchers, published an article about electrochemically-driven nanoscale thermal regulators.

The paper's abstract states, "the ability to actively regulate heat flow at the nanoscale could be a game changer for applications in thermal management and energy harvesting. Such a breakthrough could also enable the control of heat flow using thermal circuits, in a manner analogous to electronic circuits. Here we demonstrate switchable thermal transistors with an order of magnitude thermal on/off ratio, based on reversible electrochemical lithium intercalation in MoS2 thin films."

In order to make this heat-conducting semiconductor into a transistor-like switch, the researchers bathed the material in a liquid with lots of lithium ions. When a small electrical current is applied to the system, the lithium atoms begin to infuse into the layers of the crystal, changing its heat-conducting characteristics. As the lithium concentration increases, the thermal transistor switches off. Working with Davide Donadio's group at the University of California, Davis, the researchers discovered that this happens because the lithium ions push apart the atoms of the crystal. This makes it harder for the heat to get through.

The researchers envision that thermal transistors connected to computer chips would switch on and off to help limit the heat damage in sensitive electronic devices.

Besides enabling dynamic heat control, the team's results provide new insights into what causes lithium ion batteries to fail. As the porous materials in a battery are infused with lithium, they impede the flow of heat and can cause temperatures to shoot up. Thinking about this process is crucial to designing safer batteries.

In a more distant future the researchers imagine that thermal transistors could be arranged in circuits to compute using heat logic, much as semiconductor transistors compute using electricity. But while excited by the potential to control heat at the nanoscale, the researchers say this technology is comparable to where the first electronic transistors were some 70 years ago, when even the inventors couldn't fully envision what they had made possible.

Excerpted from "How can we design electronic devices that don't overheat?" Nov 9, 2018.

 

Related Links

November 2018

The device is a solar harvester on top and radiative cooler on the bottom. Shanhui Fan says the goal is to figure out how to make solar cells more efficient so it's easier for the two technologies to share roof space. Fan states, "We think we can build a practical device that does both things."

The team's article, "Simultaneously and Synergistically Harvest Energy from the Sun and Outer Space", was published November 8, in Joule. It describes how their device is able to simultaneously harvest energy from the sun, and dispel heat from the building, addressing two of the most sought after energy needs.

The sun-facing layer of the device is nothing new. It's made of the same semiconductor materials that have long adorned rooftops to convert visible light into electricity. The novelty lies in the device's bottom layer, which is based on materials that can beam heat away from the roof and into space through a process known as radiative cooling.

In radiative cooling, objects – including our own bodies – shed heat by radiating infrared light. That's the invisible light night-vision goggles detect. Normally this form of cooling doesn't work well for something like a building because Earth's atmosphere acts like a thick blanket and traps the majority of the heat near the building rather allowing it to escape, ultimately into the vast coldness of space. Fan's cooling technology takes advantage of the fact that this thick atmospheric blanket essentially has holes in it that allow a particular wavelength of infrared light to pass directly into space. In previous work, Fan had developed materials that can convert heat radiating off a building into the particular infrared wavelength that can pass directly through the atmosphere. These materials release heat into space and could save energy that would have been needed to air-condition a building's interior. That same material is what Fan placed under the standard solar layer in his new device.

The researchers believe they can build a device that is able to both harvest solar and create The team is now designing solar cells that work without metal liners to couple with the radiative cooling layer.

...Stay tuned!


 

Read article from the theverge.com 

Excerpts from Stanford News, Stanford researchers develop a rooftop device that can make solar power and cool buildings, November 2018.

November 2018

Professor Dan Boneh is the Rajeev Motwani Professor in the School of Engineering and head of the Applied Cryptography Group. He and advisee, PhD candidate Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, developed a system called 'Prio.' Their data privacy system aims to allow data collection to be strictly device data, not personal data.

Many internet-enabled devices need to know how people use their products in order to make them better. But when faced with the request to send information about a computer error back to the developers, many of us are inclined to say "No," just in case that information is too personal.

The Applied Cryptography Group, has developed a new system for preserving privacy during data collection from the internet. Their technique emphasizes maintaining personal privacy.

"We have an increasing number of devices – in our lightbulbs, in our cars, in our toasters – that are collecting personal data and sending it back to the device's manufacturer. More of these devices means more sensitive data floating around, so the problem of privacy becomes more important," said Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, a graduate student in computer science who co-developed this system. "This type of system is a way to collect aggregate usage statistics without collecting individual user data in the clear."

Their system, called Prio, works by breaking up and obscuring individual information through a technique known as "secret sharing" and only allowing for the collection of aggregate reports. So, an individual's information is never reported in any decipherable form.

Prio is currently being tested by Mozilla in a version of Firefox called Nightly, which includes features Mozilla is still testing. On Nightly, Prio ran in parallel to the current remote data collection (telemetry) system for six weeks, gathering over 3 million data values. There was one glitch but once that was fixed, Prio's results exactly matched the results from the current system.

 

"This is rare example of a new privacy technology that is getting deployed in the real world," reports Dan, "It is really exciting to see this put to use."

 

Excerpted from Stanford News, "Stanford researchers develop new data privacy technique" November 1, 2018.

Related News:

 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - research