By Jenna Brady, ARL Public AffairsJuly 23, 2014
ADELPHI, Md. (July 23, 2014) -- The Army Research Laboratory's new Open Campus initiative is opening doors for researchers across the globe to collaborate with some of the Army's most talented scientists and engineers in research endeavors critical to our nation.
Dr. Kainam Thomas Wong, an associate professor from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, recently spent a month's time conducting research at ARL's Adelphi Laboratory Center location in Maryland.
Wong's experience was made possible through the laboratory's Open Campus initiative, which is a collaborative endeavor with the goal of building a science and technology ecosystem that will encourage groundbreaking advances in basic and applied science research areas of relevance to the Army.
Through the initiative, ARL scientists and engineers are able to work side-by-side with visiting scientists in ARL's facilities.
"I was aware of ARL and its status as one of the major defense laboratories, and through a contact that I had made at the laboratory, I was able to learn of an opportunity to conduct critical research based on similar areas of interest," stated Wong.
Wong's research interests include microphone, hydrophone and antenna array signal processing, and statistical signal processing for communications.
In his time spent at the laboratory, Wong worked with ARL researchers from the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, where he conducted research on the theoretical aspects of acoustic vector sensors.
"These sensors are highly specialized, and are systems that not many researchers are looking into at this point in time," Wong said. "I was excited to see that ARL is involved in researching these sensors and was eager to join the organization's scientists and engineers in their endeavors."
Wong explained that the acoustic vector sensors that he researched at ARL can detect the source of gunfire on a battlefield, despite both human and environmental background noise.
"Gunfire has a particular sound that is unlike other noises. The sensors, which are small and lightweight, can be worn on Soldiers' helmets or uniforms in order to isolate and zoom in on noise so Soldiers can determine what their next move should be," said Wong.
In addition to its useful application for the Army, this sensing system has the potential to be successful commercially as well.
"The system can be of use to the elderly, as it would be able to sense if they fall, for example, and need assistance," Wong said. "Also, the system would be an asset to home security, as it would be able to sense unfamiliar noises in cases such as a home invasion."
Though the sensors may be available for use by Soldiers on the battlefield in the near future, Wong said there is always room for improvement and that the initial sensors produced will have the potential to grow into something so much more.
On his last day at ARL, Wong expressed his appreciation for the organization and the opportunities he was presented with through the Open Campus initiative.
"Being able to be a guest researcher at ARL has been so rewarding," said Wong.
"My research focuses on the theoretical aspects behind the sensors, and ARL allowed me the opportunity to understand the practical uses of the sensors by being able to speak with scientists and engineers whose main focus is how the technology will be applicable to the Soldier. It was so fulfilling to see how I could impact the missions of Soldiers on the battlefield."
Wong said that it is always gratifying to see his work in technical papers, but coming to ARL made his research that much more rewarding by being able to understand the practical uses of the sensors and meeting the individuals who may potentially apply them in the future.
When asked if he would like to return as a guest researcher in the future under ARL's Open Campus initiative, Wong was quick to say yes and stated that he would also encourage his colleagues to look into it as well.
"There is so much more potential for these sensors and I cannot wait to continue the research that I started here at ARL," Wong said.
Steve Tenney, team leader in the lab's Acoustic and EM Sensing Branch, said one of the main benefits of the Open Campus initiative is that it allows guest researchers to maintain normal professional communications while at ARL.
"The first benefit that comes to mind is the mindset that we can invite someone to work with us who is renowned in his field, bring him to the laboratory for a period of time, and allow him access to the outside world via the media that he is familiar with using," Tenney said. "This allows him to conduct research and search the literature while on site without requiring full Common Access Card network connectivity."
Tenney added that Wong's renowned expertise in signal processing for acoustic vector sensors is such an asset, as the sensors are seen as an important next step in acoustic sensors for the Army.
In addition, ARL's Research, Development and Engineering Center partners want to exploit this new capability as well.
"Dr. Wong's visit was only a month, but I believe we will continue a relationship with him. His extensive insight into acoustic vector sensors will accelerate our ability to utilize this new capability," Tenney said. "I think now that we have seen how well this works, we would be interested in hosting other researchers and taking advantage of Open Campus."
Wong received his bachelor's degree in 1985 at the University of California, Los Angeles and his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering in 1996 at Purdue University, where he first heard of ARL.
He was a senior professional staff member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory between 1996 and 1998.
Thereafter, Wong was a regular member of the faculty at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Since 2006, Wong has been with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as an associate professor.
Wong is an elected member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Signal Processing Society's technical committee on sensor and multichannel processing. He has also been appointed to the Signal Processing in Acoustics technical committee of the Acoustical Society of America.
The Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
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