Fadel Adib wins ACM SIGMOBILE Rockstar Award


MIT Media Lab

Jimmy Day

Fadel Adib received the prestigious ACM SIGMOBILE Rockstar Award for 2022, given to one young researcher each year in the field of mobile computing and networking. Professor Adib, who leads the MIT Media Lab’s Signal Kinetics group, is being recognized for his innovative contributions to wireless sensing and for networking advances in challenging environments such as underwater and body-area networks. 

Professor Adib joined the MIT faculty in 2016. He founded the Signal Kinetics group, which invents, builds, and deploys wireless and sensor technologies to address complex problems in society, industry, and ecology.  He is currently the Doherty Chair of Ocean Utilization at MIT and holds joint appointments in the Media Arts and Sciences Program and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. His team’s work focuses on bringing wireless capabilities to extreme domains like the ocean and the human body and enabling new applications that are infeasible using today’s technologies. His team's research extends beyond communication and networking to enabling novel micro-sensing, powering, and perception tasks. These capabilities aim at helping address major societal challenges in health care, climate change, and automation.

One of Professor Adib’s contributions is inventing underwater backscatter, a technology that brings ultra-low-power—and batteryless—communications and networking to the underwater world. Along with Signal Kinetics researchers, Professor Adib developed this technology and demonstrated that it reduces the power consumption of underwater communication by a million times over state-of-the-art underwater modems. His team also demonstrated how the technology can be used to sense ocean vital signs and enable battery-free inference and machine learning in underwater environments. The technology has many applications in underwater GPS navigation, climate monitoring, and marine-life exploration.

Professor Adib has also made ground-breaking contributions in RF (radio frequency) localization and sensor fusion, with numerous applications in retail, manufacturing, and robotics. His team invented a technology that can locate off-the-shelf UHF RFIDs with centimeter-scale precision. They also demonstrated how RF perception enables robots to sense and perceive things that are otherwise invisible to their cameras and to the human eye.  Aside from his research on underwater backscatter and RF sensing, Professor Adib have made many contributions to wireless health monitoring, underwater-to-air communications, and batteryless micro-implants for biomedical monitoring.

Prior to joining MIT’s faculty, Professor Adib received his PhD from MIT, where his research on seeing through walls won the ACM SIGMOBILE Dissertation Award and the MIT Sprowls Award for academic excellence. He was also part of a team that was invited to the White House to demo his research to President Obama.

This award joins previous honors Professor Adib has received, including the Sloan Research Fellowship (2021), ONR Early Career Grant (2020), Doherty Chair in Ocean Utilization (2020), ONR Young Investigator Award (2019), NSF CAREER Award (2019), Google Faculty Research Award (2017), and Sony Career Development Chair (2016-2020). He was also listed as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 (2015) and MIT Technology Review's 35 Innovators Under 35 (2014). 

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