This talk seeks to illustrate the interplay between theoretical development and engineering implementation, with a personal slant. It centers on Network Coding (NC), a modern information theoretic development that leverages algebraic data manipulation during transport through a network, extending beyond customary graph theoretic considerations. The new algebraic model affords relaxation of constraints, previously treated as impasses, and creates opportunities for improved resource usage. The main algorithm for NC, Random Linear Network Coding (RLNC), rooted in the algebraic model of network coding, permits provably optimal throughput within standard theoretical frameworks, but introducing it into the most common Internet transport protocol, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), requires an inventive reinterpretation of TCP’s control signals. It does not however, require revising the current operational practice of separating transport from the type of coding commonly used to palliate errors in physical media such as wireless links. Our recent theoretical results on equivalence theory show, indeed, that there is no benefit, in terms of throughput, in combining NC with physical media codes. Our results from the first chip implementation of NC indicate how we may code at both layers beneficially without requiring coordination between them. We conclude the talk with open challenges and research directions driven by the coming convergence of data storage and networking. No background knowledge will be assumed.
Muriel Médard is the Cecil H. Green Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department at MIT and leads the Network Coding and Reliable Communications Group at the Research Laboratory for Electronics at MIT. She has co-founded three companies to commercialize network coding, CodeOn, Steinwurf and Chocolate Cloud. She has served as editor for many publications of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), of which she was elected Fellow, and she is currently Editor in Chief of the IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications She was President of the IEEE Information Theory Society in 2012, and served on its board of governors for eleven years. She has served as technical program committee co-chair of many of the major conferences in information theory, communications and networking. She received the 2009 IEEE Communication Society and Information Theory Society Joint Paper Award, the 2009 William R. Bennett Prize in the Field of Communications Networking, the 2002 IEEE Leon K. Kirchmayer Prize Paper Award and several conference paper awards. She was co-winner of the MIT 2004 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award, received the 2013 EECS Graduate Student Association Mentor Award and served as Housemaster for seven years. She received the 2016 IEEE Vehicular Technology James Evans Avant Garde Award, and the 2017 Aaron Wyner Distinguished Service Award from the IEEE Information Theory Society. In 2007 she was named a Gilbreth Lecturer by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.