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Mapping the connection gaps

[Team K-Connect]
A team of Queen's students – Xavier McMaster-Hubner (Computer Science), Sam Alton (ECEi), Erik Koning (ECE), Raed Fayad (ECEi), and Nathaniel Pauzé (ECE) – recently earned a top prize at the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge in Kingston.

Weak or unreliable wireless data connectivity is an ongoing frustration for consumers and businesses in Eastern Ontario. Imagine yourself committing to a multi-year wireless service contract only to discover that coverage is unreliable at home or at work, the areas where you spend most of your time. Regulators also need to know for sure where service gaps most need to be filled so they can prioritize new locations for cell tower permits.

A team of Queen’s students has come up with a novel way for consumers and regulators to more easily understand where there are gaps in wireless connectivity.  

Raed Fayad (Electrical and Computer Engineering – Innovation Stream), Sam Alton (Electrical and Computer Engineering – Innovation Stream), Nathaniel Pauzé (Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Xavier McMaster-Hubner (Computer Science) developed a proof-of-concept system to measure varying cellular data signal strength across Kingston and to display those data on a visual heat map. Users would be able to view the heat map online to see how reliable their cellular signal would be depending on where they are in the city.

The group came together as team K-Connect at the QHacks hackathon at Queen’s in early February.

“We used the Post-it note brainstorming method we learned in our APSC 200 Engineering Design and Practice course for our idea generation phase at QHacks,” says Pauzé. “One of our strongest ideas involved collecting Wi-Fi signal strength data inside the new Mitchell Hall building to find the best location to work on our project. We decided to scale-up our idea by collecting cell signal strength across campus. We moved forward with this project choice because we saw the usefulness of the data our product would collect.”

The idea earned the team one of two spots in the City of Kingston Mayor’s Innovation Challenge pitch competition a week later. They presented to a panel of municipal and academic leaders at Kingston City Hall, earning a top prize in that competition. (The other winner was Blackrose Technology led by Erik Koning (Electrical and Computer Engineering), who proposed using drones to monitor environmental threats or to help in search-and-rescue). Each team earned $4,000 in seed funding for their ventures and admission to the 2019 QICSI start-up accelerator program.

“Two members of our group are considering enrolling in the QICSI program,” says McMaster-Hubner. “We have options to further develop K-Connect, but our current situation for the summer makes it very difficult to try and prepare or do anything until we are back together as a group.”

This article was first published on the website of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.