Xavier Fernando

Wireless access technologies have become ubiquitous and it is no-longer about just voice or data or even video communications. Myriad of new value-added wireless services, from wireless sensing based IoT systems to low latency autonomous vehicle guiding, appear every day that has transformed our lives.

A prominent group of these are location-based services (LBS). We have been using them in simple day to day activities such as calling for an Uber vehicle to emergency 911 wireless calls. LBS also plays a critical role in advanced smart city services, intelligent transportation systems and autonomous vehicle maneuvers.

Realizing the importance of LBS, Ryerson Communications Lab (RCL) (www.ee.ryerson.ca/~fernando) has been researching in the realms of wireless positioning technologies for the past many years. Our work in this area started with our collaboration with the mining industry.

Mining contributes tens of billions of dollars to Canadian economy. However, low paid miners, mostly working in remote areas, are exposed to much higher occupational hazards than those in other industrial sectors. RCL has pioneered in providing several solutions to address the issues related to wireless sensing, reliable communications and tracking in underground mines, tunnels, and in other confined spaces [1-2]. RCL has received over $1.5 Million $ in research grants for underground communication systems research.

RCL recently collaborated with another Ryerson incubated start-up company in developing accurate indoor positioning solutions using Ultra Wideband radio signals and machine learning algorithms. The developed system is expected to automatically keep track of hundreds of items in an industrial warehouse environment. Tens of centimeter localization accuracy with prolonged battery life for sensors were achieved. RCL received over $600,000 in research funding for this work and filed two patents for the inventions [3-4].

The Energy Harvesting Myth

One major challenge in wireless sensing is powering the sensor nodes. The cost of maintenance and pollutions due to used batteries exponentially increases with the number of sensors. The network performance would significantly deteriorate with the demise of sensor nodes. RF energy harvesting is often seen as a viable solution to prolong sensor lifetime without additional hardware.

However, our research has shown despite popular belief and numerous publications, RF energy harvesting from other wireless user-equipment such as cell phones is not feasible [5]. Collected energy would be too small to make any practical sense. However, harvesting electromagnetic energy from high power sources such as TV transmitters and radio stations is feasible [5].

Photonics Techniques for Wireless Communications

Optical communication has been traditionally confined to fiber networks and seen as a wired (fixed) solution. However, photonic techniques can greatly enhance wireless communication systems and networks in multiple ways. One approach is the transmission of radio signals over fiber to serve the access front. These radio-over-fiber (ROF) based Fiber-Wireless (Fi-Wi) systems can be great asset to rapid deployment of high capacity Micro and Pico radio cells [6]. Hence, fiber optics is expected play a vital role in upcoming 5G wireless networks.

Another fast emerging optical-wireless technology is the Visible Light Communications (VLC). VLC is growing fast with the widespread deployment of LED based lighting solutions in building, streets, parking lots and especially vehicles. VLC spectrum has a few Tera Hertz of bandwidth and does not cause electromagnetic pollution (interference). VLC will hence play a major role in V2X communications aiding intelligent transport systems and autonomous vehicle maneuver [7]. RCL has also been researching in Fi-Wi and Optical-Wireless Communications for many years.


[1] Wisam Farjow and Xavier Fernando, ‘System and Method to Control Amplifier Gain in a Radiating Line Communication System’ Canadian Patent, serial number 2789768, Ref # P45412, September 2012

[2] ACM http://cacm.acm.org/news/96717-researcher-develops-underground-wireless-communication-for-mines/comments

[3] MOEINI, Peyman; LI, Xiaofeng; FERNANDO, Xavier Navajothy; and JASEEMUDDIN, Muhammad, ‘A Mac Layer Protocol for Smart Indoor Inventory Management System’ United States  Provisional Patent Application No. 62/958,475, Filed:  January 8, 2020

[4] MOEINI, Peyman; MURARY, Ryan; FERNANDO, Xavier Navajothy; and JASEEMUDDIN, Muhammad, ‘A Mac Layer Protocol for Smart Indoor Inventory Management System’ United States Provisional Patent Application No. 62/958,475, Filed:  January 8, 2020

[5] Arif Obaid, Fatima Hussain and Xavier Fernando,’ Adaptive Switching for Efficient Energy Harvesting in Energy Constraint IoT Devices’ Proc. of the IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference, 24-27 Sept. 2017, Toronto, ON, Canada, DOI: 10.1109/VTCFall.2017.8288391

[6] Xavier Fernando, ‘Radio over Fiber for Wireless Access – From Fundamentals to Advanced Topics’, ISBN: 978-1-118-79706-8, August 2014

[7]. Xavier Fernando and Hasan Farahneh, ‘Vehicular Applications of Visible Light Communications’, IOP Publishing Ltd, Nov. 2020, Online ISBN: 978-0-7503-2284-3; Print ISBN: 978-0-7503-2282-9

About Author

Xavier Fernando has (co-) authored over 200 research articles, three books (one translated to Mandarin) and holds five patents. He is the Director of Ryerson Communications Lab that has received total research funding over $3.2 Million since 2008. He was an IEEE Communications Society Distinguished Lecturer. He was the Chair of IEEE Toronto Section and IEEE Canada Central Area. His work has won 30 awards and prizes so far including IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Prize in 2010 and IEEE Sarnoff Symposium Prize in 2009.

He has been in the organizing/steering/technical program committees of numerous conferences and journals. He was the Chair of IEEE Toronto Section and IEEE Canada Central Area. He was also a member of IEEE Region 7 Board. He was the General Chair of conferences such as IEEE International Humanitarian Technology Conference (IHTC) 2017 and IEEE Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering (CCECE) 2014. He was a Member of Board of Governors of Ryerson University during 2011-12. He has received 7 awards from IEEE for his service so far.