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April 7, 2021

Graduate student Shiwei Fang has been recognized with a Horizon Award from the Graduate School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Fang was one of five Horizon Award recipients for 2021.

Since 2003, the Graduate Education Advancement Board (GEAB) has provided Impact Awards annually to recognize graduate students and recent graduate alumni whose discoveries directly impact the state of North Carolina. The Horizon Award, created in 2017 to be awarded alongside Impact Awards, recognizes those whose research “holds extremely high potential for making a significant contribution to the educational, economic, physical, social or cultural well-being of North Carolina citizens and beyond at some future time.” The award focuses on research of a more theoretical or basic nature that is likely to one day solve major problems in the state and beyond.

Fang’s awarded research addresses public health issues by providing low-cost, energy-efficient sensing and tracking technology. One project combines data from multiple low-cost sensors to enable body cameras to operate with significantly reduced power consumption and record much smaller video file sizes. These changes allow body cameras to operate autonomously and remain on at all times, producing smaller video files that can be archived and transmitted more easily.

Another application of Fang’s research is indoor human sensing and tracking, which could help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic as well as future viruses. Fang’s work provides low-cost and privacy-aware methods to scale up contact tracing using sensor data from Wi-Fi and cameras. In addition to aiding public health experts, the data collected could inform business in areas like retail and dining to improve customers’ safety and overall experience.

“These tools enable communities to build trust between law enforcement and the public,” Fang writes, “and they also provide valuable information to policymakers, officials, and store owners, without sacrificing privacy.”

The 2021 Horizon Award carries a $500 cash award. Fang will be honored at the annual Graduate Student Recognition Celebration. Fang is advised by Assistant Professor Shahriar Nirjon of the Department of Computer Science.

To read Fang’s award announcement, visit the UNC Graduate School website.