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Undergraduate Seminar in Embedded Systems

Sivan Toledo, Fall 2015

Tuesdays 14:00-16:00, קפלון 324

The seminar will focus on research in embedded and mobile systems. We will read and discuss research papers from recent top-tier systems conferences. If you don’t find a paper that interests you in the list below, and would like to present papers on other aspects of embedded systems, let me know which papers you would like to present and I’ll consider the request.


  • 20/10: Introduction (Sivan Toledo)
  • 27/10: Cancelled!
  • 3/11: דור שלום: Geo-referenced proximity detection
  • 10/11: אופיר גרין: The sound of silence
  • 17/11: אוריה ברטל: PIR sensors: characterization and novel localization technique
  • 24/11: קובי שתיו: Directional transmission and reception
  • 1/12: Cancelled
  • 8/12:  תומר ברוך: Robust localization with noisy range measurements
  • 15/12: רועי נחמיאס: Carat: collatorative energy diagnosis for mobile devices
  • 22/12: Two 1-hour lectures (or one in a make-up class)
    • מקסים בילים: Lightweight map matching for indoor localization
    • הראל קומן: Spinning beacons for indoor localization
  • 29/12: דרור חגאי: Ekho: realistic & repeatable experimentation for tiny energy harvesting sensors
  • 5/1: Two 1-hour lectures (or one in a make-up class)
    • שיר כהן: A software-defined sensor architecture for spectrum monitoring
    • אושר לוי: Realistic evaluation and comparison of indoor location technologies
  • 12/1: ספיר נתן: High accuracy differential tracking + accurate real-time relative localization (together in one lecture)

List of suggested papers for the seminar.

Geo-referenced proximity detection of wildlife with WildScope: design and characterization
Gian Pietro Picco, Davide Molteni, Amy L. Murphy, Federico Ossi, Francesca Cagnacci, Michele Corrà, Sandro Nicoloso
IPSN 2015

High-accuracy differential tracking of low-cost GPS receivers
Will Hedgecock, Miklos Maroti, Janos Sallai, Peter Volgyesi, Akos Ledeczi
MobiSys 2013
*** with ***
Accurate real-time relative localization using single-frequency GPS
Will Hedgecock, Miklos Maroti, Akos Ledeczi, Peter Volgyesi, Rueben Banalagay
SenSys 2014

Ekho: realistic and repeatable experimentation for tiny energy-harvesting sensors
Josiah Hester, Timothy Scott, Jacob Sorber
SenSys 2014

Lightweight map matching for indoor localisation using conditional random fields
Zhuoling Xiao, Hongkai Wen, Andrew Markham, Niki Trigoni
IPSN 2014

Spinning Beacons for Precise Indoor Localization
Ho-lin Chang, Jr-ben Tian, Tsung-Te Lai, Hao-Hua Chu, Polly Huang
SenSys 2008

Robust distributed network localization with noisy range measurements
David Moore, John Leonard, Daniela Rus, Seth Teller
SenSys 2004

Directional Transmissions and Receptions for High-throughput Bulk Forwarding in Wireless Sensor Networks
Ambuj Varshney, Luca Mottola, Mats Carlsson, Thiemo Voigt
SenSys 2015

A software-defined sensor architecture for large-scale wideband spectrum monitoring
Damian Pfammatter, Domenico Giustiniano, and Vincent Lenders
IPSN 2015

A Realistic Evaluation and Comparison of Indoor Location Technologies: Experiences and Lessons Learned
Dimitrios Lymberopoulos et al.
IPSN 2015

PIR sensors: characterization and novel localization technique
Sujay Narayana, R. Venkatesha Prasad, Vijay S. Rao, T. V. Prabhakar, Sripad S. Kowshik, Madhuri Sheethala Iyer
IPSN 2015

Carat: collaborative energy diagnosis for mobile devices
Adam J. Oliner, Anand P. Iyer, Ion Stoica, Eemil Lagerspetz, Sasu Tarkoma
SensSys 2013

The sound of silence
Wai-Tian Tan, Mary Baker, Bowon Lee, Ramin Samadani
SenSys 2013


Students are expected to present one or two papers and to actively participate in the discussions about all the papers. More specifically:

To actively participate in the discussions and to learn the most, you need to read the papers that we will discuss before each meeting. Most systems paper are not difficult to read and understand, so reading all the papers over the semester is not a huge task. Plan to spend between one and two hours reading the papers before each meeting.

Each discussion will be led by one of the students. The time frame for each discussion will be one or two hours, depending on how many participants we have. Plan to spend much more than two hours to prepare for the discussion that you will lead.

The discussion may cover one or two papers. One paper is definitely too much for two hours, sometimes even for one hour. One paper is always from the list; other papers or material that you discuss can be related material from other papers, but do not use other papers from the list (other students will talk about them).

Take into consideration the background material required to understand the paper; explaining it might take a while, and can often be as interesting (if not more) as the paper itself.

Powerpoint-style presentations are very effective for short lectures (say 20 or 30 minutes), but they are not so effective when you have an hour or two. You do not have to use a powerpoint-style presentation; you can use the board, you can distribute handouts, and you can mix different kinds of presentation methods.

If you do use a powerpoint-style presentation, remember that slides with lots of text are particularly ineffective. Sparse text slides are better, but not by much. Visuals are good; they often help people understand. But visuals (diagrams, graphs, animation) are hard to prepare; they are easier to draw on the board. If you draw on the board, make sure you have a drawing in your notes; you can’t invent a good visual on the spot. Visuals must be relevant; don’t use them just for entertainment. Remember to focus on the contents, not on the style of the presentation.

Think hard about how to engage the other participants in the discussion. People learn more when they are active than when they listen passively. It’s not easy to engage students, but try.

What to Think About When Presenting a Paper

When you are reading a research paper in computer systems, whether it you are presenting it or not, think about the following questions. Being able to answer them shows that you understand the paper. These are also appropriate topics for the discussion.

What is the paper claiming or proposing?

How does the proposed system work? The details are important. Research builds on prior research. If you don’t understand a paper well enough to duplicate the system that the paper proposes, you can’t build on top of it. Papers are written to enable experts to duplicate the system. If you are not yet an expert, you may need to consult earlier papers, or books, to understand all the details. If you are leading the discussion, consider covering earlier ideas and techniques that must be understood but are not well known. We must understand the technical ideas in detail. This is the most important part of the discussion.

Are the ideas novel and innovative? Computer systems have been around for more than 60 years, so many good ideas have already been proposed in some context. Try to figure out which ideas and techniques are new, which have been adapted from other contexts, and which are simply tools of the trade.

How did the authors substantiate the claims? In computer systems research, claims are usually substantiated using experiments, simulation, and/or some analysis; there are usually no mathematical proofs that a technique or a system works. This kind of evidence can be convincing, or not so convincing. Much of the effort in systems research often lies in producing convincing evidence that the ideas work. Make sure you understand the evidence, not just the system idea.

Do you believe the claims? Do you think that the system works as claimed, or is the evidence weak? If so, why?

Even when the technical claims are valid, the ideas will not necessarily be rolled into production systems. There are many barriers to incorporating new ideas in systems: reliability concerns, cost issues, commercial interests, backward compatibility,etc. Do you believe that the ideas we discuss will be used in production? What might be the barriers and obstacles (the paper may mention some, but perhaps not all, and it might not judge these barriers correctly)?

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