Rajesh Sankaran, an assistant computer scientist in Argonne’s Mathematics and Computer Science division, has been selected to participate in Cohort 3 of the Launchpad Program. The goal of Launchpad is to help highly motivated early- and mid-career researchers build a technology program that can scale to approximately $10 million within three to five years.
Sankaran’s project focuses on the Waggle Platform, which involves the design, development, and deployment of a novel wireless intelligent sensor platform with advanced edge computing features. Waggle has enjoyed remarkable success since its inception. More than 130 Waggle nodes have been deployed in six U.S. cities; these include over 100 nodes through a partnership with the City of Chicago and a $3.1M NSF grant to use Waggle as a platform to create a new type of urban-scale scientific instrument, the “Array of Things.” Moreover, more than 50 scientists are using the platform in environment, atmospheric, and energy studies, and more than 120 cities and research institutions worldwide have expressed interest in building instruments similar to Array of Things and/or using Waggle nodes customized for particular applications (e.g., homeland security infrastructure and transportation).
Waggle’s very success is what motivated Sankaran to apply for the help of the Launchpad Program.
“We want to improve the capabilities of Waggle to meet the diverse interests of these groups,” Sankaran said. “However, the initial success of Waggle has inundated us with negotiations and funding discussions with potential industry and international research partners. The opportunities for growing the project far exceed our capacity to follow-up.”
Sankaran noted that the University of Chicago, federal agencies such as NSF, and Argonne itself have made substantial investments in Waggle’s development. What the Waggle team needs now, however, is a major sustainable funding source and a scalable process for cultivating the overwhelming external interest in Waggle-based projects.
The Launchpad Program meets those needs, helping the awardees secure incremental funding for new or expanded work and providing access to a dedicated support team for marketing and communications. Launchpad participants devote up to 50 percent of their time to working closely with the Technology Commercialization and Partnerships Division (TCP) while spending the remainder of their time conducting their primary research. The portion of staff effort dedicated to program development is paid for by TCP.
“We on the Waggle team are deeply honored and grateful to have this opportunity to enhance Waggle and to have assistance in handling discussions with industry, academia, and other organizations,” Sankaran said. “With this support, we can develop strategic partnerships with those interested in integrating Waggle technology, while we extend Waggle’s capabilities and applicability to new domains.”
The Cohort system, launched in 2016, has proved remarkably successful both in expanding Argonne’s portfolio and in encouraging startup technologies. As a participant in the third Cohort, Sankaran believes that Waggle is positioned to provide a de factor standard for an intelligent environmental and urban measurement system.
“Having access to Launchpad’s dedicated marketing and business development group, we can also foresee a future in which the Waggle Platform is commercialized — a future that is clearly aligned with Argonne’s strategic mission and with the U.S. Department of Energy’s vision for national laboratories,” Sankaran said.