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Ten ITS Researchers Selected for Department of Commerce Honor Awards

Ten ITS researchers were selected to receive Department of Commerce (DoC) Gold or Silver Honor Awards for work completed in FY 2014. The Gold and Silver Medals are the highest and second highest honor granted by the Secretary for distinguished and exceptional performance. The awards were presented on September 29, 2015.

A Gold Medal Award went to Frank Sanders, Robert Achatz, John Carroll, Michael Cotton, Roger Dalke, and Geoffrey Sanders of ITS, along with Robert Sole of NTIA’s Office of Spectrum Management (OSM), for rapidly developing a creative, innovative new method to perform electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) studies to support, through critical technical analysis, DoC efforts to increase federal/commercial sharing to make additional spectrum available for wireless commercial broadband services to promote innovation and economic development. A study performed using this new method informed new rules for spectrum sharing in the 3.5 GHz band. Rapid publication of the method and results enables reuse for rapid EMC studies in other bands being considered for sharing. The results and the new methodology were published in a highly impactful series of publicly available NTIA Reports (TR-14-499, TR-14-500, TR-14-506, TR-14-507, TR-15-510 and TR-15-512) which were used to develop the FCC’s rules for new spectrum sharing at 3.5 GHz. The group's work has also been used by other Federal agencies that will have to share the band and by Industry that will build new systems (e.g. LTE) to operate in the band. The availability of this new method will significantly advance the development of new spectrum sharing to facilitate continued economic growth and innovation by making more spectrum available for new commercial uses while allowing existing, incumbent federal spectrum operations to continue.

A Silver Medal Award went to Bob Johnk, Jaydee Griffith and Mitchell Powell for developing and using an innovative approach to measure building-penetration characteristics of radio signals, for inventing and implementing a compact, radio signal measurement system, and for developing an efficient and effective methodology for determining optimal configurations and designs for in-building communication systems for use by first responders. Building walls reduce radio signal power in complex ways, creating difficult and sometimes life-threatening communication challenges for first responders. The team investigated different building types and different ways to enhance coverage by LTE systems. Dr. Johnk independently designed and, with the help of the team, performed a comprehensive series of measurements using an innovative system of his own invention to measure signal strengths and equipment performance. Because the system was mounted in a backpack, measurements could be conducted in places and circumstances that closely mimicked those of first responders moving through various building types during incident responses. Measurement results led to concrete recommendations for improving in-building performance of LTE communications equipment which are already being implemented, using currently available equipment, to enhance the safety and effectiveness of America’s first responders. The results also identified the most critical needs for additional research. A summary of results and recommendations from this work was presented to wide acclaim from public safety communications professionals at the 2014 International Wireless Communications Expo (ICWE) and at the 2014 Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Conference, and a full description was published in NTIA Technical Report TR-15-518. The work was undertaken as part of the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program and funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC), which leads the DHS effort to enable interoperable emergency communications among 60,000 Federal, state and local public safety agencies. Via DHS and FirstNet, all of these agencies will benefit from the recommendations produced by this research.

A Silver Medal Award went to Edward Drocella, James Richards, and Frederick Najmy of OSM and Paul McKenna of ITS for outstanding leadership in developing and implementing innovative techniques to enable new spectrum sharing opportunities between federal and commercial users. To fuel continued economic growth and innovation by making additional spectrum available for commercial broadband, NTIA recommended the reallocation of the 3550–3650 MHz band using geographic exclusion zones to protect federal systems. As originally calculated, these geographic restrictions limited the deployment of broadband systems in many top markets. The group led a joint NTIA, Department of Defense and Federal Communications Commission working group that spearheaded innovative collaboration methods to develop a specialized analysis model. The unique analysis model developed by this team applied cutting-edge analysis techniques and Geographic Information System (GIS) data to more realistically assess potential interference to federal systems in an effort to reduce the exclusion zones. The improved technical analysis reduced the exclusion zones previously deemed necessary to protect federal operations by an average of 77%, increasing the overall market access for commercial broadband systems by an average of 34% and maximizing auction revenue. The results of this effort formed a basis for the FCC rulemaking establishing a flexible regulatory framework necessary to auction the spectrum for commercial broadband systems. This effort directly supported the President's goal of identifying 500 megahertz to be made available for commercial wireless broadband services. The assumptions, methods, analyses, and system characteristics used to generate the revised exclusion zones were published in NTIA Technical Report TR-15-517.