Diversity and Excellence – Investing in the Future with Colorado State University

Diversity and Excellence - Investing in the Future with Colorado State University

Steve Goeringer
Distinguished Technologist, Security

Oct 30, 2017

Recently, I attended the Industry Advisory Board for the Computer Science Department at Colorado State University (CSU) and the Advisory Board for CSU’s participation in a National Science Foundation partnership on cybersecurity. As I prepared for these sessions, it gave me a chance to reflect on just how useful working with universities is to our industry.

CableLabs works closely with many of the best universities across the United States – from NYU to Georgia Tech to Carnegie Mellon University. With CableLabs headquarters located in Louisville, CO, we have particularly close relationships with regional institutions, including Colorado University and Colorado State University (CSU). Below, I talk about why working with higher education is so valuable and what it takes to create a great, productive relationship with a university.

How and Why CableLabs Works with Universities

A great deal of focus at CableLabs is on innovation. Working with universities can help us come up with ideas and solutions that the cable industry may never realize or consider. How? The answers: Diversity and leverage.

  • Bringing together people that have different life experiences and perspectives ensures we go beyond the obvious and come up with creative, effective ways to solve hard problems. Universities have hugely diverse faculty and student bodies working on interesting problems. As we expose professors and students to the opportunities and challenges the cable industry is addressing, we inevitably get innovative ideas that radically diverge from the way cable industry professionals think.
  • Each of the universities we engage is supported by a wide range of commercial entities and government institutions. This provides multiple opportunities to achieve leverage. We gain access to research funded by multiple organizations and develop the potential to achieve collaboration and synergy on challenges shared across industries.

In the process of doing this, we convey our own perspectives and experiences, exposing great minds to our industry and increase awareness of real-world problems. The synergy that results helps identify and foster new ideas that would rarely have developed any other way. Additionally, we help to create and maintain a talent pipeline that can provide well-developed professionals at entry and mid-level positions that can fuel broadband innovation for decades to come.

The security technologies team at CableLabs has worked closely with lead professors at CSU to realize these goals. We’ve developed close, continuous relationships with lead professors, who have, in turn, helped us foster great relationships with their researchers and students. By working closely together to understand problems and emerging technologies, CableLabs can very precisely target funds to help CSU develop resources and capabilities of unique value to the cable industry. Close collaboration ensures relevance and maximizes the chance of research success.

And, the story gets even better. Universities work with a wide range of government institutions, other universities, research laboratories and other businesses. Usually, a security idea relevant to broadband might have manifestations applicable to healthcare, manufacturing, transportation or other industry sectors. Consequently, CableLabs achieves great leverage. A little time and money can yield benefits that would cost millions if pursued in isolation.

What Results have we Achieved?

We funded CSU to join the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Configuration Analytics and Automation (NSF I/UCRC CCAA – the government does like acronyms). The lead professor for CSU at CCAA is Dr. Indrakshi Ray. This program provides numerous benefits:

  • Gives us access to and influence in three major research universities
  • Leverages funding from many industry partners and the NSF. The security research of interest to cable includes IoT, Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and active network defenses (including deception technologies which makes it more expensive for hackers to attack networks)

We’ve contributed to two great projects, including funding infrastructure, ideas for implementation, and helping the lead professor, Dr. Christos Papadopoulos:

  • BGPMon: Helps large network operators detect security problems on the Internet and some CableLabs members are working with CSU now on the project
  • Netbrane: Uses big data analytics and some artificial intelligence strategies to detect and mitigate malware. Dr. Christos presented Netbrane last week to an audience at the SCTE ISBE Expo in Denver.

We’re also helping CSU create a lab for IoT security research. We’ve donated IoT devices and collaborated on IoT security considerations. Over the summer, we had an intern, Maalvika Bachani, who worked with Brian Scriber on IoT security to support our work with the Open Connectivity Foundation.

We’ve been collaborating with Dr. Indrajit Ray on trust systems. Dr. Ray is working on how we might extend the excellent public key infrastructure-based trust system used in DOCSIS further into the home and to better secure other verticals such as home automation, remote patient monitoring, managed security services and more.

What it Takes

Achieving this level of collaboration requires a focus on a long-term relationship that is about much more than money. It requires institutional support at the university and close collaborative relationships between researchers at both CableLabs and the university. This allows sustained support of projects that transcends individual personalities and provides the basis for co-authoring great papers that can influence our industry. Finally, it provides an opportunity for co-innovation with a technology transfer path that can get new ideas out into the market. All the while, capturing the imagination of students and building a talent pipeline that will continue to fuel innovation in the cable industry for decades to come.

You can find out more information about our university outreach in our blog post and video "Furthering CableLabs' Innovation Mission through University Research."