Distinguished Alumni Award 2019 : Prof Srinivasan Keshav

Srinivasan Keshav is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. He received a B.Tech in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Delhi in 1986 and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1991. He was subsequently an MTS at AT&T Bell Labs and an Associate Professor at Cornell. In 1999 he left academia to co-found Ensim Corporation and GreenBorder Technologies Inc. He has been at the University of Waterloo since 2003, holding first a Canada Research Chair and then the Cisco Chair in Smart Grid. His honours include being named an ACM and IEEE Fellow, two Test of Time awards from ACM SIGCOMM, and best paper awards at ACM SIGCOMM, MOBICOM, and eEnergy. He is the author of two graduate textbooks on computer networking and has served as Chair of ACM SIGCOMM and as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo.

In an interview with Dr Vanita Srivastava, he talks about the progress towards making smart devices that do not use batteries, the importance of alumnus to connect with their institutes and what defined success for him.

Edited excerpts:

What is the progress towards making smart devices that do not use batteries or require charging?

There is a great need for sensing devices that are battery-less. The basic idea is to harvest energy from somewhere: this can be from sunlight, vibrations, or a radio beam. In the past few years, there has been a great deal of progress in making such sensors, though there is still considerable work that needs to be done before these systems can be widely deployed.

How can EV charging infrastructure get a further boost if blockchain is integrated into energy systems?

If someone is driving an EV and wants to charge from an available outlet, they need to pay the person whose electricity is being consumed. This is a matter of setting up a market for charging services, which is usually done by a middleman. The key issue is that of trust between the EV owner, the outlet provider, and the middleman, and this lack of trust can be mitigated by using a blockchain. In our work, we have shown how EV adoption can be improved by making outlets more easily available, due to the use of a blockchain.

How important is it for an alumnus to connect with their institute?

Those of us who have passed through IIT know how formative it has been in our life: the teaching, the friendships, and the life experiences have shaped us. Connecting back with the Institute allows alumni to renew these ties and perhaps to pay back, in some way, for the benefits that they gained.

What is the most important lesson you learnt while studying in IIT Delhi?

The greatest lesson I learned was to not give up. IIT trained me to trust that no matter how difficult the situation, I could think my way out of it, so it was important not to give up or to panic, but to calmly and clearly reason about it. This lesson has helped me many times in my life!

What does this award mean to you?

This award has reinforced my gratitude to the Institute and its members for the invaluable gifts of knowledge and resilience that they have given me.

How do you define success?

I believe that success is what Gandhiji called 'Swaraj' that is, to be in control of your self. There is a wonderful book by Dr. T.S. Ananthu called "Hind Swaraj - Its Relevance Today" that discusses this in a very beautiful way.