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ESCaPe’15 – ACES Project Symposium and Job Fair 2015 was held on the 2nd September 2015 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo 07. Organized by the Association of Computer Engineering Students (ACES) of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, the purpose of the event was showcase the talent of the final year students of the Department of Computer Engineering.

The lighting of the oil lamp was followed by an introduction to ACES and the welcome speech by the President of ACES, Waruna Chandimal. He then gave a brief summary of ACES, the ACES hackathon and the ACES Coding Competition.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Next up was a speech by Dr. Dhammika Elkaduwe, Head of the Computer Engineering Department at the University about the concepts behind ESCaPe. Because of the sheer distance involved with travelling to and from Peradeniya, most of the skills of the students go unnoticed, he explained, hence the decision to host the Symposium in Colombo.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Following Dr Dhammika’s speech was the Keynote speech by Mr. Hemantha Jayawardena, Chief Operating Officer of MIT. He jovially talks about his affiliation with the University especially with regard to how he would travel to Kandy when he was a boy.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

His key areas of the speech were about the direction of the software industry in Sri Lanka, and the challenges and expectations that IT professionals may have. He touched briefly on the history of the IT industry in Sri Lanka more specifically on how India developed IT parks and became the largest outsourcing hub for IT.

The larger the population, the larger the output of workforce.

Outsourced work will continue to grow, but Sri Lanka has a number of disadvantages with regard to the workforce, captive development and product engineering. So it’s not going to be about the numbers he says, but rather about improving our innovativeness and how we can market these ideas.

We need young individuals who are willing to question the status quo. You have to be willing to break what you have made, in order to make something better. There will always be someone who has a better product than yours. Be prepared and be innovative.

It’s not about the code you know, those are just tools, rather concentrate more on the principle.

With those words of wisdom and encouragement, Mr. Hemantha’s speech came to a close and he was awarded with a special token of appreciation.

It was then time to get down to the heavy stuff; the presentations. Each student would be given a total of 9 minutes to present their project and a further 3 minutes would be given for Q&A

First up was An Open Biomechanics System using Commodity Hardware. The example given is rather simple. Cricketers were accused of chucking the ball while bowling, to prove their innocence, they had to undergo some tests using Biomechanics and motion sensors. The issue here is that the hardware used is rather expensive and complex. Their solution? To use off the shelf hardware and open source software such as a Microsoft Kinect and OpenSim by Stanford University to visualize movement of muscles, joints and track movement.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Next up was Behavioral Observation through image processing – This will basically help identify breathing abnormalities via image processing using Nvidia CUDA and OpenCV in order to identify possible respiratory issues with infants below one year of age. . The data collected can be used for pattern analysis. They used the Peradeniya hospital as their base to collect data from infants with breathing disorders and infants who are healthy. They run through the basic concepts and methodologies that they used to solidify their research. With regard to implementing the system, it would be a client server architecture where a video stream is sent to doctors for analysis. The only issue here was the bandwidth of the video which they overcame. With regard to future plans, they would implement a machine learning feature.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Following that was “A parallel approach for blind source separation in brain computer interface”. Sounds confusing? Well not really, it basically involved ICA or Independent Component Analysis where the goal of the project was to improve the performance by throughput whilst still maintaining the original level of accuracy. In order to do this, the team of students ditched the traditional singular computational method and switched over to parallel processing. The result, a staggering 176x performance improvement compared to regular processing.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Next up was a project titled “Power Analysis Based Side Channel Attack”. A power analysis attack breaks an encrypted system by measuring the power consumption of a device. Just as an example, a standard AES encryption that would take at most a billion years (yes with a “B”) could be broken in a little under 10 minutes. The target of their attack, embedded systems such as smartcards. Their purpose is to identify possible vulnerabilities in existing systems and improve their weak areas. The talk then shifts to SPECK which is an encryption protocol enforced by the NSA in 2013, where using a Power Anaysis attack, they were able to crack the protocol in less than 30 minutes. Digital Fortress reference anyone? Yes? No?

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Accelerating Virus scanning with GPU was the title of the next project and it pretty much sums it all up. They literally use GPUs to perform a virus scan. Compared to a CPU that usually has a small number of cores, a GPU based virus scanner is a LOT more powerful owing to the fact that the GPU has a lot more power to work with. Delving into technical waters, they target to main types of algorithms which are the Aho-Corasick algorithm and the Boyer-Moore algorithm. They aim to identify patterns of these algorithms using polymorphic and non-polymorphic virus patterns respectively. They conducted the experiments using an Nvidia Tesla C2075 GPU consisting of 448 Cores and 21504 threads running off a Dual Xeon E5-2670 system. Now that is some serious horsepower.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

After a short tea break, we had Arul Sivagananathan, Vice chairman of SLASSCOM and Managing Director at Hayleys. His talk was brisk and to the point.

In the next 5 years, you may be working for a company that doesn’t exist today.

Mind boggling indeed.Sri Lanka is clearly emerging in terms of the IT/BPO sector Arul explains. The plan for Sri Lanka, at least in his head, is to have a revenue of $2B USD, a total of 200,000 jobs, and 1000 startups. Quite a hefty task, but Arul is confident that at our current rate, these targets can be met. The Digital Divide was his next topic, an area we haven’t heard of in a while but is nonetheless quite a pressing matter.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

You need to have a vision, be ready to be mentored, have the right attitude, earn respect, be an excellent time manager, learn, unlearn and relearn, think outside the box, speak less, listen more, take ownership, take decisions and stick by it.

In conclusion, he reiterates that one must always evolve with the times and that we must always specialize in a certain field in order to stay ahead of the pack.

Next up was Ishan de Silva, Head of Engineering at MilleniumIT. He spoke about MIT and the work that they do, especially with regard to being a technology provider for leading markets and even the London Stock Exchange.

Our system will process 300000 transaction by the time you finish reading this sentence.

He talks about the various technologies used by MIT in order to reduce elements such as round trip latency and how to increase peak order rate per partition, gibberish to some, but key points to others.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

From web based GUI, to stock trading systems to everything in between, these guys have it ALL. This is serious engineering, Ishan says.

Getting to the top and staying on the top are two different things.

With some key points explained to the audience, it was time to get back to the presentations.

Generating Optimized MRP Lot Sizes Using Genetic Algorithm: Considering Supplier Deals. Again quite a jaw breaker but in essence, quite simple. It deals with the process of Material Requirement Planning where one has to determine the order release policy for parts, components and material needed to produce end products to a required production at a minimum total cost. It takes into account supplier discounts/deals and storage capacity limitations as well.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Following that was a Feasibility of Using Machine Learning to Access Control in Squid Proxy Server. Before you ask, no squid were harmed or used in the making of this project. Rather it proposes a method to generate a dynamic blacklist of URLs using machine learning techniques. Using this technique, they are able to predict whether a URL is educational or not. This would be a vital element to implement in an educational institute where students waste precious data by either streaming non-educational video or downloading large files.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

Fraud detection in SMS with Data Mining – This takes into account the Ideamart platform (owned by Dialog Axiata PLC) which is a popular telco based software development platform in Sri Lanka which provides API access to app developers to create telco based applications on top of Dialog Axiata services. Because Ideamart has no control over the content delivered to end users, there exists a high possibility that developers can scam the end user. The solution is simple, a platform that analyzes the data sent to end users in order to identify potential spam messages. The filter had a 92% efficiency so off handedly, we could say that it was doing its job well.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

SDN Testbed for Undergraduate – This deals with SDNs or Software defined networks. A relatively new method of networking that separates the network control and forwarding sections to optimize each other. With a centralized controller and simple data forwarding units, you can easily define policies of a network it also offers flexible methods to control the traffic flow.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

The ultimate goal however, is to create an educational tool that offers a visualization of traffic flows and several advanced network functionalities such as network slicing, dynamic resource allocation and network function virtualization. Having used a Raspberry Pi for their project, they identified several issues, among them:

  • Low throughput
  • Slow processor.
  • Slow USBoE (USB over Ethernet)
  • Stability
  • Weak connectors
  • Power issues

The last project for the day was a secure micropayment scheme for newspaper. It would basically entail the implementation of a simple payment scheme for the newspaper industry. Rather than paying for the whole newspaper, a reader can pay only for what he/she reads. In order to implement the system, they would need a bank which acts as the payment provider and of course a Newspaper site. Think of it as a subscription for newspapers where you don’t pay for the articles you don’t read.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

ith that the presentations came to a close and it was time for the distribution of awards.

  • Best Poster Award – Tharinda Ehelepola
  • Best Oral Presenter – Hasindu Gammarachchi
Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES
  • Best Paper – Mohomad Fawzan and Hasindu Gammarachchi
Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

With everything done and dusted, Ninada Perera was on stage to deliver the vote of thanks. For us, that signaled the end of another event, and also signaled lunch.

Images Courtesy of ACES
Images Courtesy of ACES

For the rest of the audience, it meant something more; the Job fair. Following lunch, they would meet representatives from some of the industry leaders for a chance to be employed by them upon completion of their higher education. Certainly an important factor in their lives.

For us, the journey was at an end. Hitherto we would go, but no further.

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