EAST HARTFORD, Conn., Aug. 26, 2014 – United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), the research and innovation arm of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), today announced it will share one of two $30K Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants awarded in March as part of a $3 million commitment from The Grainger Foundation to support the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) program.
The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants provide seed funding to U.S.-based FOE participants to pursue projects stimulated by NAE's annual symposia. UTRC will use the monies to support research in the novel application of graphics processing units (GPUs) to solve computational problems.
The research will be conducted by Tuhin Sahai, a UTRC staff research scientist located at the company's offices in East Hartford, under contract with the University of California at Davis.
Sahai, who joined UTRC in 2007, holds a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics from Cornell University, along with a masters and bachelors in Technology in Aerospace Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay. Under the terms of the Grainger grant, he will work with John Owens, of the University of California at Davis, to investigate computational models that enable decision-making based on large amounts of data. Sahai and Owens are developing their algorithms on an emerging computer processor known as a GPU, which takes a more parallel approach to solving computational problems.
"This grant focuses on collaborative opportunities, and John and I are well suited, each bringing complementary, yet distinct strengths, to our common research goals," stated Sahai. "I specialize in machine learning and mathematics, and John is an expert on GPUs. We'll be exploring ways to use GPUs far more aggressively than at present with the goal of allowing researchers to leverage data and find hidden backgrounds and interdependencies that can increase processing speed and analysis anywhere from 10 to 100 times."
While relying on GPUs for intensive computation isn't new, they have never before been employed to perform large matrix factorizations in this manner, Sahai noted. He and Owens will link hundreds of specialized processing boards to existing hardware to dramatically improve processing speed and accuracy. This increased computational ability can be used to focus on matrix factorization challenges that arise in United Technologies Corporation (UTC) applications.
As explained by Sahai, matrix factorization arises in a wide variety of applications, including collaborative filtering (which powers most recommender systems on the Internet), data clustering, and computer vision. The algorithms used by Sahai and Owens are based on matrix factorizations and have traditionally been applied to text mining, spectral data analysis, speech analysis and bioinformatics.
Sahai indicated this boost to processing capabilities will help UTRC push technology toward innovative applications that are relevant to UTC.
"Our research represents a game changer in scalable machine learning," he stressed. "The grant funding will 'kick start' our collaborative research over the coming months, but is aligned with existing activities at UTRC and will expand collaborative opportunities in this field going forward."
"This is a great honor for Tuhin and reflects well on UTRC and our commitment to innovation and cutting-edge research," said Isaac Cohen, Systems Director, UTRC. "Tuhin's technical expertise is well known and his selection, first to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, and then to collaborate on a project funded by one of two Grainger grants, shows his work is also recognized and highly respected externally."
United Technologies Research Center delivers advanced technologies to the businesses of United Technologies Corp. (www.utc.com) -- industry leaders in high-technology products and services for the building and aerospace industries -- to improve the performance, energy efficiency and cost of UTC products and processes. UTRC also partners with UTC business units and external research organizations to expand the boundaries of science and technology through research and innovation, delivering technology options that meet and anticipate the needs of the marketplace. Celebrating its 85th year, UTRC is located in East Hartford, Conn. and has research and development subsidiaries established in Shanghai, China, and Cork, Ireland. UTRC's affiliate, United Technologies Research Center, Inc., has a research facility in Berkeley, Calif..