The University of Florida (UF) has just announced a new resource for the design, development and testing of state-of-the-art IoT systems: The Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World.

The institute is designed to leverage core strengths in data analytics, sensors, networking and cybersecurity with cross-campus disciplines — such as transportation and healthcare — that are fundamental to the growing Internet of Things, or IoT, 

“For our students, this institute will open up opportunities for hands-on learning in a field many are calling the next industrial revolution,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “For the rest of the world, the research and technology transfer we’re focusing on will help to create a more secure and connected future.”

The new institute is named in honor of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) alumnus Warren B. Nelms, a New Engineer who built his own solar smart house where he raised his children — who both went on to become UF engineers as well. His son and daughter-in-law, David and Daryl Nelms, have honored him by investing $5 million to help create this institute.

The institute will work closely with industry, as well as with resident expert faculty in the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research (FICS Research) to integrate comprehensive security considerations into all design efforts. Additional faculty in ECE along with other engineering departments will contribute their established leadership in IoT research and enabling technologies, including those in the Multi-Functional Integrated System Technology Center (MIST), and Collaboration to Enable Transnational Cyberinfrastructure Applications (CENTRA).

“There are many examples of IoT devices being hacked, and that’s a huge problem,” said John Harris, professor and chair of ECE. “We believe we can help with every aspect — from the sensors, the communication systems, processing in the cloud, machine learning and more.”

ECE faculty member Daniela Oliveira will receive a term professorship within the institute, as will Yier Jin, known for his work exposing vulnerabilities in smart thermostats and more than 100 other commercial IoT devices, who will join the department in July. A $1.5 million gift from Dr. Sachio Semmoto, Japanese telecommunications mogul and ECE alumnus, has established a professorship for the institute director.

“My vision for the Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World is that UF will become one of the leading places anywhere for educating the best and brightest engineers to securely connect all the world’s devices,” said David Nelms, chairman and CEO of Discover Financial Services and a mechanical engineering alumnus. “UF will become a magnet for attracting people like my dad, engineers who can dream big and create a future that most people can’t imagine.”

Cammy Abernathy, dean of UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, said, “We are enormously grateful for this generous gift from the Nelms family, and what it will mean for future generations. A number of universities are working with IoT, but I believe we will be among the first with an institute dedicated to the connected world in all of its forms, including the security of the Internet of Things and the safety of future technologies.”