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IIT Madras Distinguished Alumnus Dr. Hari Balakrishnan [1993/BT/CS] was awarded the top honor within the field of communications technology: the 2023 Marconi Prize.

IIT Madras Distinguished Alumnus Dr. Hari Balakrishnan [1993/BT/CS] was awarded the top honor within the field of communications technology: the 2023 Marconi Prize.

The Marconi Society is proud to award the 2023 Marconi Prize to Hari Balakrishnan in recognition of the broad impact to society of his fundamental discoveries in wired and wireless networking, mobile sensing, and distributed systems.  By focusing his research on the application of technology to solve large societal problems, Balakrishnan’s work has made millions of people safer and has made the Internet and wireless communications more efficient and robust.  

Hari Balakrishnan is the Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is also the Founder, Chief Technology Officer, and Chairman of Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT).

“Hari’s unique contributions have shaped the course of research and discovery in multiple fields, saved lives, and enabled users to have better experiences with network-based services,” said Vint Cerf, Chair of the Marconi Society and 1998 Marconi Fellow.  “His focus on scientific excellence that creates positive impact at scale, along with his humanitarian contributions, makes him a perfect choice for the Marconi Prize.”

Balakrishnan’s discoveries frequently set the stage for major shifts in the scientific and technological trajectory of networking systems.  “I like to be among the first to open a new area, rather than be the last word in an area,” says Balakrishnan. “I want our world to be safer, more resilient, and more sustainable and am inspired by how people use applications and the network.  This helps me think about new research directions in networked systems and ways in which they can help solve societal problems.”

Balakrishnan’s significant contributions include his influence in mobility and wireless through both his research and entrepreneurship. His pioneering research at MIT on the CarTel mobile sensing system to collect and draw inferences from sensors on mobile devices led to Balakrishnan’s latest successful entrepreneurial endeavor, CMT, which he founded with Bill Powers and Sam Madden.  With a mission to make the world’s roads and drivers safer, CMT helps millions of people around the world drive more carefully and reduces road crashes, which are the leading cause of death for children and young adults worldwide.

Balakrishnan was among the first to deeply understand the interactions between wireless and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which helps applications exchange data, at a time when wireless and mobility were nascent research disciplines. His research explaining causes of poor wireless TCP performance established the gold standard for understanding the topic and led to improved performance that billions of network users enjoy today.

Balakrishnan’s research on wide-area networks is also highly influential.  His foundational work in scalable distributed architectures, overlay networks, and Internet congestion control has been key to building out the robust network and web infrastructure that billions rely on today.  “I’m deeply honored to receive the Marconi Prize, joining a number of luminaries in the field of information and communications technology. This prize honors not only me, but also my many students and collaborators at MIT, CMT, and other institutions who have made me a better researcher, entrepreneur, and teacher,” said Balakrishnan. 

“The breadth, depth, and innovation of Hari’s contributions to technology is quite remarkable,” says Andrea Goldsmith, Chair of the Marconi Prize Selection Committee and Dean of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University.  “He has made profound advances in wireless networking, mobile sensing, network congestion control and resilience, as well as distributed systems and databases. His transformational impact on technology, successful translation of his research ideas into widespread practice, and his humanitarian activities are exemplary of the contributions the Marconi Prize seeks to recognize.”

Hari Balakrishnan will be honored at the Marconi Society’s annual awards Gala on October 27, 2023 in Washington, DC.  For more information on this celebration, please sign up to receive event updates from the Marconi Society.  Nominations for the 2024 Marconi Prize are being accepted through June 30, 2023. 

About Hari Balakrishnan

Hari Balakrishnan received his B. Tech. degree from IIT Madras and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.  His graduate work at Berkeley won the 1998 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award.  

Balakrishnan’s contributions have shaped a number of fields in Information and Communications Technology and inspired not only hundreds of other research projects, but also successful networking and applications companies.  His mentorship has helped propel the careers of leading researchers and business people in the field.  A testament to the long-term impact of his research includes six “test-of-time” awards for his papers.

Balakrishnan’s innovations have served millions of users in the areas of mobile sensing and telematics, indoor positioning, video delivery, mobile computing, and web applications.  His research with his students has also influenced the design of network technologies including Internet protocol standards, Wi-Fi, cellular wireless, Bluetooth (BLE), and Zigbee. His contributions have been adapted into products from Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, SAP, and more. 

Balakrishnan has co-founded, worked at, and advised startups that have been acquired by companies including Cisco, TIBCO, Broadcom, Facebook, and Splunk.  His current company, CMT, is one of the most successful startups to come out of academia in the past two decades.

In addition to his work with the CMT team and partners to reduce automobile crashes, automate roadside assistance, and save lives, Balakrishnan’s humanitarian work extends to India, his country of origin.  He helped raise $2M for oxygen concentrators during a massive COVID-19 surge in 2021.  He has also been a consistent and generous supporter of IIT Madras, providing launch funding and mentorship to improve leadership opportunities for women and women-identifying faculty, students, postdocs, and staff through its Women Leadership Initiative. 

Balakrishnan has instilled his creativity and ability to approach problems in a unique way in his 30 PhD students and 10 postdocs who currently innovate at many of the most prestigious universities and companies in the world.

His prior honors include the ACM SIGCOMM Award, the IEEE Koji Kobayashi Award, the Infosys Prize, and induction to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

About the Marconi Prize

The Marconi Prize is the flagship award of the Marconi Society, given annually to innovators who have made significant contributions to increasing digital inclusivity through the advancement of information and communications technology. Marconi Prize recipients are recommended by an independent selection committee and approved by the Marconi Society Board.

About the Marconi Society

The Marconi Society envisions a connected world where information and communications technologies empower everyone to reach their full potential. The organization encourages and celebrates innovators who push the technical, creative and entrepreneurial boundaries of Information and Communications Technology for the benefit of humanity.

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