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Developer of the month: Alexander Grand from University of Colorado

Qualcomm Developer Network April Developer of the Month is Alexander Grand from the University of Colorado in Denver. The University of Colorado was founded five months before the state of Colorado joined the union in 1876 and has five Nobel Laureates on faculty (David Wineland, physics, 2012; John Hall, physics, 2005; Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman, physics, 2001; Thomas Cech, chemistry, 1989).

Alex is currently an Electrical Engineering major at the University where he is studying Embedded System Engineering. His CleverCane project uses computer vision, embedded engineering and neural networks to create a device to assist the visually impaired. The goal is to have an object detection system for head height objects not found by traditional assistance canes and a smart object detection system to navigate traffic intersection.

We talked to Alex to get a bit more insight into his approach to development and his thoughts for what he may work on next.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

I get inspiration from the idea of using technology to help people. Technology can be used in so many ways to better our lives and enabling access to it is a step forward for everyone.

Although a little cliché, my hero is Leonardo DaVinci. I find DaVinci’s work inspiring, not as an engineer, but as a person. He sought inspiration and imagination from the natural world and studied a multitude of fields. He coined the term L’uomo universale, or Universal Man, with the idea that people have the capability for so much and should never stop learning and innovating. I strive to think outside of the box to find solutions to my problems.

What are some development tools and resources you can’t live without?

I use the following tools:

  • Sublime Text 3: text editor/project manager

  • Debian: Operating System

  • Docker: Container Service Platform

  • Anaconda: Packaged Python distribution

  • Git: Version Manager

  • Google Cloud Computing: Cloud Platform

Most of all, community support and collaboration is by far one of the best tools. So much work done in the open source community that helps to drive innovation while inspiring others. Here are a few open source projects I found useful:

How do Qualcomm technologies assist in your development?

Originally we had the idea to run the systems on a Raspberry-Pi but the DragonBoard™ 410c proved to be nearly 2x faster. This increased power really helps make our software more performant and robust. During some runs, applications would push the CPUs to 100% utilization yet there was minimal lag in operations. The heat dissipation of the hardware was also fantastic.

The on-board network controller and internal GPS system also caught our eye as it made development easier while providing more capabilities. With recent releases of the Debian OS image for the DragonBoard 410c, the Wi-Fi speed and reliability has improved which is always welcomed.

Although we are mainly using the Snapdragon™ 410E Embedded Platform, we have recently started working with the newer Snapdragon™ 820E Embedded Platform.

For high performance mobile computing and networking, I think we will always turn to Qualcomm for their technology and platforms. There is a big seat that Qualcomm can fill when it comes to IoT applications in the future.

Where do you see the embedded systems industry in 10 years?

I see the industry making major changes in the next decade. The constant increase of computing power coupled with the ever shrinking size of processors and paired with advances in machine learning leads me to believe there is no limit to what can be achieved. Although there are still obstacles to overcome, I feel that we will be very close to achieving “smart” cities in the near future. I wouldn’t be surprised if software development took a major turn toward AI assistance in terms of whole program optimization.

You can follow Alex’s GitHub page to keep track of his current projects. You can follow the Qualcomm Developer Network by signing up for email updates.

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