University of Vermont

Department of Computer Science

Distributed Systems Group

The future is distributed.
— Anonymous


We envision a world in which various kinds of systems, including sensors and actuators, mobile phones, PDAs, web servers and clients, and large databases, all work together to help human users to monitor environments, obtain/provide healthcare, make decisions, play games, and in general live and work. Computer Science research has a lot to contribute to this vision of the world, and faculty in the CS and ECE departments have involved in research in various aspects. More specifically,

  • Sensor networks and their security
  • Security of distributed systems
  • Distributed databases and data stream processing
  • Data mining from distributed data
  • Multiple robotics and distributed visual computing

Participating Faculty

Currently, the following faculty members are in this concentration area. Eight PhD students are working with these faculty members.

  • Jeff Frolik (Electrical Engineering): wireless networking
  • Byung Lee (Computer Science): data stream processing, distributed databases
  • Alan Ling (Computer Science): security and privacy
  • Christian Skalka (Computer Science): security and privacy
  • Sean Wang (Computer Science): data stream processing, distributed data mining, security and privacy
  • Hill Zhu (Computer Science): distributed data mining, computer vision

Application Areas

The application areas we have already looked into and will look into in the future include:

  • Environment monitoring (e.g., with sensor networks)
  • Telemedicine (e.g., using portable embedded systems)
  • Event detection (e.g., UAV-based target detection)
  • Surveillance (e.g., multiple digital cameras)
  • Web service (e.g., distributed authorization for web services)


  • Trace Effect Analysis for Software Security. Funding source: DoD AFOSR
  • A framework for optimal approximate query evaluation based on workload forecasting. Funding source: NSF CISE/IIS.
  • Controlled Release of Information Based on Contents. Funding source: NSF CISE/IIS.
  • Efficient and flexible processing of aggregation join queries on data streams: Funding source: Vermont EPSCoR.
  • Modeling the cost of a user-defined function. Funding source: DoE Office of Science.
  • Privacy-Aware Information Release Control. Funding source: NSF CISE/IIS.
  • Wireless Sensor Network Optimization with Application QoS Requirements. Funding source: Vermont EPSCoR.

Uniqueness of the Group

Many research CS departments have a component of distributed systems. However, most are concentrated on the networking aspects, or on particular applications. The uniqueness of this group is in its emphasis on "vertical slices" for distributed systems: from underlying hardware support (robots, cameras and sensors), to application-level research (security, distributed control and monitoring). That is, we target applications that use distributed systems, and at the same time, we study all the necessary tools and theories in the software to hardware levels to support the applications. Hence, part of the uniqueness of this group is its interdisciplinary nature.

Interdisciplinary Connections

We will find the use of distributed systems in many applications. Especially important are the connection of this groupís research with the two emphasized areas of UVM: environmental and healthcare studies. The connection with the ECE and Math departments is obvious. Also, we see a huge potential of distributed systems in the future Transportation Center. The Vermont Advanced Computing Center (VACC), now under construction, has also decided to emphasize on sensor systems. We believe our group can contribute a lot to this vision of VACC.