Spring 2021: ECE590 / COMPSCI590 – Edge Computing

Overview: This seminar-format class explores opportunities and challenges associated with edge computing, the diffusion of centralized cloud computing functionality to include resource-constrained systems in physical proximity to the users, such as cloudlets, mobile phones, and smart gateways.

The course surveys recent advances in edge computing and its role in enabling the next generation of the Internet of Things and the smart cities of the future. Students will learn the strengths and the limitations of edge computing systems, and will explore a range of algorithm and system adaptation techniques for developing edge-specific platforms, algorithms, and applications. Students will complete an individual or a team-based research project, theory-oriented or applied.

Lecture times: Mondays, Wednesdays 13:45 PM – 15:00 PM. This course involves interactive discussions of research papers and is unfortunately not suitable for asynchronous learning.

Professor office hours: Wednesdays 10:00 AM – noon, or by appointment


  • Quizzes: 10%
  • Research paper presentation: 25%
  • Research project: 50%
  • Participation in class discussions: 15%

A brief sampling of topics we will discuss:

  • Evolution of distributed systems: from mainframes to cloud to edge
  • Multi-tier distributed system architectures, in the Internet of Things and in the 5G vision
  • Hardware and software edge computing platforms
  • Taking machine learning out of datacenters:
    • Federated learning
    • Reinforcement learning on the edge
  • Edge computing aiding advanced interactive applications:
    • Edge-supported smart vehicles and drones
    • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Function allocation and resource management in multi-tier fog computing systems
  • Security and privacy in edge computing

Research project information: 

A research project in edge computing is an important component of this class; it corresponds to 50% of the overall course grade.

Research projects can be done individually or in groups of three. Projects can be theory-oriented or applied. Project teams need to be established by February 4th; the project proposal outlining the key ideas of the proposed work and the plan of action needs to be submitted by February 15th.

Students are particularly encouraged to come up with projects that can improve some specific element of Duke University student, staff, or visitor experience. Bonus points will be given for connecting the project to Duke Blue Devils, Duke Lemur Center, or other specific and unique element of life at Duke. Bonus points will also be given for projects that aim to address the unique challenges of campus life under COVID-19 restrictions.