Tag Archives: the-institute/ieee-member-news

IEEE Medal of Honor Goes to Data Compression Pioneer Jacob Ziv

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/ieee-medal-of-honor-goes-to-data-compression-pioneer-jacob-ziv

THE INSTITUTE IEEE Life Fellow Jacob Ziv will receive this year’s IEEE Medal of Honor “for fundamental contributions to information theory and data compression technology, and for distinguished research leadership.”

Ziv and Abraham Lempel developed two lossless data compression algorithms: Lempel-Ziv 77 in 1977 and LZ78 the following year. The two procedures enable perfect data reconstruction from compressed data and are more efficient than previous algorithms. They allowed for the development of GIFs, PNG, and ZIP files.

“The LZ algorithms were the first major successful universal compression algorithms,” says one engineer who endorsed Ziv for the award. “These algorithms, and Jacob’s analysis of them, [have] formed the basis for most subsequent work on universal algorithms.”

Ziv pioneered universal source coding, a series of algorithms that compress data without needing to know anything about the inherent information. Such algorithms reduce the required data rate needed to reconstruct images from undistorted as well as distorted data.

Ziv also contributed to the theory of low computational complexity decoding of error-correcting codes.

He has received several recognitions including the 1995 Marconi Prize, a 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, and a 2017 EMET Prize—known as Israel’s Nobel Prize—in the exact sciences category.

In 1997 he established the Israeli National Infrastructure Forum for Research and Development, which strives to promote R&D programs and projects in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Ziv has been a professor of electrical engineering since 1970 at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. He served as dean of the EE faculty from 1974 to 1976 and vice president of the school’s academic affairs department from 1978 to 1982.

Born in Israel, he began his engineering career in 1955 as senior research engineer in the scientific department of the Israel Ministry of Defense, where he conducted R&D in communication systems.

He moved to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from MIT. After he received his doctorate in 1962, he moved back to Israel to rejoin the Ministry of Defense and head its communications division.

He returned to the United States in 1968 to join AT&T Bell Laboratories, in Murray Hill, N.J., as a member of the technical staff. He left there in 1970 to join the Technion.

The IEEE Foundation sponsors the IEEE Medal of Honor.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

This AWS Machine Learning Manager is Rooting Out Bias in AI Programs

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/this-aws-machine-learning-manager-is-rooting-out-bias-in-ai-programs

THE INSTITUTE Growing up in an all-female household, Nashlie Sephus was a do-it-yourselfer from a young age. She learned to do household repairs and other odd jobs around her Jackson, Miss., home.

“We had to do everything, whether that meant getting on top of the roof to hang the Christmas lights or putting up a new ceiling fan,” the IEEE member says. “It was little things like that which really got me into being curious about how things work.”

Sephus went to sleepaway camps that focused on a variety of topics including math and science. One of those was an engineering camp exclusively for girls. The program was short—two weeks long—but it introduced her to computer engineering, and she decided it was the field she wanted to work in.

Today Sephus is an applied scientist who manages the Amazon Web Services (AWS) machine-learning group, in Atlanta. She evaluates the company’s AI-based facial analysis and recognition tools to root out bias in them, and she is leading the development of a bias-identification tool for machine-learning models.

She also has been working to give back to her hometown by financing the creation of a tech hub in Jackson’s downtown.


Mathematics was Sephus’s favorite subject in school. One day her eighth-grade math teacher pulled Sephus aside after class and encouraged her to check out an engineering camp for girls at Mississippi State University, near Starkville. Sephus, who was more excited about the opportunity to spend some time away from home, recognizes that the camp changed her life.

“That was the first time I was really introduced to hands-on topics in each discipline of engineering,” she says. “Not only did I know what engineering was, I [discovered] that computer engineering was fascinating, because all these letters and numbers we were typing into the computer could control so many things around me. I knew that computer engineering was what I wanted to do.”

Because the camp was for girls only, it removed the barrier of “feeling like you’re the only one,” she says. “These were just all girls wanting to learn about engineering, and it made it a much better environment to grow in.”

She says she also learned how to relate to people from different backgrounds—which came in handy when she went off to college and then entered the workforce.

“It’s no secret that in most of my classes—and even in other settings—that sometimes I’m the only female, sometimes the only black person. And at times I may be the only person who was born in the United States,” she says.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Mississippi State in 2007. Instead of going directly into the workforce, she decided to pursue a master’s degree and Ph.D., also in electrical and computer engineering, at Georgia Tech.

Having a doctorate, she recalls thinking, “would allow me to be in rooms that I probably would not have been able to be in without it.”

After earning her Ph.D. in 2014, Sephus helped create Partpic in Atlanta. The company was an all-black female AI startup, and Sephus was its CTO. It created algorithms, now patented, to identify replacement parts such as screws, bolts, and washers from an image uploaded by the user. Its algorithms would find the exact match for the part and send the person a link to a store where it could be purchased. Partpic was acquired by Amazon in 2016, and the company hired Sephus and 10 of her coworkers.

“I’m very happy to say we were probably the most diverse engineering team Amazon had ever had at that point,” she says. “We were also the first engineering team that Amazon had in Atlanta and in the Southeast.”

Her first job at Amazon was software development manager for the company’s visual search tool, which also uses images of products to find matches. In 2019 she joined the AWS machine-learning team. She evaluates the company’s facial analysis and recognition tools such as Rekognition. Amazon’s software has been used by law enforcement agencies for surveillance purposes, and civil rights advocates have raised concerns about racial bias in the technology. Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology found that the software’s algorithms do not work as well in correctly identifying women and people of color. Amazon in June instated a yearlong moratorium on the sale of the software to law enforcement.

“We want to make sure that we measure where biases may occur, whether that be in data or algorithms or even in the evaluation,” Sephus says. “We also want to be sure that we’re being transparent and our experiments are reproduceable.”

Sephus’s work and influence contributed to AWS’s recently launched SageMaker Clarify tool, which helps identify biases in machine-learning models that were developed using the company’s SageMaker software.

Sephus’s new job requires her to work with Amazon’s legal and public policy teams. She has spoken with members of the U.S. Congress, regulators, and organizations about how bias in code is an industrywide problem.

Overcoming bias is partly a matter of educating people on how the technology works, she says.

“It’s about ensuring that customers are using the technology properly,” she says. “It’s about making sure that [those] the technology is being used on are being treated fairly. There are many different stakeholders that need to be brought into the conversation on how we solve those problems.”


In her free time, Sephus has been working to give back to her hometown. Using her proceeds from the sale of Partpic, in 2018 she founded The Bean Path, a nonprofit organization in Jackson that provides free technical assistance to small businesses, senior citizens, and students. More than 350 people have used its services. The nonprofit sets up shop in libraries and community centers. It also runs coding and engineering programs for youngsters and offers them scholarships.

“Being a tech expert and having the well-versed experience that I’ve had, I wanted to show people what is possible when you get on the tech bandwagon,” Sephus says.

The nonprofit purchased 12 acres of land and seven buildings in the downtown area in September. The group aims to build a coding training center, a maker space, coworking space, and an innovation hub for entrepreneurs.

“We’re really bringing the [local] community, the tech community, and the entrepreneurship community all together in the central Mississippi area,” Sephus says. “Hopefully this will catch on like wildfire and really connect a lot of the great work that is already happening in Mississippi, and build one solid community.”

Almesha Campbell, director of technology transfer, commercialization, and research communications at Jackson State University, told the Clarion Ledger that a partnership with the university and the new tech district will provide opportunities for students and graduates.

“Jackson State has a school of engineering and a school of business. All the students have great ideas,” Campbell said. “They can actually work with Nashlie and can help the community develop technologies.

Campbell added that the tech district could play a critical role in stemming the brain drain from the state.

“It’s creating that kind of opportunity for [young people] to say, ‘Hey, Jackson, Mississippi, is actually doing something great, and I want to be part of it, and I want to contribute,” she said. “It’s going to have a really big impact, not just for the city of Jackson but for the state of Mississippi.”


Sephus first got involved with IEEE when she joined Mississippi State’s student branch. She belongs to the IEEE Signal Processing Society and IEEE Women in Engineering.

She says participating in the organization helps her build her network.

“I’ve met people through conferences from everywhere across the world,” she says. “I was able to expose what I do to a broader audience through speaking engagements, panels, and the papers I’m working on. I love being able to bring people into my world so they can understand exactly what it is that I do, and hope to encourage them to want to do the same.”

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

Edmund Melson Clarke, Creator of Model Checking, Dies at 75

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/edmund-melson-clarke-creator-of-model-checking-dies-at-75

Edmund Melson Clarke

Model-checking creator

Fellow, 75; died on 22 December

Clarke was a computer-science pioneer who helped develop model checking, an automated method for finding design errors in computer hardware and software. Intel, Microsoft, and other companies use the method to verify designs for integrated circuits, computer networks, and software.

He died from COVID-19 complications.

Clarke initially studied mathematics and received a bachelor’s degree in the discipline in 1967 from the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, and a master’s degree in 1968 from Duke University, in Durham, N.C. But when he was a doctoral student at Cornell, he changed his field of study to computer science. He conducted his thesis research under the guidance of Robert L. Constable, a pioneer in making connections between mathematical logic and computing.

After graduating in 1976, Clarke joined Duke as a computer science professor. In 1978 he began teaching computer science at Harvard. While there, Clarke and his doctoral student E. Allen Emerson conducted research on methods that could be used to effectively verify how a system performs without errors. In 1981 they published a paper on model checking, “Design and Synthesis of Synchronization Skeletons Using Branching Time Temporal Logic,” in Logics of Programs.

In 1995 Clarke led a team that tested the method on an IEEE standard for interconnecting computer components. They discovered flaws in the standard’s design—which spurred the tech industry to use model checking on its systems.

Clarke, along with Emerson and computer scientist Joseph Sifakis, received the 2007 Association for Computing Machinery A.M. Turing Award.

In 1982 Clarke joined Carnegie Mellon, where he worked as a professor of computer science and electrical engineering. He was named an emeritus professor in 2015.

He served on the editorial board of IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering.

If you’ve had a family member who was an IEEE member pass away due to complications from COVID-19 and would like an obituary published by The Institute, contact the editors: [email protected].

Joseph R. Asik

Research scientist

Life senior member, 82; died 17 July

From a young age, Asik was rarely known to leave home without pens, pencils, and a Swiss Army knife, ready to tackle life’s problems, according to his obituary.

He was awarded several scholarships after graduating high school and received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1959 from the Case Institute of Technology, now Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland. During his time as an undergraduate, he was an intern one summer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee, where he worked on a secret atomic project, according to the obituary.

Asik was a research scientist at Ford for 30 years. While there, he was granted 22 U.S. patents.

After he left Ford, he joined Lawrence Technological University, in Southfield, Mich., as a part-time lecturer on automotive and electrical engineering.

Asik had many interests and hobbies including amateur radio, gardening, and cooking Hungarian food.

He received both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Robert F. Heile

Co-founder of an IEEE Wi-Fi standards group

Life member, 75; died 24 September

Heile was serving as chairman of the IEEE 802.15 Working Group for Wireless Specialty Networks at the time of his death. The group, which he co-founded in 1990, is developing standards for the Internet of Things.

After receiving a Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Heile joined chemical manufacturer Union Carbide in Houston. He left there in 1980 and became vice president of business operations and transmission products at Codex, in Canton, Mass., where he oversaw development of modems and wireless networking devices. In the 1990s he was a vice president at several Massachusetts companies including TyLink and Windata.

He joined BBN Technologies, in Cambridge, Mass., in 1997 with the mission of developing business strategies to commercialize the company’s wireless technologies, according to his obituary. After the company was acquired by GTE—now part of Verizon—Heile left to become a consultant.

His work at BBN led Heile to get interested in technology standards, according to his obituary.

Heile helped create the ZigBee Alliance, an IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization group responsible for developing and promoting the Internet of Things. He served as its chairman and CEO until 2013, when he joined the Wi-SUN Alliance as director of standards and chief representative for business development in greater China.He received a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, in Ohio, and completed his master’s degree and doctorate in physics at Johns Hopkins.

Noah Hershkowitz

Plasma physicist pioneer

Fellow, 79; died 13 November

Hershkowitz’s research broadened the understanding of the fundamental properties of plasma. His pioneering work on emissive probes, which are small electrodes that are heated until they emit electrons, resulted in the development of a technique for determining plasma potential. This charge of electric and magnetic fields surrounding the plasma can be analyzed by the current emitted by the emissive probe. In 2002 Hershkowitz became the first to measure plasma potential throughout the sheath and presheath—the regions surrounding the plasma with positive ions and neutral atoms—in a weakly collisional plasma made from weakly charged particles.

Hershkowitz began his career in nuclear physics. He changed his field of study because plasma physics “looked like it would be more fun,” according to his obituary.

He was a professor at several institutions including the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Iowa, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, before retiring in 2012.

Mentor to more than 50 doctoral students, he was named professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin after retiring.

He received numerous awards during his career, including the 2004 James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics, the highest honor afforded by the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics, and the 2015 IEEE Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award for innovative research and inspiring education in basic and applied plasma science.He received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1962 from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., and in 1966 earned a Ph.D. in physics at Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore.

Thomas D. Walsh

Power systems engineer

Life senior member, 90; died 13 November

Walsh joined Boston Edison in 1950 as an apprentice lineman and retired in 1993 as manager of transmission and distribution. After retiring, he worked as a consultant in the United States and Asia.

Walsh also was a professor at Quincy College, in Massachusetts, and he served on Northeastern University’s RE-SEED program committee, which aims to improve science education in public schools.

He holds several U.S. and Canadian patents and authored numerous technical papers and journal articles.

Walsh had been a Boy Scouts of America leader since 1969 and was awarded the 1999 Silver Beaver Award, which recognizes distinguished service in the organization.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern, in Boston, and a master’s degree from Lesley University, in Cambridge, Mass.

Pinar Boyraz Baykas


Senior member, 39; died 14 November

Boyraz Baykas was an associate professor at the Chalmers University of Technology, in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the time of her death. She conducted research in the applications of mathematical modeling, mechatronics, signal processing, and control theory.

After receiving her Ph.D. in mechatronics in 2008 from Loughborough University, in England, Boyraz Baykas joined the University of Texas at Dallas as a postdoctoral research associate. Her research focused on driver behavior modeling and active safety-system development.

She joined Istanbul Technical University as an assistant professor in 2010 and conducted research in applied robotics. In 2014 she was awarded a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which aims to promote international scientific collaboration. Through the fellowship, in 2016 Boyraz Baykas joined Leibniz University Hannover, in Germany, where she continued her research.

“Her effort to survive in a competitive academic world will hopefully pave the way for younger generations of women and help improve gender balance in academia,” Marco Dozza, her research colleague at Chalmers, told The Institute.

She received two bachelor’s degrees in 2004—one in mechanical engineering and the other in textile engineering—from Istanbul Technical University.

F.C. Kohli

Former Tata Consultancy CEO

IEEE member, 96; died 26 November

Kohli is referred to as the “Father of the Indian IT Industry” for his contributions to establishing and growing the field through his leadership of Tata Consultancy Services. He led a team that installed a computer system to control the power lines between Mumbai and Pune.

Kohli received a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Punjab, in Lahore, India. During his final year at the school, he joined the Indian Navy. While waiting for his assignment, however, he applied for and was awarded a scholarship to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Canada. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1948 and joined Canadian General Electric in Toronto. While working there, he pursued a master’s degree in electrical engineering at MIT.

After graduating in 1950, Kohli began working in power system operations at Ebasco, the Connecticut Valley Electric Exchange, and the New England Electric System. After a year, he returned to India and joined the Tata Electric Co. in Mumbai, where he helped set up a load-dispatching system to help manage the company’s operations. He was promoted to general superintendent in 1963 and eventually became deputy general manager. When he was promoted to director, he introduced advanced engineering and management techniques for power systems operations.

In 1969, at the request of J.R.D. Tata, chairman of the company, Kohli helped set up Tata Consultancy Services, a subsidiary that provides IT services and business solutions. It is now one of the world’s largest IT software services providers, according to an article on business news website Mint.

Through the new service, Kohli led the installation of the computer system between Mumbai and Pune.

Tata was only the third utility company in the world to install such a system, according to Kohli’s obituary.

Kohli became the company’s first CEO and spent 30 years in the position until stepping down in 1996.

He was the 1995–1996 president and chairman of NASSCOM, an Indian IT services advocacy body in New Delhi, and then served on the organization’s executive committee. He helped shape global partnerships and showcase opportunities to deliver IT services from India, according to the obituary.

Norman Abramson

ALOHAnet developer

Life Fellow, 88; died 1 December

Abramson led the team at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in Honolulu, that developed ALOHAnet, which allowed computers to transmit packets over a shared channel as soon as they had information to send. ALOHAnet was the first use of wireless communications for a data network.

Abramson began his career as a research engineer in 1953 at Hughes Aircraft in Westchester, Calif. Two years later, he joined the faculty at Stanford and taught at the university for 10 years. Some of his early research was in radar signal characteristics, sampling theory, frequency modulation, digital communication channels, pattern recognition, machine learning, and computing for seismic analysis.

He was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966 before joining the University of Hawaii in 1968 as a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

When he joined the university, he was tasked with developing radio technology to help the school send data from its remote geographic location to the continental United States, and vice versa, according to his obituary.

ALOHAnet was deployed in 1971, and its protocol is now widely used in nearly all forms of wireless communications.

Abramson retired in 1994 and helped found Aloha Networks in San Francisco, a communications technology supplier.

He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard in 1953, a master’s degree in physics in 1955 from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1958 from Stanford.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

The Visionary Designer Behind Google’s Warehouse-Scale Data Centers

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/the-visionary-designer-behind-googles-warehousescale-data-centers

THE INSTITUTE Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Luiz André Barroso seemed destined to become a physician. After all, his grandfather, father, uncle, and aunt were all health professionals. But when he was 8 years old, he decided he wanted to become an electrical engineer.

“I don’t advise anybody to make career decisions when they are 8 years old,” Barroso says, laughing. But his early determination paid off. Today he is a vice president of engineering at Google in Mountain View, Calif.

The IEEE senior member credits his grandfather, a surgeon in the Brazilian Navy, with inspiring him to become an engineer. His grandfather’s hobby was radio, and Barroso would spend hours helping him fix radios and build microphones and antennas at the family’s cacao farm.

Barroso, who has worked for Google for nearly 20 years, heads the office of cross-Google engineering, responsible for technical roadmaps that cut across multiple product lines. He has worked on some of the company’s most popular products including its Web index search and the Google Maps navigation app.

The Google Fellow is best known as the designer of the company’s data centers, which house hundreds of thousands of computer servers and disk drives. The facilities have brought us cloud computing, powerful search engines, and faster Internet services.

For his pioneering work on data centers, Barroso was named this year’s recipient of the Eckert-Mauchly Award from the Association for Computing Machinery and the IEEE Computer Society. The award recognizes contributions to computer and digital systems architecture.

In this interview with The Institute, he talks about what led to the need for the huge data centers and what he’s working on these days.


After Barroso received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in 1989, he was accepted to the University of Southern California’s computing engineering program, in Los Angeles, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1996.

His plan was to return to Brazil to become an engineering professor, but the country was experiencing an economic downturn. Universities weren’t hiring. He got an interview in 1995 to work for Digital Equipment Corp.’s Western Research Laboratory (WRL), in Palo Alto, Calif.

“Many people may not appreciate it today, but Digital was an amazingly innovative company in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s,” he says. “I couldn’t believe that these folks wanted to interview me, and then I couldn’t believe they gave me a job. To this day, I don’t remember being as thrilled with a professional accomplishment as I was the day they invited me to interview.”

The WRL was small and prestigious, Barroso says, and the 20 or so researchers there did applied research, which he liked.

“There I found some of the top researchers in computer architecture, which was my field of study at the time,” he says. “I had the mentorship, and I had the resources to begin investigating how to build hardware to run more modern applications.”

He explains that in the 1970s and early ’80s, large-scale computers were designed to run high-performance number-crunching applications used for weather forecasting and simulating nuclear reactions. But in the early 1990s, demand grew for high-performance computers capable of running business applications and Web services.

“I was really interested in figuring out if the hardware we had been designing for numerical workloads for the last two decades was a good fit for this new field or not. And it turns out that it was not,” he says. “We were designing in the ’90s for the market of the ’80s.”

Barroso researched various workloads to see how Digital’s hardware could support them.

“One we were investigating was AltaVista, which was, in some ways, the world’s first bona fide search engine,” he says. “I didn’t know at the time that I would eventually join the company that became almost synonymous with search engines.”


Compaq bought Digital in 1998 and then canceled the microprocessor project that Barroso had been working on for more than two years.

“I was bummed and thought, Wow, this is a tough business, this microprocessor design business,” he says. “You invest years, and at any one point in time the economics of the situation may change. There’s a big window of vulnerability for your projects to be canceled, so I began to think about doing something different.”

Two of Barroso’s former Digital colleagues, Jeffrey Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat, encouraged him to join them at Google.

Barroso says he didn’t think he would be a good fit there.

“Are you insane?” he says he asked the two. “I design chips. You build search engines. Why in the world would you think I’ll be useful? But, of course, they knew that I had an interest in high-performance applications. So I decided: What the heck, let’s give that a try.”

As it turned out, Google was about to become much more of a hardware company than it had been.


When Barroso joined Google in 2001, the company—like others—housed its servers at leased space in third-party data centers, which were basically cages in which a few racks of computing equipment were placed. In 2004, as the economy recovered from the dot-com crash, demand began to grow for space at the facilities. At the same time, Google’s search business was expanding rapidly, and it recently had launched its email product, Gmail.

Those services, Barroso says, required a building’s worth of machines to run. And the hardware and the software together had to deliver the performance needed—which he says could be achieved only by taking a “holistic approach” to design and deployment. In other words, he says, “The data center itself had to be treated as one massive warehouse-scale computer, built from the ground up.

“At the time,” he says, “we didn’t know that we were inventing almost a new kind of computer.”

The first such data center, in The Dalles, Ore., was completed in 2006.

Barroso says the first time he set foot in Google’s massive, new data center, there were machines, cables, and networking hardware as far as the eye could see.

“I saw something that I had only dreamed about during the design phase,” he says. “It was an amazing moment.”

From a sustainability standpoint, Google’s facilities were efficient. The centers implemented fault-tolerance software and hardware infrastructure to make the servers more resilient against disruption.

“If you offer an Internet service, people expect it to be up all the time,” Barroso says.

He coauthored a book on the architecture in 2009, The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines.

“Luiz joined at just the right moment, when data centers and energy-efficient servers were becoming more and more important to Google,” says Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of Google’s technical infrastructure. “In a span of just two to three years, Luiz and his team transformed the design of data centers, reducing the cooling overhead of our data centers by a factor of five versus conventional designs.”


Barroso’s team explored several areas for improving efficiency. One was to allow the data center floor to run at warmer temperatures—which can actually help cooling systems run more efficiently without sacrificing component reliability, Barroso says.

He is looking for ways to improve computing efficiency by speeding up communication. Today’s computers can deal well with events that take milliseconds, such as accessing a disk drive or sending a message over the Internet—or nanoseconds, like loading a piece of data from main memory. But more and more events in a data center are happening at the midrange microsecond scale, such as sending a message from one machine inside the building to another.

“For a collection of servers to perform better than one server, the efficiency of the communication between these servers has to be very high,” Barroso explains. “You can throw 10 servers instead of one at a problem, but you may get only two times the performance improvement if communication performance is poor. Addressing that microsecond scale will address the scalability and, therefore, the efficiency of data center scale workloads.”

Microsecond time scale events are a relatively new thing in computing, he says, and the computer industry has yet to react to it.

“It hasn’t figured out how to make things like that be efficient,” he says. “By keeping this issue unaddressed we hurt the efficiency and the ease of programmability of big data center scale workloads.”

In “Attack of the Killer Microseconds,” a 2017 article in Communications of the ACM, he and his coauthors described the problem and pointed out ways that the computer industry could solve it.

Other projects Barroso is leading include Google and Apple’s free contact-tracing app for COVID-19, the Exposure Notifications System. The app, which runs on iPhones and Android phones, exchanges private keys with other phones via Bluetooth. A person who tests positive for COVID-19 can press a button to send an alert to phones that have been in close proximity with her phone in an anonymous fashion. Public health officials in about 16 countries and 20 U.S. states have released the app to citizens.

“It’s been really a point of pride that we’re able to, in a small way, be part of the arsenal that public health authorities have to fight the pandemic,” Barroso says.


Barroso joined IEEE when he was a graduate student. “All the clever people I knew were members of the IEEE,” he says, “so I decided that if I wanted to behave like a clever person in college, I should become an IEEE member.”

He says he stays with the organization because IEEE gives him a sense of community through its conferences, speaker panels, and publishing opportunities.

“It provided me with this community of people to exchange ideas with,” he says. “Even though I’ve never been an academic, the forums that IEEE provides for industrial technologists to interact with academics is really valuable. I’ve taken full advantage of that.”

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

Customizable Shoes from This Startup Could Help Stamp Out Plastic Waste

Post Syndicated from Prachi Patel original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/customizable-shoes-from-this-startup-could-help-stamp-out-plastic-waste

THE INSTITUTE The plastic plague in Nigeria, like in many other countries, is visible and inescapable. Even moderate rain showers in Nigeria cause flooding because the drainage system is choked with trash, most of it bags and other items made from plastic, says Fela Akinse, who lives in the country’s largest city, Lagos.

Akinse wants to tackle the plastic-pollution challenge, one shoe at a time. He is cofounder and creative director of Salubata, which designs and makes modular shoes from recycled plastic. The footwear uses a durable sole made of an algae-based foam. The interchangeable uppers are woven from plastic threads and attach to the soles with a zipper. By simply zipping on new uppers, wearers can swap styles and colors.

“Instead of you buying extra shoes, you can just have [several different] top flaps,” Akinse says, “so you have a full wardrobe of shoes that uses less material.”

In addition to taking up less closet space, Salubata’s patented footwear also saves room in a suitcase and reduces the luggage’s weight, making the shoes ideal for travel, he says. Simply pack a few different uppers to match your work and leisure outfits.

The Lagos-based startup was named an IEEE Entrepreneurship Star at this year’s virtual competition. The award recognizes ventures centered on engineering-driven innovation, aligning with IEEE’s core purpose: to foster technology, innovation, and excellence for the benefit of humanity. In addition to the recognition, awardees become honorary IEEE members for a year.

Salubata’s goal, Akinse says, is to help people and the planet: “I wanted to do something that impacts an everyday part of our lives. I’ve always seen plastic waste around me and have always looked for ways to help the environment.”


Akinse’s passion for the environment led him to study environmental toxicology at the University of Lagos, but he also had a keen fascination about the intersection of art and science. So besides his science classes, which he loved, he pursued dancing, clothing design, and other creative interests. “And now I’m in fashion,” he says. “It’s all about connecting the dots.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental toxicology in 2014 and, two years later, a master’s degree in environmental toxicology and pollution management from the university. For his master’s thesis project, he estimated the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—health-harming compounds found in crude oil and gasoline—in sediment and invertebrate creatures found at the bottom of the Lagos Lagoon.

He researched a novel crude oil remediation technique using iron oxide nanoparticles derived from seaweed. Oil spills are a major threat to marine ecosystems and human health, and the nanoparticles recently were found to be effective at removing oil from water. Making the nanoparticles typically involves harmful chemicals, and he was experimenting with a greener production method that used a seaweed extract instead.

All through school, Akinse’s interest in clothing and shoes tugged at him, so he designed leather shoes and accessories on the side. In 2012 he and his friend Adetona Omokanye—one of the company’s cofounders but then a photojournalist who was studying marine pollution and management at the university—started manufacturing and selling the products.


Akinse’s interests in the environment and fashion soon collided. He found out the average weight of shoes is around 0.5 kilograms, which is also the amount of plastic waste each U.S. citizen creates every day on average. Then he learned other staggering stats about the booming footwear market: On average, each American buys up to five pairs of shoes per year, and the global footwear industry produces about 30 billion pairs of shoes annually. Most of the shoes are made of petroleum-based plastics, foams, and rubbers.

On the flip side of the demand for new petroleum-derived material for shoes is the staggering amount of plastics that go to a landfill every year.

“In one year alone, over 381 million [metric tons] of plastic waste is produced around the world,” Akinse says. “And the sad part is only 9 percent of this waste is recycled. So we thought: Why can’t we convert plastic waste into shoes?

“The problem with plastic waste is the enormous volume. This could reduce the volume of plastic waste.”

Two years into his job as a scientist at World Environmental Systems, an engineering and consulting firm, he decided to quit and turn his full attention to building a sustainable-shoe business. He founded Salubata in 2018 with Omokanye and environmental scientist James Babalola.

They are not the first to think of making footwear from recycled plastic. Many shoe companies—including Adidas and other large brands, as well as newer companies such as Rothy’s—use recycled and sustainable materials. But their products tend to be expensive. So Akinse pursued the modular-shoe idea—which keeps costs low. He says the company also is differentiated by its shoe designs, which combine traditional African art with modern styles.

“We decided to occupy the niche for low-cost recycled-plastic shoes that benefit people and the planet,” he says. “Whether you’re environment-conscious or not, we wanted to make them appealing.

“The first thing we sell to customers is the design and modular idea. Not too many people really care about the environment, but if we get people to purchase these shoes, through that we can educate them about environmental issues.”

The company donates 5 percent of its profits to charitable causes that empower women and help children facing malnutrition.


Salubata is now a seed-stage company with 11 employees including nine artisans in Lagos who make the shoes. Having bootstrapped so far, the company is seeking seed funding to scale up manufacturing and sell in major African cities and then Europe and the United States, Akinse says.

Salubata has sold around 1,500 sets—each set is one pair of soles plus two different uppers—mostly through its website. Its goal is to produce around 5 million such sets annually by 2023.

The company has garnered honors in addition to the recent IEEE award. The recognition has helped it gain funding and customers. The big benefit of the IEEE honorary membership?

“You interviewing me right now,” Akinse says. “The IEEE is a large network of intelligent, well-connected people. We believe it’s a big opportunity to easily connect to different communities.”

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

Infrared Fever Detectors Used for COVID-19 Aren’t As Accurate As You Think

Post Syndicated from Erik B. Beall original https://spectrum.ieee.org/news-from-around-ieee/the-institute/ieee-member-news/infrared-fever-detectors-used-for-covid19-arent-as-accurate-as-you-think

IEEE COVID-19 coverage logo, link to landing page

This is an edited guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the position of IEEE or The Institute.

THE INSTITUTE As part of the effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, countries have implemented body-temperature screenings at airports, train stations, and other public spaces to detect fever. Many of the systems include the use of infrared (IR), or thermographic, cameras such as those featured in The Institute article “Thermal Cameras Are Being Outfitted to Detect Fever and Conduct Contact Tracing for COVID-19.”

The market has been flooded with infrared fever-screening products, but almost none has undergone independent testing. Demand has been so great, many companies rushed into the field without understanding the accuracy requirements, and they’ve used technology that cannot possibly measure body temperature well enough. In many cases, their products are unable to tell the difference between core temperatures of 35 and 40 °C, or distinguish between hypothermia and a severe fever.

Some of the companies, under pressure to deliver, succumbed to the practice of averaging the measurement with a normal 37 °C. In the worst cases, they ignored inaccurate measurements and reported normal temperatures—which is as unethical as producing a COVID-19 test kit that always gives a negative result no matter what.

Typical accuracy for thermographic cameras is ±2 °C, with a few claiming accuracy as good as ±1 °C. Unfortunately, though, 1 °C accuracy isn’t good enough. For fever detection to work, core body temperature needs to be estimated with an accuracy of at least ±0.5 °C. Most systems don’t reach that benchmark.

Also, a body temperature reading is dependent on the ambient air temperature, and our assessment revealed that in typical testing areas a device that doesn’t compensate for that—which is nearly all devices—will detect at best 15 percent of fevers.

Another surprising problem is the pixel temperatures are not independent, and the variable amount of heat given off by the rest of the face can distort the heat given off by the area used for an accurate measurement by more than 1 °C, depending on the system and how cold or covered the rest of the face is. This problem isn’t widely discussed in the thermal-imaging industry.

In fact, many system designers aren’t even aware of it, because it’s subtle enough one could spend a career designing thermography systems and never see it, until accuracy better than 2 °C is required. Once you know how it works, it’s easy to replicate.

There is good news: It is possible to perform accurate fever screening. Our research shows that by designing and integrating every component, we can detect up to 95 percent of fevers.


There are three types of fever screenings commonly used in North America. Each comes with its own limitations.

Clinicians typically use oral thermometers during medical visits. Unfortunately, high-quality clinical-grade thermometers are not widely available. Furthermore, it’s not efficient or safe to use them outside clinical environments, because the operator needs to be in close proximity to possibly infected people. Also, if people drink something hot or cold before getting their temperature taken or cannot breathe through their nose and must open their mouth, that will affect the results.

Noncontact infrared thermometers (NCITs), commonly known as forehead screeners, are being used at fitness centers, schools, and businesses. Many of you probably have had your temperature taken by one recently.

Some NCITs, including those with U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, struggle to tell the difference between people with hypothermia (35 °C) and those with a severe fever (40 °C), even when operated properly in a controlled environment.

Even though NCIT sensors are accurate, they don’t account for how air temperature affects their measurements. NCITs also must be operated at a consistent distance to their target, and unfortunately foreheads vary too much. If NCITs were to report temperatures in real-world conditions, often they would be absurd. Some devices do report absurd readings, while others seem to report close-to-normal temperatures most of the time. The latter devices might do a lot of averaging of temperatures. For whatever reason, some manufacturers apparently have decided that rather than figure out how to get accurate readings, they could fudge the numbers and no one would be likely to notice.

Some operators do report the ridiculous readings, while others simply ignore impossibly low readings. That makes many NCITs useless for clinical purposes. Unfortunately, though, because NCITs are the easiest thermometers to obtain, many businesses use them to meet local government requirements.

The thermal imaging field is where we are seeing lots of new products hit the market. The products can work from a safe distance automatically. Near room temperature, everything is glowing in the far infrared electromagnetic spectrum by an amount proportional to its emissivity. Thermal sensing can detect and convert the measured light into a temperature.

An NCIT uses a single pixel sensor, but it must average all temperatures it sees in its field of view—which is why it must be operated so close to the skin. Thermal-imaging systems, on the other hand, use an array of identical pixel sensors to produce images of the luminous intensity, or amount of thermal light falling on each pixel per second per solid angle. To take someone’s temperature, an infrared device must first acquire an accurate surface temperature measurement of a patch of skin. Core body temperature can then be extrapolated, using a previously calibrated relationship between the skin temperature, air temperature, and core body temperature.

The system works because there is a consistently thin level of insulation between core blood and air at the inner canthus—often referred to as the tear duct—the region where the eye meets the bridge of the nose.

In our studies and in data reported by other researchers, we know the surface temperature tracks the core temperature but is reduced by a predictable fraction of the difference between core and ambient air temperature. In fact, a 4 °C change in the room air temperature will change the core temperature reading by a full 1 °C.

Despite manufacturer claims, no thermal imager has been through the FDA’s device-approval process specifically for fever screening. Because of the urgent need for devices that could help fight the pandemic, the FDA released guidance in April declaring the agency did not intend to object to the sale and use of thermal-imaging devices.

However, the agency stated that such devices should (not must) follow an established standard (IEC 80601-2-59:2017) and technical report (ISO/TR 13154:2017) for thermographic fever detection. The standards were designed to minimize mistakes in performing fever detection using off-the-shelf thermographic cameras and IR calibration equipment; no device existed that was explicitly designed for that purpose.

Following the standards, however, is no guarantee the system will be able to detect feverish temperatures reliably. For example, the ISO standard allows the device to take measurements in the same manner even if air temperature changes as much as 4 °C. As discussed before, such a change will throw off the measurement enough to miss mild fevers or have at least a 50 percent false-positive rate.

Nevertheless, thermal imaging is the most promising technology, because it can operate automatically from a safe distance and, importantly, has no additional per-scan costs.


To reach or exceed ±0.5 °C accuracy, an IR calibration source—a blackbody—must be set to a temperature near the desired surface temperature and placed in the field of view. However, this level of accuracy will still have either a high level of false positives or false negatives. It could be higher than 20 percent, in fact. A better target is an accuracy of ±0.3 °C—which would bring the percentage of errors to single digits.

With considerable engineering effort, ±0.3 °C can be achieved in laboratory conditions. Far more challenging are real-world conditions, especially considering the pixel luminance dependence that throws off the measurement by a degree or more if not compensated for.

By redesigning the system from the ground up—in particular designing a new calibration process to compensate for pixel luminance effects—we at Fever Inspect have demonstrated ±0.3 °C accuracy is achievable in real-world conditions.

To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to calibrate and correct for the pixel luminance artifact, which is invisible in the lab but in the real world can render a system useless. Furthermore, by incorporating dual temperature references (blackbodies), a time-of-flight distance sensor array, and an ambient air temperature sensor—all linked together in a single system—we can maintain a calibrated system far better than one made up of separate components. Finally, we have developed a heated air probe that allows us to measure local air thermal conductivity, which otherwise can vary enough to throw off the surface-to-core temperature process when the air isn’t perfectly still.


Just as important as accuracy is how the device is used. The practice of checking people’s temperatures when they enter a building has changed little since the first systems were developed for the 2003 SARS outbreak. The process has two major problems. The relationship between surface and core temperature can be thrown off by a person’s recent exposure to hot or cold air. Also, a single measurement misses the fact that a person’s core temperature varies throughout the day and that fevers develop over time. Combined, the two problems mean the old method can miss fevers.

Consequently, we advocate a more routine monitoring model that calls for taking people’s temperatures two or three times during the day with a self-temperature check station near areas where people often walk by, or at a building’s entrance.

The increased testing improves the chances of detecting a just-developing fever, which could easily be missed by a scan in the morning, and it means you won’t run the risk of being unable to detect anything meaningful because people are still warming up after coming in from the cold.

Until the first thermographic device goes through the FDA process for its intended use, it will remain difficult for the agency to change how it regulates thermographic fever detection. Several companies have constructed devices with off-the-shelf equipment that follow the IEC/ISO standards.

The current situation provides an opportunity to improve on the old ways of temperature screening so we all can be ready for the next pandemic, as well as for other situations that might need accurate, noncontact temperature measurements.

IEEE Senior Member Erik Beall is a cofounder of Fever Inspect in Eden Prairie, Minn. The company, which develops thermographic technology, has devised a simple set of tests for thermographic fever detection to guide its development.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

Startup’s New Type of Magnetic Sensor Could Make High-Performance Brain Imaging More Affordable and Portable

Post Syndicated from Prachi Patel original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/startups-new-type-of-magnetic-sensor-could-make-highperformance-brain-imaging-more-affordable-and-portable

THE INSTITUTE Growing up in San Diego, Nishita Deka enjoyed science, art, and building contraptions with K’nex construction toys. Up until high school, she wanted to be a pediatrician, but then she found herself enjoying her physics classes a lot more than biology. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in physics, she decided, would allow her to expand her skill set and “be a launching pad for whatever I wanted to do later on.”

With her startup, Sonera Magnetics, Deka, an IEEE member, has found a way to combine her interests in medicine, physics, and engineering. The company, based in Berkeley, Calif., is developing a new type of magnetic sensor that it hopes will make high-performance brain imaging more affordable and portable.

“We are trying to detect brain activity using cheaper, faster methods that are still high-performance,” she says. “That’s our North Star. We do a kind of functional imaging, a direct imaging of activities in the brain.”

Brain sensing is commonly done today using electroencephalography, which detects the electrical signals from neurons firing in the brain via electrodes placed on the scalp. EEG can help diagnose epilepsy, brain damage, tumors, and sleep disorders. But electrical signals weaken as they pass through brain fluids and the skull, so the signal outside the brain is fairly low quality.

Magnetoencephalography, which senses the magnetic fields produced by the brain’s electrical impulses, has a much higher spatial resolution. But MEG machines typically rely on superconducting sensors that need to be cryogenically cooled to -270 °C. They also require bulky metal shielding to block out external magnetic signals such as Earth’s magnetic field. The large machines can cost up to US $3 million each, and to power and maintain them costs tens of thousands of dollars every year, Deka says.

Sonera is developing sensors that do not require such cooling. The sensors leverage the strong interaction between magnetic thin films and high-frequency sound waves to measure weak magnetic fields. The solid-state magnetic sensors could lead to room-temperature MEG systems that do not require shielding—enabling faster, less expensive imaging of brain activity without sacrificing accuracy.

“It could change how MEG is used entirely and make it much more accessible,” says Deka, who is developing the technology with cofounder Dominic Labanowski, the company’s chief technology officer.

Only 40 or so MEG machines are installed in U.S. hospitals and research centers today, Deka says. Neurosurgeons typically use them to scan an epilepsy patient’s brain before surgery to pinpoint the location of epileptic activity.

A portable MEG system could pave the way for easier remote monitoring of patients for days and weeks, giving accurate diagnoses of chronic conditions such as epilepsy, or for sleep tracking, Deka says.

The technology ultimately could benefit basic neuroscience, she says, by allowing scientists to see “what’s going in the brain when people are just doing regular daily activities in their normal environment.”

Or it could open up entirely new applications down the road. EEG, for instance, is being studied for brain-control interfaces, which would allow people to use their brain signals to control devices; MEG, because of its higher resolution, would enable more sensitive brain-control devices.


Deka says she always has been interested in understanding the fundamentals of how things work. Her parents, who both studied physics, encouraged her scientific curiosity, as did her high school physics teacher. At the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, she conducted undergraduate research in IEEE Senior Member Andrea Martin Armani’s laboratory, making and characterizing silicon chip-based microlasers that are used for detecting nanoparticles and in optical communications. Armani was influential in Deka’s decision to go to graduate school.

Deka went on to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer sciences in 2019 at the University of California, Berkeley. Her graduate research project focused on the development of nanoscale devices for high-voltage switching and portable electron sources for sensing applications.

While at UC Berkeley, Deka met Labanowski, who was researching device applications of acoustically driven ferromagnetic resonance, which is the coupling between magnetic materials and high-frequency sound waves. The two researchers’ ideas and values clicked, and the duo teamed up with Labanowski’s Ph.D. advisor, Sayeef Salahuddin, an IEEE Fellow, to launch Sonera Magnetics in 2018.

The team’s science was sound, but they quickly encountered hurdles inherent in technology development.

“One big challenge is that developing new hardware takes a lot of time, even just to demonstrate basic capabilities,” Deka says. “Another is raising capital.”

Then there was the unexpected learning curve of going from graduate student to business executive—“learning business skills and thinking about the company as not just a technical problem but also a business challenge,” she says.

To get a boost, the company applied to Cyclotron Road, an entrepreneurial fellowship program that provides two years of funding as well as access to research labs, mentors, and a network of investors and experts. The program proved valuable, allowing the founders to nurture their budding technology and bring it out of the laboratory. It also gave them time to learn how to become entrepreneurs, Deka says.

During the fellowship, which ended in July, the company received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Deka and Labanowski are now getting the company off the ground and hiring their first employees.

Sonera Magnetics recently became a partner on a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory project that aims to use neurotechnology to help pilots train and acquire new skills more quickly. Sonera’s role is to develop a brain-machine interface that combines the speed of EEG with the higher spatial resolution of MEG. Researchers could use the interface to gather data on brain activity when a human subject is in the process of learning.


The path from engineer to entrepreneur wasn’t an easy one, but Deka has taken it in stride. She recently was a panelist at an IEEE Entrepreneurship webinar, “New Tools, New Devices, New Fabs: Three Change-makers and Three Pathways in One Burgeoning Innovation Ecosystem,” in which she spoke about her experiences launching a microelectronics company.

IEEE, which she joined as an undergraduate student, has been a great community to stay connected with, she says. She joined the organization to stay up to date on emerging trends in the electronics field, but now she’s “diving into the entrepreneurship side,” she says.

“I’m learning more about the entrepreneurship work going on in the IEEE community,” she says. “We are doing a lot of scientific work in microelectronics at Sonera, and the IEEE is a good way to stay connected with others who are doing similar work.”

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

Nobel Laureate Arthur Ashkin, the ‘Father of Optical Tweezers,’ Dies at 98

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/nobel-laureate-arthur-ashkin-the-father-of-optical-tweezers-dies-at-98

Arthur Ashkin

Nobel laureate

Life Fellow, 98; died 21 September

Ashkin was considered “the father of optical tweezers,” according to a tribute written by the IEEE Photonics Society. Optical tweezers can capture microscopic organisms with minimal harm, helping scientists study them. He was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics for inventing the technology.

Ashkin was fascinated by light since he was a teenager, according to the society’s tribute.

He served in the U.S. Army and from 1942 to 1945 was stationed at Columbia University’s radiation lab, in New York City. There he researched high-power magnetrons for radar systems used during World War II. He also pursued a bachelor’s degree in physics at the university.

After graduating in 1947, he attended Cornell, and in 1952 he received a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. He then joined Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., and stayed at the company until he retired in 1991.

In 1960 he began working on manipulating microparticles with laser light—which resulted in the invention of optical tweezers in 1986. He and his Bell colleagues experimented on laser propagation in optical fibers. The research formed the foundation of the field of nonlinear optics in fibers, according to the tribute.

Ashkin continued his laser research with the help of Joseph Dziedzic. In 1971 they demonstrated levitation of small particles using a vertical laser beam, with gravity acting as the restoring force instead of previous experiments’ glass cell walls or counter-propagating lasers. The duo succeeded in trapping a single atom using a laser in 1985, according to the society’s tribute.

Joseph C. Veniscofski

Railroad foreman

Life member, 67; died 15 April

Veniscofski served in the U.S. Army in Alaska before becoming a foreman for the Metro-North Railroad in White Plains, N.Y. He worked for the rail service for 30 years before retiring this year.

He enjoyed cooking and baking for family and friends, according to his obituary.

Peter Excell

Telecommunications researcher and professor

Life senior member, 72; died 13 August

Excell, who used computers to simulate telecommunications systems, developed a hybrid method that enabled the accurate modeling of a phone and a human head, according to his obituary.

At the time of his death, he was professor emeritus at Wrexham Glyndŵr University, in Wales, and an honorary visiting professor at the University of Bradford, in England.

He joined the University of Bradford as a lecturer in 1989 and 10 years later, was promoted to professor of applied electromagnetics. He taught at the university until 2007, when he joined Wrexham as head of its School of Computing and Communications. While there, he also served as dean and deputy vice chancellor.

Excell continued to teach at both universities until he retired in 2015.

He also worked as a consultant, mainly for oil companies. He assessed how hazardous radio frequencies were to flammable mixtures and explosive devices, and he provided advice about electromagnetic compatibility, according to the obituary.

According to his wife, he had a lifelong interest in steam locomotives, especially narrow-gauge industrial railways and preserved railways. Family vacations often included visits to heritage railways and railway museums, she says.

Excell graduated in 1970 from the University of Reading, in England, with a bachelor’s degree in engineering science. He received a Ph.D. in electrical and electronics engineering 10 years later from the University of Bradford.

Daniel Morton

Aviation electronic control designer

Life member, 78; died 25 September

Morton graduated with a master’s degree from Wayne State University, in Detroit. He then designed aviation electronic controls at manufacturer Bendix, which was acquired by Allied Signal in 1983 and is now a part of Honeywell. He spent his entire career at the company.

After he retired, he spent time traveling and volunteering. He loved reading books about the mysteries of the universe and the human mind, according to his obituary.

Eugene Litvinov

Power systems engineer

Fellow, 70; died 25 September

Litvinov worked for more than 20 years as chief technologist at ISO New England in Holyoke, Mass.

Born in Ukraine, Litvinov began his engineering career at Kiev’s Power Systems & Network Research Design Institute as a senior researcher and engineer. He moved to the United States in 1991 and joined ISO, then New England Power Pool, in 1992 as senior engineer. He was eventually promoted to chief technologist and was responsible for system and market solutions, smart-grid strategy, and R&D. Through his work, Litvinov improved the efficiency and reliability of the power systems used by the company. He was still working at the company when he died.

Litvinov was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences this year “for development of optimization mathematics for new electricity markets and innovative applications for electric grid control, visualization, and planning.”

He was an editor of IEEE Transactions on Power Systems. Litvinov also received several best paper awards from the IEEE Power & Energy Society.

He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1973 from the National Technical University of Ukraine, in Kiev. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in EE in 1987 from Ural Federal University, in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

ISO, in collaboration with the IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship Plus Initiative and the IEEE Foundation, established a scholarship in Litvinov’s memory. The program offers money as well as work experience to undergraduate engineering students looking to pursue a career in the power industry.

Yasuto Mushiake

Inventor of self-complementarity in antennas

Life Fellow, 99; died 6 October

Mushiake in 1948 discovered the principle of self-complementarity in antennas.

“A self-complementary antenna has a geometry such that its complement (where air is replaced by metal and metal replaced by air) can exactly overlay the original structure through translation and rotation,” according to the IEEE Milestones Wiki. Self-complementary antennas, which have a nearly constant wide-range frequency, are used for TV reception, wireless broadband, and radio astronomy. The principle was recognized in 2017 with an IEEE Milestone.

Mushiake joined Tohoku University, in Sendai, Japan, as an assistant professor in 1954. There he conducted research on electromagnetic wave theory, radio propagation, and millimeter- and optical-wave transmission.

In 1956, he left Japan and became a research associate at Ohio State University, in Columbus. He returned to Tohoku University in 1960 as a professor. In 1984 he left to become president of the Tohoku Institute of Technology, also in Sendai. He retired from the school in 1989 but continued to serve as an advisor. He also advised the Matsushita Communication R&D laboratories in Sendai.

He wrote or coauthored several papers and 11 technical books. He edited and helped write the Japanese edition of the Antenna Engineering Handbook.

Mushiake received two honors from the emperor of Japan: a 1991 Order of the Sacred Treasure medal and a 1985 purple-ribbon Medal of Honor, both given to pioneers in scientific research. He also received the 1982 Medal of Honor from the Institute of Electronics, Information, and Communication Engineers.

He founded the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society’s Tokyo Chapter and served as its chair.

He was a member of several Japanese government technical committees.

Mushiake received a bachelor’s in engineering degree in electrical communications in 1944 and a Ph.D. from Tohoku University in 1954.

Donald N. Heirman

Former IEEE Standards Association president

Life Fellow, 80; died 30 October

At the time of his death, Heirman ran an electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) consulting company, which he founded in 1997 after retiring from Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J.

He had served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1965 and continued his service in the Navy Reserves until 1985. He retired with the rank of commander.

He joined Bell Labs in 1985 and worked at the company for more than 30 years. He founded its Global Product Compliance Laboratory and was in charge of its major EMC and regulatory test facility. He represented Bell Labs at the American National Standards Institute and on several international EMC standardization committees.

Heirman was active in the IEEE Standards Association, serving as its 2005–2006 president and on its board of governors and as chair of the standards development committee.

A member of the IEEE Board of Directors, he also served on the board of the IEEE EMC Society, for which he led technical committees on measurements and the smart grid.

He received the 2018 IEEE Richard M. Emberson Award “for leadership and service to industry and the IEEE and for distinguished service to the development, viability, advancement, and pursuit of the technical objectives of the IEEE.”

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

IEEE President’s Column: Amid Global Uncertainty, IEEE Steps Up

Post Syndicated from Toshio Fukuda original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/ieee-presidents-column-amid-global-uncertainty-ieee-steps-up

IEEE COVID-19 coverage logo, link to landing page

THE INSTITUTE As 2020 draws to a close, I look back on my year as IEEE president and marvel at what have been 12 world-changing, paradigm-shifting months. Throughout this period one thing became quite apparent: IEEE is more than just our technical conferences, publications, and standards. IEEE is a vibrant, engaged, international community growing every year and contributing more diverse, insightful, and essential work than ever before. This year our community has come together in new ways, faced the challenges of a global pandemic, and emerged even stronger.

The year demonstrated the impact that professional engineers and technologists have had on society. We have witnessed amazing engineering developments and important medical and technological breakthroughs. We have stayed connected and engaged, leveraging computing and communications to allow critical work to continue while keeping individuals and families safe. The challenges and changes we have witnessed in local communities, across nations, and around the world confirm that the work of professional engineers, technologists, educators, young professionals, and students preparing for technical careers will continue to be in high demand and have a great impact.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you who proudly call yourselves IEEE members. Your enthusiasm in being members, in joining together in virtual communities, participating in our webinars, writing for our journals, and moving our professions forward is greatly appreciated. We will continue to look for ways to improve IEEE’s products, our communications, and our advocacy. We will also continue to engage the public, policymakers, and the news media about the important work that you and your colleagues do each and every day.

I want to acknowledge the many volunteer leaders who have served on the boards of our major committees, sections, societies, and councils and thank all who agreed to dedicate their time to the work being done by our regions, chapters, and branches. As a whole, there were thousands of volunteers at all levels this year who said “yes” when asked to serve. The profession owes all of you a debt of gratitude for your efforts.

Finally, I would like to recognize our professional staff from around the world and thank them for their efforts in continuing to successfully meet the challenge of supporting our mission and our members while working under unique circumstances.


Despite the loss of face-to-face opportunities and interaction, this year IEEE became more vital than ever. IEEE operations not only continued but also intensified to meet the increased need for access to technical resources; the need for swifter dissemination of pandemic-related papers; a seamless transition to online platforms for conferences and events; and, perhaps most importantly, embracing new ways to connect and communicate.

Our membership has remained strong, our resources were in high demand, and we worked to increase the public’s understanding of the key roles that our members play in society around the globe.

In response to the pandemic’s challenges, we learned even more ways to use technology to work smarter and to reach wider audiences by engaging them how and where it worked best for them. For example, the Region 10 Students, Young Professionals, Women in Engineering, and Life Members virtual congress held this fall attracted more than 10,000 online participants. Instead of the conventional full-day model, the congress was held for shortened periods of time over 16 days. This provided more flexibility for members to participate from numerous time zones and still fulfill their own professional and personal commitments.

The International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems pivoted to an on-demand conference, moving beyond constraints of time and space to provide a platform to view prerecorded videos of the more than 1,400 technical talks and 60 tutorials. This enabled participants to easily access content, anywhere, anytime, and with any device.

Personally, by participating in so many virtual events, I have been able to attend more IEEE activities and engage with more IEEE members around the world than ever before, despite the pandemic.

It has been quite an interesting year to be IEEE president. Navigating the post-COVID meeting and conference environment will require adaptability, flexibility, and innovation. IEEE has a great opportunity to develop new models for virtual and hybrid events that provide participants all the benefits of IEEE’s cutting-edge technical content.


Another promising development for IEEE is the ongoing evolution of its role within the field of continuing professional education and lifelong learning. It is imperative that IEEE be one of the driving forces within the area of professional development—taking advantage of the latest online platforms and our unique worldwide volunteer community, which can provide a local-content perspective from almost anywhere on the planet. Throughout 2020, we dedicated time, energy, and expertise to this important topic.

Action plans have been developed to create IEEE Academies on artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and the smart grid. The IEEE Academies will provide members new and unique value, as they will be able to take training with a more thorough learning pathway. They will also combine resources such as eLearning courses, webinar recordings, videos, and articles about a key subject of interest together with new materials and take learners through a guided journey that better ties these concepts and materials together. Our volunteer educators-in-chief are building these educational products that IEEE can offer to raise the caliber of professionals in these fields.

In this year of unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, I’ve had the remarkable opportunity to witness IEEE’s mission—advancing technology for the benefit of humanity—in action by our members, who are making significant improvements throughout society. That, in my opinion, is one of the primary benefits of being part of a global community such as IEEE. Together, IEEE members have changed our world—and we will continue do so every day.

A future of promise and possibility lies ahead for IEEE. We will continue to build that future together. I thank you for helping us progress during this extraordinary year.

Share your thoughts with me at [email protected].

This article appears in the December 2020 print issue as “Amid Global Uncertainty, IEEE Steps Up.”

Want to be a Global Entrepreneur? Here’s How You Can Do It

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/want-to-be-a-global-entrepreneur-heres-how-you-can-do-it

THE INSTITUTE Many startups that want to have a global presence often struggle with how to build one. With high-speed Internet, high-quality voice and video communication services, and more funding opportunities for startups, it’s never been easier to tap into the global market, says venture advisor Chenyang Xu.

“Today’s world is increasingly interconnected,” says Xu, an IEEE Fellow. “In the last five years, I think the [entrepreneurship] activities around the globe have only intensified as many forms of accelerators, incubation investment entities, angel investors, venture capitalists—you name it—have become global and mainstream. The other big, driving force is that many nations have adopted growing entrepreneurship as a national strategy.”

Startup hubs have sprung up in many countries, he notes. Boston, Tel Aviv, New York City, and Silicon Valley are no longer the only viable places to launch your company or find talented people.

“A new generation of technology entrepreneurs are emerging around the globe,” he says. “There will still be entrepreneurs who focus on serving the local market, but I think this new generation of global technology entrepreneurs is going to be a major force to shape the future of the economy and innovation. They will significantly transform how people live, work, and study elsewhere.

“Becoming a global technology entrepreneur is increasingly common, but it’s not easy. To succeed and seize the immense opportunities requires acquiring a new mindset and new skills and contacts.”

Here’s his advice on how to succeed in the global market.


Understand the culture of the country you want to operate in and how technology can help, Xu says.

“Culture is at the core of everything,” he says, “and no amount of business experience will help you succeed.

Become immersed in the region’s business constraints and regulations, he advises. To help you with that, hire locals. They will understand these issues and be key to building businesses and partnerships, he says.


Consider setting up your company to be global from the start, Xu says. Begin by picking founding partners that are in the locations you want to be in. Select people to sit on your board and advisory board who understand how things work in that region, the challenges your company might face, how fundraising is handled, and what the talent pool is. Your directors and advisors should come from different industries and different parts of the world.

“I believe global startups should be multilocal,” Xu says. Multilocal companies operate locally in more than one region of the world.

That could mean having offices in multiple locations—which can add complexity to managing people, especially if it’s a small team.

It can be expensive to lease offices when you’re just starting out, especially in an area such as Silicon Valley. Instead, consider using coworking places. Nearly every large city has some.

“They make having an office in different locations more affordable and scalable as you add more staff,” Xu says.

Also, don’t feel the need locate to the popular tech hubs because you think that’s where all the good talent is. Xu says you can find solid performers in just about any major city.

But, he says, you don’t always need to have an office in the country in which you operate. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have learned that remote working can be effective. Employees now collaborate via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other Web conferencing tools.

“Remote working and remote commuting have become the new norm,” Xu says, “and I think this new behavior will persist even when the pandemic ends.”


Several accelerators have undergone a global expansion in the past few years and now have offices around the world. They include Founders Space, Plug and Play, Startupbootcamp, Techstars, and Y Combinator.

Xu notes that countries are setting up development offices around the world to help fund their citizens’ ventures. German Accelerator, a venture backed by Germany’s government, helps startups operate in Boston, New York City, Silicon Valley, Singapore, and elsewhere. Through Innovation Centre Denmark, the government in Copenhagen is helping Danish companies break into new markets including in Boston, Munich, and Seoul.


Consider solving problems that have a global impact, Xu says.

“While you might start off solving a problem in your region, think about whether the solution could be used in other parts of the world,” he says.

Zipline, which uses drones to distribute medical products, is one example. Founded in 2014, the company is based in Silicon Valley. The startup—which designs, builds, and operates its own small drone aircraft—started by delivering medical supplies from its distribution centers in Ghana and Rwanda. The company has since expanded its operations to India, the Philippines, and the United States.

“They now have a valuation of more than US $1 billion,” Xu says, “and through venture funding have raised over $200 million. This is really a remarkable model [of global entrepreneurship]. I didn’t think it was possible 10 years ago that you could impact the world, help these developing countries with new technology, and still [make a profit] during the startup phase of a company.”

Another example is Brex, a promising financial-services company tailored for startups. Brex uses artificial intelligence to assess the credit risk of early-stage startups. The founders had set up financial-services companies in Brazil. After gaining experience there and seeing some success, they moved to San Francisco in 2017 to launch Brex. It is one of the fastest-growing payment systems for startups. Last year Forbes reported that Brex had raised $315 million in funding and was valued at $2.6 billion.

“If you can solve the problems that matter both locally and globally, the solution can actually help you accelerate your [startup] more quickly,” Xu says.

This Task Tracker Aims to Help Remote Workers Achieve Work-Life Balance

Post Syndicated from The Institute’s Editorial Staff original https://spectrum.ieee.org/news-from-around-ieee/the-institute/ieee-member-news/this-task-tracker-aims-to-help-remote-workers-achieve-worklife-balance

IEEE COVID-19 coverage logo, link to landing page

THE INSTITUTE As COVID-19 cases continue to increase around the world, several countries have gone back into lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading. This means many of those who have returned to the office will be working from home again.

Working remotely brings with it a unique set of challenges, mainly how to maintain a work-life balance. This can have a direct impact on the physical and mental health of both employees and their families, according to Mental Health America. Many remote workers struggle with either working long hours and ignoring their personal life or getting distracted during the work day with personal matters.

Bibin Parukoor Thomas, an IEEE graduate student member at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, has developed a device that aims to help remote workers strike a balance between work and self-care. The system—called the Ritual Cube (RiCu)—provides users with a way to stay focused on specific tasks, whether work-related or personal, by collecting data about the worker’s day-to-day activities. Users can use the data to reflect on their day and help them plan future goals and how to make them achievable.

The Institute asked Thomas about how RiCu works.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Since March, COVID-19 has [created] the worlds’ largest work-from-home experiment. [Since] employers don’t have direct physical access to the employee or his working conditions, it is difficult to assess his well-being. [Because of this,] it is [primarily] up to the employee to take care of himself.

I think a [healthy balance] of work-life and personal-life is needed for remote workers [to maintain a high level of] well-being. Personal satisfaction is a major measure of well-being and maintaining work-life balance may lead to better personal satisfaction, but there is no tool or system that helps employees achieve this satisfaction.

What technologies are you using?

The RiCu is a white six-by-six centimeter cube that is connected via Bluetooth to a computer application I created using the design platform Invison. The RiCu consists of a spatial orientation sensor that analyzes the cube’s position, a haptic sensor that senses the user’s touch, a Bluetooth module to communicate the cube’s position and status to the connected computer, and an Arduino microcontroller that acts as the system’s brain.

Explain how your project works.

At the start of his day, the [person enters] goals [for] his personal and work-related priorities on the app. The application collects data about the [amount of] time [it takes] the user to complete [specific] goals such as completing a report, working on a project, or scheduling doctor appointments.

Rituals are selected by the user and stickers representing each one are assigned to each side of the cube. The sticker is color-coded—green means it is work related and blue signifies a [personal] task.

The individual activates a ritual by double tapping the side [of the cube] with the correlating sticker on it. Once the task is completed, the user flips the cube over to mark the end of the activity.

The device tracks the [amount of] time [it took] to complete each goal and the data is shared with the user at the end of each day [through the computer application]. The remote worker can use the data to reflect on what he accomplished that day and help him set achievable goals in the future.

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge was gathering data on what satisfaction means to remote workers. It was also difficult finding participants to test the RiCu.

To overcome this, I created a communication bubble [a combination of collaborative communication tools Zoom, Miro, and Google Documents] with three families, which provided [me with] six remote workers who tested the technology.

What is the potential impact of technology?

It seems that people will be working from home for the foreseeable future, and new measures of monitoring employee productivity will likely evolve. As most employees perform computer-based activities, there is an increasing demand for employee-tracking software.

Some [tracking] strategies, such as keyboard tracking, live video feeds, and location tracking, however come at the cost of [violating] employees’ privacy and reducing their sense of autonomy. The RiCu however, doesn’t violate the employees’ privacy, and it ensures their personal satisfaction, which [can] yield more productivity for the organization.

How close are you to the final product?

I have created a low-fidelity prototype made of basic components such as an Arduino board, electronic sensors, and paper. The [final] construction needs to be robust in order to be ready for prolonged use. It will need more work and collaboration with industry to make a market-ready product.

I especially want to coordinate with Human Resources departments of various companies to make sure the product is aligned with the companies’ parameters on which they evaluate employee performance.

How can other IEEE members get involved?

If fellow IEEE members are interested in collaborating and [helping to] enhance RiCu, they can email me.

Remote Learning Made Easier With This Startup’s Online Engineering Labs

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/remote-learning-made-easier-with-this-startups-online-engineering-labs

THE INSTITUTE Hands-on online laboratories have grown in popularity now that schools around the world are conducting classes remotely or restricting the number of students on campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The remote options allow students access to a physical laboratory to conduct experiments. They are real labs, not simulations; students use actual hardware and software.

Some universities have their own remote labs, while others are using ones offered by LabsLand, a startup with offices in Bilbao, Spain, and St. Louis. The company provides preuniversity schools and colleges with access to a network of 30 university labs that cover six topics: biology, chemistry, electronics, physics, robotics, and technology.

Students can learn how to program an Arduino Uno board, for example, or experiment with principles of analogic electronics.

LabsLand and its partner universities use cameras, sensors, and other equipment to enable students to monitor and interact with the laboratory setups. The students use web-based interfaces designed by LabsLand.

The company also can build labs for schools and provide technical support for those that operate their own remote lab.

The startup’s labs can be integrated with learning platforms such as Blackboard, Canvas, Classroom, and Moodle.

LabsLand provides analytics programs so instructors can monitor their students’ progress.

Schools pay a subscription fee for the use of the lab network, but LabsLand provided free access to its labs from March to September. Since October it has been offering discounts on its subscriptions in certain circumstances.

The startup’s founders are IEEE Senior Members Pablo Orduña and Luis Rodriguez-Gil.

“Our labs have been used more than 150,000 times this year by 120 universities,” Orduña says. “Students are remotely able to upload their code and run it. They’re able to move switches and touch key pads and see the effect in real time of what’s happening in the hardware.”


Virtual labs might seem like a new concept, but Orduña and Rodriguez-Gil have been working in the field for more than a decade.

The two founders met in Bilbao at the University of Deusto.

“We were in the same research group,” Rodriguez-Gil says. “Pablo started in the lab in 2004. I started in 2009. Pablo started his Ph.D. in 2007 and finished in 2013. I started my Ph.D. in 2014 and finished in 2017. Pablo was one of the two Ph.D. advisors.”

They worked on remote hands-on labs as part of the university’s WebLab-Deusto research group, led by their Ph.D. advisor, IEEE Senior Member Javier García-Zubía, a former chair of the IEEE Education Society’s Spanish section chapter.

Orduña and Rodriguez-Gil continued in the field after they graduated. LabsLand, which launched in 2015, is a spin-off of WebLab.

“We saw that as our university’s [remote lab] was growing, there were some [pieces] missing, and [it also] needed technical and organization support,” Orduña says. Along with other colleagues who invested time and money, Orduña and Rodriguez-Gil decided to create LabsLand to provide more services.

LabsLand recently received funding from Arch Grants, Impact EdTech, and BBK Venture Philanthropy.


Dominik May, an assistant professor and education researcher in the Engineering Education Transformations Institute at the University of Georgia, in Athens, says that even before the pandemic, several electrical and computer engineering classes had started using remote labs in addition to traditional in-person labs. Now, he says, LabsLand provides several of the college’s labs, which are used for teaching electronics and circuits design as well as chemical engineering courses.

“Our aim is to not only integrate remote labs into courses as some kind of additional service but also we see that online labs have the potential to be transformative for engineering education as a whole,” May says. “They are a perfect way to customize learning experiences and to prepare students for an environment in which remote working is becoming more important.”

More universities have subscribed to LabsLand since learning went remote to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Engineering professors who were teaching digital design using field-programmable gate array boards at the University of Washington in Seattle and New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces, started looking for ways to make the boards available to students.

UW’s assistant teaching professor Rania Hussein says the school  shipped lab kits to students, but  some sent overseas were lost in customs. The IEEE senior member teaches electrical and computer engineering technology. The labs are offered jointly to electrical engineering, computer science and engineering students, which she says serves “a large number of students.”

Hussein says switching to remote labs allows students to get the same experience as in an actual classroom, and at their convenience. The instructors can access the students’ work by viewing their demonstration via a webcam. For example, the teachers might ask the student to flip a switch to see LEDs turn on or check that a counter is working correctly. These are the same assessments they would conduct in face-to-face classes.

“Students are everywhere now in the world. [When] they cannot be on campus, they still need to do the labs and they still need access to the hardware. We needed a reliable and sustainable solution for this,” she says. “That’s why I believe educators need to think differently given the new circumstances such that they provide the same experience as much as possible to the students without the hassle of the logistics.”

Hussein deployed eight FPGA boards at UW for her digital design class in the Autumn quarter. The boards are integrated into the LabsLand network. Hussein reports a successful experience with the remote lab and expects it to continue serving the needs of her course in future quarters.

IEEE Senior Member Paul Furth, an associate professor in NMSU’s department of engineering technology and surveying engineering, is a big fan of the LabsLand software.

“It’s very easy to use and reliable,” Furth says. “When you’re teaching it to a new user, they catch on quickly.” LabsLands has great hardware, but he pays a ton of attention to the software interface.”

Orduña says the boards used by UW and NMSU are housed at the Public University of Navarre, in Pamplona, Spain. Overseeing the lab is Cándido Aramburu, a professor of electrical, electronic, and communication engineering. Although UW now has its own boards, Orduña says, Aramburu’s boards have been used by thousands of students during the pandemic.


Orduña and Rodriguez-Gill have been active in IEEE for some time.

Their engineering thesis on computer science and Orduña’s Ph.D. research thesis won awards from the IEEE Education Society’s Spanish section chapter.

Orduña is a past vice chair of the society’s standards committee. He cowrote IEEE Std. 1876-2019 Networked Smart Learning Objects for Online Laboratories.

Orduña proudly notes that the student branch at the Spanish National Distance Education University, in Madrid, uses LabsLand’s remote labs regularly for its events.

Both founders recently became professional members of the school’s newly created Nu Alpha chapter of IEEE Eta Kappa Nu.

Several of their research papers have been published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

“We have always kept a close relationship with the IEEE community,” Orduña says.

This Executive Director Is Leading Verizon Into the Future Through Quantum Computing

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/this-executive-director-is-leading-verizon-into-the-future-through-quantum-computing

THE INSTITUTE Jean McManus seemed to be destined to work for Verizon. After all, every telephone company she worked for in her 23 years was eventually acquired by or merged with Verizon.

Her first job out of college was with Contel, which was acquired by GTE in 1990. Later she joined Bell Atlantic, which merged with GTE to form Verizon.

Today the IEEE member is executive director of emerging technologies with Verizon’s technology and product development group in Waltham, Mass.

McManus also mentors the company’s young engineers, especially women. In addition, she works with professional-development programs run by Verizon and IEEE to connect with young professionals and help them reach their career goals.

She was profiled in the 2016 book The Internet of Women: Accelerating Culture Change, which highlights standouts in science, technology, engineering, and math who are making historic contributions to their field.


McManus was inspired to pursue engineering by her father, who was an electrical engineer. She received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1987 from Duke University, in Durham, N.C. She then joined Contel as a systems engineer and later transitioned to security engineer.

After the company was acquired by GTE, McManus decided to return to school, and she earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1993 from Brown University, in Providence, R.I., and a Ph.D. in systems engineering in 1996 from the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. For her doctoral dissertation, she focused on the delivery of video over networks.

She then joined Bell Atlantic in Arlington, Va., and worked as an engineer on the company’s Video Delivery Through Networks project. The company was conducting a trial in Toms River, N.J., that was related to her dissertation, and “it was a perfect fit,” she says.

When Bell Atlantic refocused its efforts on broadband and DSL, McManus became the lead architect in building the company’s DSL architecture.

“It was really exciting,” she says, “because at that time, most of my colleagues were experts on narrowband technologies. Meanwhile, I was more familiar with broadband technologies.”

McManus was able to define the architecture of broadband technologies such as customer premises equipment (Wi-Fi routers, cable TV boxes, and telephone sets), edge routers and switches, and associated protocols, she says.

Four years after joining Bell Atlantic, it merged with GTE to form Verizon.

After the merger, she was named a Verizon Fellow—which, she says, provided her with a great opportunity to work with the company’s leaders. She began working in the network architecture department and, in 2014, was promoted to executive director of emerging technologies. She leads a proof-of-concept lab and is responsible for product-focused technology innovation.

“Becoming a manager wasn’t in my original career plan,” she says. “I wanted to be an individual contributor, but after 10 years I realized that being a manager would give me more opportunities and would challenge me in new ways.”

In her current position, she says “not only do I have to keep up with technology but I also need to motivate my team of engineers and developers to move forward with their ideas.”

McManus and her team—which consists of network architects, engineers, and software developers—are working on quantum key distribution, and advancing GPS technology using the satellite navigation technique real-time kinematics (RTK). Quantum key distribution is a “new encryption method that uses photon properties to protect subscriber data,” according to the Verizon news release.


McManus’s expertise lies in telecommunications, specifically on protocols, architecture, and security. She also has worked on technologies such as carrier Ethernet (the use of high-bandwidth Ethernet technology), subscriber data management, and network virtualization. When she was offered the opportunity to be involved in product development, she took it.

“I’m still doing technical work, but it’s now more product-focused,” McManus says. “This [position] gives me the opportunity to think differently about technology and how we can support our customers.”

McManus’s job has two responsibilities: staying up to date with technology and exploring areas in telecommunication that can be improved in support of Verizon’s products and services.

“One part of my day is spent looking to see what’s happening, whether it be research labs, academia, what other companies are doing, or just trying to understand how people are applying technology,” she says. “But, more importantly, what technologies are going to be coming within the next several years.

“The other part of my day is spent interacting with my team. I try to engage with them as much as possible from an innovation perspective.”


Within the past year, McManus has led the development of innovative technologies.

She and her team conducted one of the first commercial trials of quantum key distribution in the United States. “We connected three Verizon sites in the Washington, D.C., area and sent a video between two of the sites,” McManus says. “Using quantum key distribution, we received encryption keys to the two sites and were able to detect if someone was eavesdropping on that connection.”

Her team is developing software to enhance GPS location data using RTK. The software “makes GPS more accurate and precise, reducing the error to the 2-centimeter range,” McManus says. “My team has figured out a way to scale it such that we can support the large number of Internet of Things devices.”

Among those devices are drones. The software McManus and her team developed can make them more vertically accurate, giving the pilot a better measure of how high off the ground it is and helping to avoid crashes into telephone wires and power lines.


McManus takes pride in being a mentor to women. She says she was inspired to become a mentor when she “saw a lot of women were struggling with how to navigate Verizon.” She says she wanted to provide others the support she didn’t receive early in her career. “There wasn’t such an emphasis on mentoring at that time,” she says.

She works with Verizon’s Women of the World (WOW), a seven-month-long career-development program for employees that aims to help them develop effective communication skills, personal brand development, and self-leadership. The participants are put into groups led by managers.

“Jean shared her experiences working as an executive director and encouraged the women in our group to openly discuss our goals, take action, and share our career successes with each other,” says Sharon Muli, who participated in the program. “I also met individually with Jean, and she offered me guidance on pursuing various career paths and training opportunities. She utilized her connections to introduce me to individuals on other teams and strengthen my network at Verizon.”

McManus, who joined IEEE as a student member, has spoken at IEEE conferences such as the 2019 IEEE Women in Engineering Forum, where she was on a panel discussing 5G.

“It’s great to see the support [IEEE] is giving to women in engineering,” she says. “Some of the things it’s doing to help develop women engineers, and not just at the start of their careers but also making sure that they’re staying in those areas. There’s just a lot of opportunity to really embrace the industry as a whole and develop yourself.”

The Mobile Health Tech That Could Combat COVID-19

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/news-from-around-ieee/the-institute/ieee-member-news/the-mobile-health-tech-that-could-combat-covid19

IEEE COVID-19 coverage logo, link to landing page

THE INSTITUTE In April more than 60 digital health experts from around the world set out to determine whether today’s mobile-health technologies can help in the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics. The Task Force on mHealth Technology assessed 90 wearable sensors, contact-tracing apps, and electronic patient-reported outcome systems. The latter compile medical information recorded by individuals, such as their vital signs.

The task force’s members represented hospitals, universities, and government agencies as well as consumer electronic, technology, and pharmaceutical companies.

The group reported its findings in “Can mHealth Technology Help Mitigate the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic?” The 70-page report, recently published in the IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology, is organized into nine sections, corresponding to the technologies the experts reviewed.

The lead author is Paolo Bonato, former vice president of publications for the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), which sponsors the journal. Bonato, an IEEE senior member, heads the Motion Analysis Lab at the Spaulding Research Institute, in Boston. He is also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

“What’s unique about this project is that it involved a large number of individuals from around the world who contributed their thoughts on how we could use these technologies for medical effect,” Bonato says. “I thought IEEE EMBS should [publish the report] because it is the largest society that deals with these types of issues, so it’s something that we are uniquely positioned to do, and we have a professional obligation to do.”

Here are some key takeaways from the report.


Many researchers and companies have pitched wearables as a way to monitor vital signs remotely, reducing how often medical professionals and patients need to come into close contact. The task force reviewed 27 biosensing systems including wrist-based health trackers, skin patches, and sensors embedded in clothing. The wearables can measure heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygenation, and other vital signs.

The group found that bio patches—adhesive sensors that stick to the skin—are generally more suitable than smart watches and other wrist-worn sensors, particularly when clinicians are interested in assessing cardiovascular function. The patches can be used for continuous monitoring. Some can even record coughing and sneezing characteristics.

Skin-interfaced sensors could be used to assess lung function of patients with respiratory symptoms. Flexible biosensors could be incorporated into cuffless blood-pressure monitoring devices to identify changes, possibly associated with the coronavirus.

While promising, such wearables have limitations, the report says. They can’t capture information about all the body’s functions, because they are designed to be placed on just a few areas of the body.

Other concerns the experts raised include data security and privacy issues. Ethical concerns need to be considered, they said, to ensure that COVID-19 monitoring does not lead to unintended uses.

Tracing CONTACTs

Contact tracing is one approach being used to stop the spread of the virus. In many areas, the task is done by people, who ask those with the virus for the names and telephone numbers of those with whom they spent time during the previous 14 days. The process can be problematic because the patient might not have that information, might not remember, or might be too sick to provide any details.

To address those issues, many companies are developing contact-tracing technology to gather the data. The task force reviewed about 50 such products. Of those, they determined that 43 had potential: 26 smartphone apps, six online surveys, and 11 data aggregators.

The apps use GPS, Bluetooth, gyroscopes, and other smartphone features to determine when people are close to one another and for how long. Online surveys require a participant to supply information about symptoms, location, age, gender, medical condition, and contact with COVID-positive individuals.

Data aggregators collect location information from smartphones to provide insights such as COVID-19 cases by location. Other apps use datasets maintained by academic institutions, governments, and open-source projects. Most provide risk assessments and offer data-visualization features to dig into the data and interpret trends.

According to the report, online surveys and data aggregators do provide information about trends in symptoms and where infected people are located. Such information can help officials allocate resources to affected areas and decide, for example, whether to close area schools and restaurants.

The authors said that for contact-tracing solutions to be effective, there needs to be broad adoption, as well as timely reporting of confirmed diagnoses and encouragement to share data.

They also cautioned that because of the sensitive nature of the information being collected, strong privacy and ethical safeguards should be incorporated into the products.


Electronic patient-reported outcome (ePRO) platforms are used for a variety of purposes including tracking patients’ symptoms, monitoring their condition, checking vital signs, gathering health information, managing prescriptions, and making appointments. According to the report, the systems have evolved from simple computer- and telephone-based systems to mostly app-based platforms often combined with wearable devices.

The task force reviewed 13 ePRO systems, all with COVID-19 modules. Some incorporate questionnaires that doctors can use to determine whether a patient likely has the condition from the symptoms he or she reported.

The experts also checked whether the platforms could perform contact tracing to help prevent the spread of the virus, and found four that did.

“One of the advantages that all platforms offer is the ability to massively implement their solution across large cities or countries. Most platforms can be deployed immediately or in a couple of weeks,” the authors wrote. “Even if some challenges exist, the relevance and impact that ePRO solutions can have in scenarios like the one presented during COVID-19 are apparent, as they allow clinicians to effectively identify, classify, monitor, and manage noncritical patients remotely to prevent saturation of the health care system.”


In their summary, the authors wrote that the mHealth technologies they reviewed have “truly revolutionary potential” but that companies need to proceed with caution.

“Some of the largest issues in the adoption of mHealth technologies are related to preserving privacy, establishing data sharing, maintaining accessibility, and ensuring data security and safety,” the experts said. “While the technology rises to meet this challenge, regulations and policies will need to be enacted to ensure their safe use and smooth implementation into routine clinical care.”

Q&A: U.S. Science Foundation Director on His Vision for the Agency

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/qa-us-science-foundation-director-on-his-vision-for-the-agency

THE INSTITUTE Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan left his academic career at Arizona State University in June to start a six-year appointment as director of the U.S. National Science Foundation. There the IEEE Fellow oversees the foundation’s 2,100 employees and its day-to-day operations.

Panchanathan is also responsible for directing the agency’s mission, including supporting all fields of fundamental science and engineering in such areas as artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

He also has a large budget to manage: US $8.3 billion. That is about 25 percent of the total amount the U.S. government spends to support basic research. The money goes to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities, and institutions across the country.

Panchanathan is no stranger to the NSF. He was appointed in 2014 to serve on its National Science Board, a 25-member group that establishes the foundation’s overall policies. 

He spent the past 23 years at ASU in Phoenix, where he developed people-centric technologies and fostered innovative research. He helped found the university’s School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering and its Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing. He also led its Knowledge Enterprise, which supports entrepreneurs with research, strategic partnerships, international development, and other activities.

Panchanathan holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Vivekananda College—now the University of Madras—in India, and a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. He also holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, also in Madras.

He began his teaching career at the University of Ottawa, after earning his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering there in 1989. He left in 1997 to join ASU as an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Because of his busy schedule, The Institute conducted this interview via email. We asked him about his vision for the foundation, how he plans to increase partnerships between industry and academia, and how his membership in IEEE has advanced his career. His answers have been edited for clarity.

The Institute: What inspired you to become an engineer?

Panchanathan: At a young age, I was curious about basic science and how things work. My father was my inspiration to become an engineer. He was a scientist, and his work was on upper-atmospheric physics. His quest for scientific exploration, for discovery, for academic achievement, for solving real problems, for understanding the universe and how it works to how people work—all of that has always inspired me and motivated me to want to pursue science and engineering. 

My mom ensured that we valued education. So the combination of my mom and dad’s implicit role modeling was the ideal incubator for me to pursue science and engineering.

TI: Where would you like to see the NSF in five years? 

Panchanathan: The foundation plays a critical role in U.S. science and engineering because it supports basic research in all these fields. We enable researchers to explore fundamental scientific questions about everything from the forces that govern the universe to the biological, chemical, and social systems that make us who we are.

I have identified three pillars for my vision: advancing research into the future, ensuring inclusivity, and continuing global leadership in science and engineering.

This is a defining moment. The intensity of global competition, the urgent need for domestic talent at scale, and the broad support for science as the path for solving global grand challenges all motivate us to strengthen discovery and translation. Partnerships and innovative mindsets ensure we rapidly seize opportunities and accelerate progress at speed and scale.

TI: What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientific research, labs, conferences, and research directions? 

Panchanathan: The research community is displaying resilience under tremendous pressure. It makes me proud to be a scientist and an engineer. The role of NSF and other science agencies is to enhance our support to this community. And that’s what we’re working to do. We are all facing new and unique challenges as we deal with COVID-19, and NSF is prioritizing the health and safety of our community.

NSF recognizes the many concerns related to the effects this will have on NSF-funded research and facilities, and is committed to providing the greatest flexibility to support researchers’ health and safety. NSF is consistently updating its guidance and resources to keep the scientific community informed.

Additionally, NSF reacted right away to the pandemic through its Rapid Response Research funding mechanism for nonmedical research to understand the spread of COVID-19, provide education about the science of virus transmission, and encourage the development of actions to address this global challenge. To date, we have funded more than 1,000 coronavirus research projects totaling more than $197 million.

TI: What are your thoughts on the need for more students to study STEM subjects, and how is the NSF addressing that?

Panchanathan: Ensuring inclusivity and broadening participation is an important priority of mine. Diversity enriches innovation to solve problems. We must inspire talent in every corner of our nation and empower role models at every level of leadership. I want students to feel empowered and excited to pursue science.

Of course, NSF is not the only entity that can do that. A number of entities are coming together through partnerships, including other federal agencies, industry, nonprofits, foundations, states, and academia. I am deeply committed to partnerships in all forms.

So the question then becomes: How do you partner effectively across all entities to build better futures for our nation? It is going to take commitment and participation with all players in the STEM community, including K–12 education and informal learning environments. For example, the NSF Includes program was created to identify best practices and provide resources to people across the country working to broaden participation in STEM.

One acknowledgement built into Includes is that broadening participation is too complex a problem for one-size-fits-all solutions. Something that works in one region or for one population might not work elsewhere. That is why Includes is helping create education experiences that are tailored to the communities they serve.

This is going to require an intense collaboration and intentional, strategic actions. It will not happen unless it is a priority. That is the kind of coalition I envision NSF helping to build. Success takes a village, right?

TI: One way to increase the number of STEM students and STEM workers is to recruit them from other countries. Many U.S. universities and companies have criticized the increased U.S. restrictions on immigration and visas—which have made recruiting difficult. What, if anything, will you do as NSF head to address the situation?

Panchanathan: International collaboration enhances U.S. global leadership and ensures that the U.S. research community participates in the best science and has access to the best resources around the world. NSF is committed to sustaining the country’s position as a global innovation leader as well as contributing to its economic strength and national security through basic research.

Openness, transparency, and collaboration are essential for basic research. NSF and our fellow federal agencies are continuing to embrace and promote international collaboration. For NSF, this collaboration entails establishing joint projects between researchers at U.S. institutions and those at organizations in other countries. These collaborations will continue because they enable the best science. I would encourage anyone thinking about working or pursuing a career in the United States to do so, as we provide great opportunities for students to express their talents in unimaginable positive ways.

TI: How will you foster more partnerships between universities and industry? 

Panchanathan: Partnerships between academia and industry are critical to the rapid advancement of science and engineering, ensuring national prosperity. I am deeply committed to not only strengthening existing frameworks of academia-industry partnerships but also, more importantly, evolving new frameworks for robust collaboration. 

The frameworks get researchers from both university and industry to share different perspectives that not only enrich research outcomes but also inspire unparalleled talent, leading to an innovative workforce of the future. They also help evolve new models of partnerships and frameworks. For example, we need to design and build Bell Labs–like entities across the nation through public-private partnerships where curiosity-driven research and translational research are working synergistically to enrich each other, unleashing transformative outcomes for the future. 

TI: In your recent interview with Science, you talked about your support for “use-inspired research.” How will the NSF balance funding for use-inspired research and basic research?

Panchanathan: What we are talking about at NSF is use-inspired basic research, which in some cases may lead to applied research outcomes and commercialization.

Our focus should also be to identify the gaps in our knowledge that are holding us back from advancing in some of the most competitive fields of science and engineering. When you look at it from that perspective, you will find that NSF and other supporters of basic research have already been funding use-inspired research for several decades. 

NSF has the unique ability to be strategic in how we inspire researchers to cultivate both curiosity-driven and use-inspired mindsets. One example of how NSF will undertake this is our support for convergent research. Scientific knowledge leads to actionable progress, which in turn enriches the scientific process. In other words, science and technology are intertwined. NSF advances technological progress because it is already intrinsic to everything we do.

NSF is making this translation happen through several programs. For example, NSF began funding the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory project decades ago. Some doubted it would ever be possible for LIGO to detect the minute distortions of gravitational waves. LIGO was not a theoretical problem, they feared, but a technological limitation. Science drove the development of technological capabilities necessary to detect gravitational waves. Now that technology will open up new ways to do science, and we continue to see new discoveries from that technology.

TI: How has IEEE helped your career? 

Panchanathan: Being a member and Fellow of IEEE has been an important part of my career as an educator, researcher, and leader. In my early career, I had the opportunity to publish several scientific papers in IEEE conference proceedings and journals.

Attending the various conferences helped me to gain valuable insights and feedback from leaders in the research community that shaped my research trajectory. I also had the opportunity of serving as a conference organizer, panelist, and editorial board member, and as editor-in-chief of the IEEE MultiMedia magazine.

These experiences provided me with opportunities to further enrich my knowledge and to contribute to the engineering and scientific community.

Turing Award for Computer Scientists: More Inclusiveness Needed

Post Syndicated from Chai K Toh original https://spectrum.ieee.org/news-from-around-ieee/the-institute/ieee-member-news/turing-award-for-computer-scientists-more-inclusiveness-needed

THE INSTITUTE This is an edited guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the position of IEEE or The Institute.

Alan Turing was a famous British computer science pioneer who is widely recognized as the founder and father of computer science. The significance of his work has been undeniable, but Turing himself did not receive a Nobel Prize for his contributions. An alumnus of King’s College in Cambridge, U.K., Turing has been a source of inspiration and admiration for many computer scientists, including myself.


As a computer scientist, I have been curious about the winners of Turing Award and where they came from. Maurice Wilkes, a Cambridge professor and computer engineer, received the award in 1967 for creating EDSAC [electronic delay storage automatic calculator], the first stored program computer. Thirteen years later, in 1980, Oxford University’s professor emeritus Sir Charles Antony Hoare won the prize. And in 1991, my former department chairman at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, Professor Robin Milner, was a recipient. However, most of the winners are from the United States. A list of all winners since 1966 can be found here.


The Association for Computing Machinery established its Turing Award in 1966 to recognize “an individual who has made lasting technical contributions to computing.” ACM is an American computing association, not British. The Turing Award is considered to be the highest distinction in computer science and its stature has grown to be considered the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

Turing Award winners, who receive a prize of US $1 million, are considered giants in their fields who have made significant impact to the field and to society. But the candidate first has to be nominated and hence one social’s network and support play an important part.


The average age of the award winners from the last decade is 65.5, near the retirement age for most university professors [see table below]. This phenomenon conveys a clear message. It takes time to receive the award and one should not expect to be able to get this award at a young age.

Turing Award WinnerAge at time of AwardWorkplace at time of AwardAward Year
Pat Hanrahan65University2019
Edwin Catmull74Industry2019
Yann LeCun58University2018
Geoffrey Hinton71Industry2018
Yoshua Bengio54University2018
John L. Hennessy65University2017
David Patterson70University2017
Tim Berners-Lee61University2016
Martin Hellman70University2015
Whitfield Diffie71Industry2015
Michael Stonebraker69Industry2014
Leslie Lamport72Industry2013
Shafi Goldwasser54University2012
Silvio Micali58University2012
Judea Pearl75University2011
Leslie Valiant61University2010
Charles P. Thacker66Industry2009
Average Age = 65.5 years old

Readers may wonder why it takes so long to be recognized for a Turing Award. That is because the impact of inventions and breakthroughs take time to be recognized. Some inventions are way ahead of their time, for example, Vinton Cerf’s Internet protocols and Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web. It also takes time for people to appreciate and understand the technology. And it takes even more time for the new technology to be realized into usable products that can benefit billions of people.


From the complete list of past winners, one can observe the lack of ethnic diversity. Few winners are Asians and no recipients are of African or Hispanic descent. Most of the winners are male and they are from university rather than industry. Geographically, most winners are from the United States.

This immediately aroused my curiosity. Does this mean that computer scientists from other countries are less capable in the field of computer science than those in the United States? Why are there no winners from countries such as Brazil and Japan? And why are there so few female winners? Although we are seeking more diversity in winners, one should never compromise or lower the standards required to win the award. 

Since the Turing Award is an international award, candidates from around the globe are eligible. In addition to the candidates themselves, the Turing Award selection committee too must be ethnically, gender, and geographically diverse, with representations from both industry and university. Since there are fewer winners from industry than university, perhaps it is time for the Turing Award committee to engage more with industry and solicit more nominations from it. 

Finally, for those aspiring to be future Turing Award recipients, it is worthwhile to understand the selection criteria and read the profiles of past winners, such as their background, work, achievements, and to recognize the fact that a time period is needed to reach a substantial impact to the field and society. 

IEEE Fellow Chai K. Toh is an honor chair professor of electrical engineering and computer science at National Tsing Hua University, in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

He would like to thank Vint Cerf, Bjarne Stroustrup and David Cleevely for their insightful feedback and comments. The views expressed here are solely from the author and do not represent those from any organizations mentioned herein.

This Startup Spots Stress in Real-Time to Help Prevent Depression and Other Conditions

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/this-startup-spots-stress-in-realtime-to-help-prevent-depression-and-other-conditions

THE INSTITUTE By any measurement, 2020 has been stressful for just about everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear about the virus and concerns about our health and that of loved ones can be overwhelming. Add that to the other tensions many of us have at work, at home, and at school.

When a person is stressed enough, the fight-or-flight response kicks in. The sympathetic nervous system causes a sudden release of hormones—which increases heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration.

The first step in controlling stress is to know its symptoms, but because most people are used to some stress, they don’t realize how bad things have gotten until they reach a breaking point. Over time they could experience serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, as well as depression and other mental health woes, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. More than 264 million people suffer from depression, the World Health Organization reports.

What if there was a way to measure in real time when a person was becoming stressed, so the condition could be managed immediately using evidence-based methods? That’s the idea behind Philia Labs, a startup in Melbourne, Australia, that has developed a platform with a wearable device designed to measure physiological stress indicators.

The product is aimed at health care providers and mental health professionals, as well as people who want to monitor their own stress level.

“We are quantifying stress in the body in real time,” says Dilpreet Buxi, the startup’s cofounder and chief executive. “The hardware platform and software will enable interventions both through a health care provider and by the patient to basically enable better health outcomes and a better quality of life.”


To confirm whether someone suffers from stress, Buxi says, doctors typically use a questionnaire such as the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale or the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales. Such forms help assess a person’s emotional state and quality of life based on situations that might trigger anxiety. But because they are self-evaluations, the results can be inaccurate.

Some of today’s fitness wearables claim to measure stress. They use data about heart rate, sleep, and level of activity to infer how stress is affecting the wearer. But, Buxi says, the results from such devices haven’t been clinically validated.

In contrast, he says, Philia aims to measure physiological data that has been shown to more closely align with stress response and to pursue focused clinical testing. Philia’s wearable, which is worn on the wrist for at least six months, uses optical sensors to measure heart rate and blood flow. Electrodes measure “galvanic skin response”—changes in moisture caused by sweat-gland activity that can indicate a person’s emotional state, Buxi says.

Galvanic skin response refers to the electrical conductivity of the skin,” he says. “In other words, when you break out into a nervous sweat, the electrical conductivity will change.”

Philia will initially pilot its technology on patients undergoing depression treatment, he says, adding that a clinician will prescribe the device and a clinical monitoring program for the patient. Physiological and self-reported data are captured from the patient’s sympathetic arousal—that fight-or-flight response—and computed. Trends in sympathetic arousal activity over weeks and months are calculated to determine whether a patient requires an intervention such as a change of medication or psychosocial treatment. All the information is stored in the cloud.

For patients who previously have had depression, early intervention could help reduce the risk of a recurrence, Buxi says.

“According to our conversations with psychiatrists,” he says, “stress that results in sympathetic arousal is a leading cause of relapse and needs to be monitored in order for the psychiatrist to intervene earlier.”

He says the likelihood that a person who has recovered from depression will relapse in the first year when suffering from stress is 20 percent to 50 percent.

“The platform will enable the medical provider to make better decisions,” he says. For patients, he adds, “the goal is to basically help them adopt better techniques for stress management.”

Philia has several partners including medical institutions and research universities. It is running pilot programs with 11 health care and wellness organizations. The company has filed a provisional patent application.

The startup has a proof-of-concept prototype for the wearable, which is built using off-the-shelf parts and is moving to a minimum viable product that will be used after a study and several trial programs are completed next year, Buxi says. A lab study on 60 patients is currently happening and will end in April. A small trial on those with mild depression patients starts in January, and a multi-site trial in depression relapse will begin in June. He says the trial is with a corporate health provider, which can expand the company’s market portfolio to non-clinicians.

The company will be seeking regulatory approval for the platform after it undergoes clinical trials.


A biomedical engineer, Buxi worked from 2008 to 2012 at the Holst research center in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where he integrated state-of-the-art technologies for wearable health care devices. After that, he relocated with his family to Australia, where he pursued a Ph.D. at Monash University in Melbourne. For his research-project thesis, he developed a wearable blood pressure monitoring system based on pulse transit time—for which he was granted a patent from the Australian government.

Several of his research papers are published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

Buxi got to thinking whether he might apply his Ph.D. work to the problem of measuring stress.

He began working on the idea in 2017 as a side project, and in 2018 he formed a proprietary limited partnership with the startup’s cofounder, Alexander Senior. Today the company has seven employees—a mix of engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. The company also has collaborators from industry and academia who have expertise in machine learning, biomedical machine learning, and physiology.

The business has largely been funded by a venture capitalist and is close to completing its seed funding round.


Buxi says his biggest challenge was transitioning from being an engineer and scientist to becoming an entrepreneur.

“You need to think in terms of what is the problem you’re solving that requires a solution that somebody is going to pay money for,” he says. “That’s completely different from doing an investigation in the lab.” As an entrepreneur, “you have to find a solution where you can repeatedly get new and old customers to pay [so that you have] new and recurring revenue.

“That took a lot of learning,” he says. “In fact, even today, I think more commercially, but I’m still pretty academic. And sometimes it shows.”

He says he got help with how to run a startup from IEEE’s Founder Office Hours program, which seeks to assist early- and growth-stage technology entrepreneurs from the IEEE community. It connects entrepreneurs to mentors who can provide feedback and potentially help them grow their company.

In a testimonial about the program, Buxi says he got assistance with validating the product, thinking about the pros and cons of various business models, and refining an intellectual-property strategy to create value.

“The program shaped our thinking a bit,” he says, “to make our approach more practical.”

World’s First Ocean Hybrid Platform Converts Tidal Waves Into Energy

Post Syndicated from Qusi Alqarqaz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/news-from-around-ieee/the-institute/ieee-member-news/worlds-first-ocean-hybrid-platform-converts-tidal-waves-into-energy

THE INSTITUTE Energy captured from tidal motion, waves, and currents can be used to produce electricity, providing power to millions of homes in the coming decades. Unlike other renewable energy sources, waves are easily forecasted and available 24/7. There is a tremendous amount of energy in the ocean. Water covers about 70 percent of our planet, and because it is 830 times denser than air, it can carry much more energy than wind per volume.

But despite the energy source’s great potential, it remains untapped.

Engineers have been trying to invent machines to generate electricity from water since the 18th century. In 1799 French engineer Pierre Girard and his son, Pierre-Simon, were granted a patent on the use of energy from ocean waves. They designed a machine to capture the energy in sea waves to power heavy machinery including mills and pumps. By attaching heavy wooden beams to docked battleships and taking advantage of the vessels’ bobbing to operate the beams as levers against fulcrums on shore, the Parisian inventors were able to operate pumps, sawmills, and other machines.

In 1910 French engineer M. Bochaux-Praceique built a device that likely was the first oscillating water column to generate electricity from sea waves.

Between 1940 and 1950, Yoshio Masuda, a former Japanese naval commander, developed a navigation buoy powered by wave energy. It was equipped with an air turbine. Many people regard Masuda as the father of modern wave-energy-conversion technology.

Since the 1950s, many inventors have come up with commercial-scale wave-energy designs, but few have worked. The ocean, with challenges that include corrosive water and unpredictable winds, makes things difficult.

The 1970s oil crisis was a turning point for the industry. That’s when experts started looking for alternative energy sources and reconsidered the ocean. It took until the 1990s, though, for actual research and development to start. The number of announced ocean-energy patents between 2009 and 2013 was 150.

Ocean-energy projects currently span the world, with activities in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. The key players were universities and startups until the recent entrance of bigger players. Now multinationals ABB Technology Ventures, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding, and Naval Group have interest in the sector.

Some utilities are committed to the concept, such as Finnish energy company Fortum, Spanish utility Iberdrola, French utility EDF, and Swedish energy giant Vattenfall.

Europe is at the forefront of the industry, with about half the world’s ocean-energy developers.

To learn how engineers and scientists are developing solutions, I spoke with experts in Germany who are leading a team to commercially deliver energy to customers in different parts of the world.


In August I spoke with Philipp Sinn, founder of Sinn Power, a German green-energy startup founded in 2014. This year he and his colleagues began building and testing the world’s first ocean hybrid platform.

The floating platform uses a combination of wave, wind, and solar energy to harness renewable energy on the open seas, Sinn says. The company has been testing the structure, which has attracted investors, energy experts, scientists, and government officials from all over the world to Heraklion, the largest city on the Greek Island of Crete.

The wind, wave, and photovoltaic platform is scalable in capacity and can be designed to generate 80 kilowatts to power small houses by the coast and up to 2 megawatts to industrial buildings, Sinn says. The technology can be adapted to customers’ needs and location requirements, he adds.

He acknowledges that the maritime environment is challenging. All the energy systems on the platform contain sensitive components and power electronics that must not be exposed to any fluids, he says.

To cope with such conditions, the company developed a product family consisting of electric machines, power electronics, and storage solutions, all of which comply with International Protection Code 68, which classifies and rates degrees of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures against intrusion, dust, accidental contact, and immersion in deep water.

“We see [our company’s] technologies as a movement toward a sustainable future,” Sinn says. “The goal is to provide people all over the world with clean, reliable, and affordable energy harnessed from the power of the ocean.”


Ocean energy is an essential step in achieving our global climate and sustainable-development objectives.

The global market for ocean energy is expected to reach 22 million kW by 2025.

Development of ocean-energy production—from concept to commercial release—has been a slow, expensive process. For the industry to succeed, it is essential to get financial support from governments all over the world. It is also important to strengthen the cooperation between countries, especially with regard to joint projects and the exchange of technology.

IEEE Senior Member Qusi Alqarqaz is an electrical engineer with more than 28 years of experience in the power industry. He is a contributor to The Institute and serves on its editorial advisory board.

Conductorless Orchestra Helps EE Students Fine Tune Their Professional Skills

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-member-news/conductorless-orchestra-helps-ee-students-fine-tune-their-professional-skills

THE INSTITUTE Diana Dabby grew up surrounded by music—both her parents were pianists. The IEEE member followed in their footsteps and earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. After graduating, she moved to New York City and worked as a pianist, performing at venues including Merkin Hall and Weill Recital Hall.

Although Dabby was passionate about music, she had an unsettling feeling that something was missing. That something turned out to be engineering—which she discovered after she read journal articles about engineering’s relationship to music. She decided to pursue a graduate degree in the field.

After earning a doctorate in electrical engineering from MIT, Dabby became an engineering and music professor. She taught at Tufts University, MIT, and The Juilliard School. She also continued to play concerts, performing at Jordan Hall, Tanglewood, and other venues in Massachusetts.

In 2000, Dabby joined the Olin College of Engineering, in Needham, Mass., where she was one of 12 founding faculty members. In 2002 she established the Olin Conductorless Orchestra (OCO), which completed its 19th season this year. No conductor leads the orchestra; instead, the students work together to perfect their performances. The program is designed to give talented engineering students an expressive outlet while also helping them develop professional skills such as leadership, teamwork, and communication.

Last year Dabby won a Best Paper Award from the American Society for Engineering Education. Her winning paper—“The Engineers’ Orchestra: A Conductorless Orchestra for Developing 21st-Century Professional Skills”—describes the program’s benefits.


Dabby says music has always been an extension of herself, and she enjoyed the focus and expressivity that came with preparing for her concerts.

Performing “just kept accentuating and improving my musicianship, and I loved that process,” she says. “The idea of reaching one’s full potential was very powerful to me.”

She says she enjoyed taking risks in order to achieve her goal of bettering her skills as a musician.

“I built up a very strong track record with taking risks,” she says, “whether during a performance or in my professional life.”

And taking a risk is exactly what Dabby did after she came across an engineering journal at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The journal contained articles by engineers whose avocation was music, and they inspired Dabby to ask: “What if a professional musician, one of my colleagues, or I acquired the tools of an engineer? Would we invent something new for music in our own time?”

That idea pushed her to pursue a graduate degree in engineering while working as a performer and freelancer.

In order to apply to graduate programs, she had to supplement her music bachelor’s degree with postbaccalaureate classes.

“I had to [earn] around 127 credits because I had no math or science background,” Dabby says. She did so at the City College of New York.

“I retaught myself algebra and discovered that I loved it,” she says. “Engineering became this wonderful respite from performing. The engineering felt fresh. The music felt fresh.”

After Dabby completed the credits she needed, she was accepted to MIT. For her doctoral thesis, she merged engineering and music. She devised a chaotic mapping tool—a representation of chaotic behavior that is typically used in mathematics—that could be used to make musical variations. The variations, which could be either changes in pitch or in the rhythmic sequence of a piece, could be close to the original work or mutate almost beyond recognition.

Dabby has been granted four U.S. patents for her work.

She says she wanted to “come up with something for music in the 21st century that wouldn’t necessarily occur to those who were not performers or professional musicians.”


In fall 2000, when the Olin College of Engineering assembled a leadership team and faculty to begin from scratch, it paid attention to a list of skills the U.S. National Academy of Engineering wanted in engineering students. The list included leadership skills, effective communication, and the ability to work as part a team. The Olin faculty members brainstormed how they could help their students develop the skills, and that’s when the OCO was born.

The idea “just popped into my head in our first meeting,” Dabby says. “I thought, Oh my gosh, this could mean a conductorless orchestra. Everyone leads, and everyone follows.”

The students learn how to collaborate with one another and how to communicate effectively. The musicians learn to watch one another to ensure everyone starts and ends together, as well as adjust balance, dynamic levels, and tempo by listening intently and cueing one another, Dabby says.

“It requires the musicians to actively listen to their parts within the context of a larger whole and adjust accordingly,” she wrote in her chapter of the book Creative Ways of Knowing Engineering. The chapter describes the OCO.

Olin had only 75 students in its first year, and the first conductorless orchestra was composed of five engineering students, with Dabby at the piano. These days there are between 12 and 22 students, all selected by audition, in the OCO.

The students select a piece to play, and Dabby creates an arrangement, adjusting the piece according to the instruments the students play.

Each year, the musicians elect two to four navigators, who work with Dabby to ensure rehearsals run smoothly and communication lines remain open within the group. Together, along with two rehearsal leaders, they come up with the agenda for that week’s rehearsal.

During rehearsals, orchestra members can share their thoughts regarding the different interpretations of the piece the group chose to play. The members play each interpretation, and the orchestra votes on which version it wants to perform.

All involved in the OCO learn how to listen, when to speak, and when to refrain from sharing their thoughts.

“Employers see the Olin Conductorless Orchestra on résumés and they’re curious,” Dabby says. “It’s actually helped students get jobs.”

The program also has helped students during their time at the college.

“It’s a stress-reliever,” Dabby says. The OCO “gives [students] balance in their lives.”

The orchestra performs at school functions and travels once a year to play at other venues. Last year it received a standing ovation after performing at the American Society for Engineering Education Zone 1 International Conference, Dabby says.

“There’s always an upcoming performance, and it’s another chance for students to raise the bar,” she says. “For students, it’s a challenge and a neat way to become better while doing something they love.”

Researchers at the University of Tehran Devise New Sputum Test for COVID-19

Post Syndicated from The Institute’s Editorial Staff original https://spectrum.ieee.org/news-from-around-ieee/the-institute/ieee-member-news/researchers-at-the-university-of-tehran-devise-new-sputum-test-for-covid19

IEEE COVID-19 coverage logo, link to landing page

THE INSTITUTE Nasopharyngeal swabs are the most common way to collect a sample from a person in order to test her for COVID-19. Retrieving the specimen requires a medical professional to insert a long shaft into a person’s nasal cavity. The procedure is often uncomfortable for people and requires medical professionals to break social distancing parameters.

IEEE Member Mohammad Abdolahad led a team of undergraduate students and post-doctoral candidates at the University of Tehran that developed a non-invasive, electrochemical diagnostic system. Called the ROS [reactive oxygen species] Detector in Sputum Sample (RDSS), the test screens for respiratory inflammation in real-time and doesn’t require a medical professional to swab for the specimen. ROS are reactive chemical species that contain oxygen and can severely damage DNA, RNA, and proteins. This tool can determine the presence of ROS produced by respiratory inflammation.

Abdolahad is an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Tehran’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as an adjunct professor at the university’s School of Medical Sciences.

The Institute asked him about how RDSS works.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Since controlling the spread of the virus [largely] depends on screening suspected cases, it is important to have widely available, reliable, and fast [testing] methods. Unfortunately, the current screening methods, such as Polymerase chain reaction, do not satisfy these requirements. [PCR checks for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19]

Consequently, we have developed a fast method to screen for respiratory inflammation [in] real-time. The test can also help inform doctors if the patient has an increased chance of contracting COVID-19. Respiratory diseases can make a patient immunoresistant and by being diagnosed, the patient now knows that she needs to take additional steps in order to protect herself against coronavirus.

Explain how the system works.

The ROS test is done by taking a sample of the patient’s sputum. [The patient takes a deep breath and holds it in for five seconds. She then slowly breathes out and repeats these steps until she coughs up sputum.] The patient then spits the sputum into a falcon tube [a plastic cup].

Each individual sample is tested using the RDSS probe. The doctor [puts] the probe into the sample and the results are [displayed] on the monitor after 30 seconds.

What technologies are you using?

The system consists of an integrated monitor that connects to a probe, which has a disposable sensor located on top of it. The probe is used to test the [sputum] samples and the monitor displays the results to the medical professional conducting the test.

The sensor on top of the probe is fabricated using multi-wall carbon nanotubes, which sit on the tip of several steel needles. The needles are arranged in three electrodes—working, counter, and reference—with a triangular distance of 3 millimeters from each other. [Reference electrodes measure the potential of the working electrode without passing current through it while counter electrodes pass current.]

The tool [is portable], which allows the device to be utilized freely by phlebotomists and physicians in laboratories or clinics.

The software [programmed in the device] was designed based on experimental calibration [in order to] analyze the data and provide a diagnosis in under 30 seconds.

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?

The first challenge was calibrating the sensor in correlation with the presence and severity of COVID-19 in the [patients].

We conducted a study and tested more than 100 people to better understand the differences between COVID-19 and [other types of] respiratory diseases. We found that in some respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and acute pneumonia, there is an increase in ROS. Seasonal influenza on the other hand induces a reduction in ROS levels [in the] immune system and suppresses certain bacterial clearance [the effect a drug has on bacteria].

The other challenge that we faced was collecting enough data to calibrate the sensor. It was a challenge to find participants for the study due to quarantine restrictions and the danger of working closely with infected cases. [In the end we were able to] test the sensor on more than 300 participants—both confirmed COVID-19 cases and negative cases.

What is the potential impact of the technology?

A real-time ROS-based respiratory inflammation warning system during the pandemic could help control the spread of the virus. It can [also] be used as a support system to help determine the severity of respiratory inflammatory diseases based on ROS levels in the patient’s sputum culture.

How close are you to the final product? 

We [completed developing the system] and received a temporary certificate from the Iranian Food and Drug Administration that allows us to sell the system to medical centers. Our U.S. patent was also received its Notice of the Office communication on four main claims and passed the examiner queries. Hence it will be granted soon.  

The sensor has been deployed in four hospitals, as a non-invasive real-time complementary system, for further observational clinical trials.

How can other IEEE members get involved?

We have only tested [the system] on [patients] in Iran [and] the system can be improved by [testing samples in other countries]. Researchers can also try to find alternative, [inexpensive] materials [to use] as sensing agents for the ROS detection system.

IEEE members who work in similar areas can help test ROS levels in the sputum culture of COVID-19 patients who were treated. This would help us find a suitable drug dose to treat the patients [with] and [better understand how] to monitor the severity of the patients’ symptoms.