Tag Archives: the-institute

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.

Local IEEE Women in Engineering Groups See Record Growth Despite Challenges

Post Syndicated from Jenifer Castillo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-news/local-ieee-women-in-engineering-groups-see-record-growth-despite-challenges

THE INSTITUTE Despite the coronavirus pandemic, IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) had a successful 2020. It grew its affinity groups to nearly 950 even though most of its networking activities, workshops, seminars, and speaker panels were held virtually last year.

The local groups are formed in IEEE sections and student branches around the world. For the past several years, there has been a steady growth in the program, with about 50 new groups formed annually.

The WIE International Leadership Conference, which was held virtually last year, doubled its attendance over 2019. We engaged with more than 2,800 attendees from 95 countries.

Many of the successes resulted from actions taken in response to a survey conducted last year. The survey aimed to identify what WIE could be doing better for members, including ways to update them about activities in their communities and to engage with leadership at the local level. The WIE committee (WIEC) decided to embark on that titanic task, which was imperative to engage with the chairs of our affinity groups (AGs) worldwide.

We thank the 133 participants who took the time to complete the survey and share with us valuable information that will help WIE grow. Thanks also to the IEEE strategic research team for guiding the survey’s design, executing it, and compiling the results.

The survey feedback was constructive, rewarding, enlightening and, most of all, fascinating. We saw how the AGs are evolving, how our vision and mission is reflected in their activities, and how those activities require support at the WIEC leadership level.


Three-quarters of the chairs (76 percent) said they were satisfied with their group’s operation and volunteers’ commitment. More than 80 percent said they were able to meet their objectives, 80 percent have a sustainable action plan, and 87 percent engage in activities with a clear, long-lasting effect locally.

More than a third held activities at least once per month. More than 40 percent held activities less frequently.

Ninety percent of the chairs reported that they have a good relationship with their local IEEE section, while more than 80 percent said the same about their sponsoring IEEE organizational unit.

The chairs reported that the programs they held most often were summits that provided opportunities for networking, mentorship, and collaboration; different skills and development tools for female engineering students; tours of engineering-related facilities; and skill-building workshops.

Considering the input from the 32 percent of AG chairs who participated in the survey, the activities and projects engaged more than 10,000 members, volunteers, people from the local community, and others. It is clear that the AGs are impactful, purposeful, collaborative, and active.


When asked for ways to improve the AG program, the chairs suggested holding weekly meetings, encouraging diversity, and engaging more volunteers.

One popular recommendation was to build stronger relationships among members—which is gratifying to see. Building relationships is what will take us to the next level.

Overall the WIEC is glad to see that the AGs are keeping to the WIE mission and vision, which is to develop programs and activities that promote the entry into, and retention of, women in engineering programs. The mission includes supporting the development of women in their profession through activities that build their technical and professional skills.


The respondents provided us with valuable input about what can we keep doing to support AG development, including activities that attract new volunteers.

Based on the feedback, we have been developing content that we are sharing on our social media platforms and website, such as monthly best practices posted on Instagram, or the case studies published in our website that could be replicated around the globe.

Based on the survey, it is safe to conclude that the AGs feel the WIEC’s support. But we also realize there are issues to track to help us fully understand and articulate their impact in our communities. The WIEC will be working with IEEE to update the L31 templates used to report AG activities, so we can continue to gather the information without needing to conduct more surveys.

We have a long way to go in terms of achieving our goals, but we have a vibrant community committed to doing so. We have to keep supporting activities, find new ways to reach members at a global level, and strengthen our communications channels.

Our volunteers are, as always, giving their best, and we are glad to give ours to keep growing together.

IEEE Senior Member Jenifer Castillo is the 2021 chair of IEEE Women in Engineering.

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.

Forget Electrodes, the First EKG Machine Used Buckets of Saline Solution and Telephone Wire

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-history/forget-electrodes-the-first-ekg-machine-used-buckets-of-saline-solution-and-telephone-wire

THE INSTITUTE For more than 100 years, doctors have relied on electrocardiography to measure the heart’s electrical activity. The technique has its origins in the work of Willem Einthoven, who in 1905 used a string galvanometer to conduct the first recording of a human electrocardiogram (EKG). The string galvanometer, which consists of a metal fiber stretched between two magnets, was originally developed by French engineer Clément Adair in 1872 to send telegrams.

Einthoven’s EKG work has now been commemorated with an IEEE Milestone. The IEEE Benelux (Belgium) Section sponsored the nomination. Administered by the IEEE History Center and supported by donors, the Milestone program recognizes outstanding technical developments around the world.

“The string galvanometer offered the opportunity to record the human electrocardiogram in detail,” says IEEE Life Senior Member Wim van Etten, the section’s Milestone coordinator. “In this way the medical world received an important diagnostic tool to discover certain heart diseases.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Milestone dedication ceremony is still being planned.


Scientists began the journey to modern electrocardiography in 1873 thanks to the capillary electrometer—which was invented by Gabriel Lippmann to detect electric current. The machine consisted of metal wires and a tube with one thick end and one thin end that was filled with mercury and sulfuric acid. The tube’s thin end acted as a capillary—a narrow tube that allowed liquids to flow easily in opposition to gravity. When a pulse of electricity was sent through the machine, there were small changes in surface tension between the mercury and sulfuric acid, according to an article about the technology on the National Museum of American History website.

Using the electrometer, British physiologist Augustus Desiré Waller developed the first EKG machine in 1887. It consisted of a capillary electrometer that was affixed to a projector. Electrodes were placed on the patient’s chest and back; when electrical current entered the tube, the mercury leapt up a short distance. The movement of the mercury, which represented the heart’s electrical pulses, was projected onto a photographic plate, a flat sheet of metal on which an image was recorded.

Although Waller was able to record the patient’s heartbeat and the heart’s electric pulses, the device was not accurate or precise, and it was slow in recording the pulses. Waller also did not recognize the clinical importance of the device and technique, according to “A.D. Waller and the Electrocardiogram, 1887,” a 1987 article in The BMJ.

Einthoven, a physiology professor at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, began to analyze Waller’s data in 1901. He found errors in the visual recordings, according to a 2003 article in the Cardiac Electrophysiology Review. Einthoven wasn’t a physicist, however, and he had trouble finding a mathematical solution that would correct the errors. According to an entry in the Engineering and Technology History Wiki, he sought the help of Hendrik Lorentz, a physics professor at Leiden who won the 1902 Nobel Prize in his field. The duo was able to solve the equations and correct Waller’s measurements.

Einthoven wanted to develop a better device that could be used in clinical medicine. After three years of research and building prototypes, he introduced the string galvanometer in 1904 to the field of electrocardiography.


Einthoven’s galvanometer used a thin silver-plated quartz fiber to measure electrical signals. When the fiber carries current, putting it in a magnetic field causes it to be displaced because of the force of the magnetic field on the current, according to “Einthoven’s String Galvanometer,” a 2008 paper in the Texas Heart Institute Journal. The fiber’s movement was magnified and projected on a running film sheet, which recorded the signal. The device measured the electrical signals more precisely, more accurately, and quicker than Waller’s machine, due to the movement of the quartz fiber.

In 1905 Einthoven partnered with the Leiden University Medical Center to conduct clinical trials.

At around 272 kilograms, the machine was too heavy to be transported from Einthoven’s laboratory to the medical center. Instead, hospitalized patients were connected to the string galvanometer using a telephone wire that ran from the hospital to the laboratory, a distance of about 1.5 kilometers.

At the hospital, patients placed both arms in one bucket of saline solution and their left leg in a separate solution-filled bucket. The filled buckets acted as electrodes to conduct the current from the skin’s surface to the string galvanometer, according to the 2018 book Interpreting ECGs: A Practical Approach.

The clinical recordings enabled Einthoven to “characterize the shape of electrocardiograms as a number of successive waves,” van Etten says. Einthoven also identified and coined the terms for P,Q,R,S,T, and U waves, which are components of the basic pattern of electrical activity on an EKG. The waves represent when the heart muscles contract and relax. The names are still in use, van Etten notes.

Einthoven wanted other physicians to be able to use his machine, but because of its size, he had a tough time finding a company that would manufacture it, according to the Engineering and Technology History Wiki.

After several rejections, Einthoven simplified the design. He worked with Cambridge Scientific, in Watertown, Mass. The company mounted the machine on a table, making it easier to install in hospitals. The machine went on the market in 1905.

The EKG machine was first used in medical diagnosis in 1908, and it remains an integral part of diagnosing and monitoring heart disease.

For Einthoven’s invention and his work in electrocardiography—a term he also coined—he received the 1924 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

“The string galvanometer has led countless investigators to study the functions and diseases of the heart muscle,” the Nobel website says.

The Milestone plaque is to be displayed at the Leiden University Medical Center, where the first clinical recording was taken. The plaque reads:

On 22 March 1905, the first successful clinical recording of a human electrocardiogram took place at this location, which at the time was the Academic Hospital Leiden. Willem Einthoven’s pioneering work, from 1901 to 1905, resulted in a string galvanometer specifically designed to measure and record the heart’s electrical activity, which made this medical achievement possible. This invention marked the beginning of electrocardiography as a major clinical diagnostic tool.

This article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation.

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.

“Understanding Delta-Sigma Data Converters” Named Outstanding Professional Book

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-products-services/understanding-deltasigma-data-converters-named-outstanding-professional-book

THE INSTITUTE Understanding Delta-Sigma Data Converters, 2nd Edition has been selected as the recipient of the first Wiley-IEEE Press outstanding professional book award. The annual award was established this year to honor the best professional book published in the last three years by Wiley-IEEE Press in a field relevant to IEEE.

The Wiley-IEEE Press publishes books and reference works for the engineering and computer science communities.

The authors are IEEE Fellows Shanthi Pavan, Richard E. Schreier, and Gabor Temes. The book covers an important technique used to convert analog signals into digital form—according to a member of the awards committee.

This is an “outstanding book and deserves to be honored as the inaugural recipient,” says another member. “The book is a comprehensive, yet readable resource that encompasses both theory and application details. The authors have an engaging and accessible style, but they don’t shirk on technical depth. The book was clearly a labor of love for the authors, and it shows.”


Pavan is an Institute Chair professor of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, in Chennai. He has served as the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems. Pavan also serves on the editorial boards of the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Letters and the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits. He a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering.

Schreier, who retired in 2016 from Analog Devices, lives in Ontario, Canada. At Analog, he was a division Fellow in the High-Speed Converters group.

Temes is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Oregon State University, in Corvallis. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors. Temes is the recipient of the 2006 IEEE Gustav Robert Kirchhoff Award. He was the vice president of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society and received its 2009 Mac Valkenburg Award. He also served as editor of the IEEE Transactions on Circuit Theory.

IEEE Press editor in chief, Ekram Hossain, had this to say about the award and authors, “This is the first award of this kind across IEEE to recognize the excellence of Wiley-IEEE authors. It truly recognizes the impact of their book to our professional community.”

Nominations for the 2021 awards will open in late January and will be considered for two categories: Wiley-IEEE Press Textbook Award and Wiley-IEEE Press Professional Book Award.

IEEE members receive a 35 percent discount off this book if they order it from Wiley. Learn about other benefits of IEEE membership from IEEE Press.

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.

Leaders in Engineering Education Honored for Their Contributions

Post Syndicated from Johanna Perez original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-news/leaders-in-engineering-education-honored-for-their-contributions

THE INSTITUTE The IEEE Educational Activities Board, one of the major organizational units of IEEE, recommends policies on educational matters while implementing programs intended to serve the educational pursuits of IEEE members, the engineering and scientific communities, and the general public. Every year the IEEE EAB Awards program recognizes and honors individuals and companies for major contributions to engineering and technical education.

Awards are given for meritorious activities in accreditation, continuing education, educational innovation, preuniversity education, service to the IEEE EAB, employee professional development, and related achievements that advance the practice of engineering and of engineering education. This year 10 individuals and one section were recognized for their contributions.

IEEE Life Members Graduate Study Fellowship in Electrical Engineering

IEEE Member Anshuman Sharma was this year’s recipient. Sharma is a graduate student at Ontario Tech University, in Oshawa, Canada, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on power electronics. He is a research assistant at the school and is involved with the IEEE student branch.

He has had a paper published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

The fellowship is awarded to a first-year, full-time graduate student for work in any area of electrical engineering at an engineering school/program of recognized standing worldwide. The fellowship is financed by the IEEE Life Members Fund of the IEEE Foundation.

Charles LeGeyt Fortescue Graduate Scholarship

This scholarship was awarded to IEEE Member Nathan Carnovale, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on electric power systems. He was a teaching assistant at the school and worked as an intern at power-management company Eaton.

The scholarship was established to honor EE pioneer Fortescue in recognition of his valuable contributions to the field. The scholarship, awarded from a trust for which the IEEE Foundation serves as trustee, is given to a student for one year of full-time graduate work in electrical engineering.

Carnovale received the 2020 Duquesne Light Fellowship from the University of Pittsburgh. Last year he was named the university’s outstanding graduate in electrical engineering. The IEEE Power & Energy Society named him its 2019 John W. Estey outstanding scholar.

EAB Meritorious Achievement Award in Accreditation Activities

This award recognizes efforts to foster the maintenance and improvement of education through the process of accreditation of engineering, engineering technology, computer science, and applied science programs. This year’s recipient was Timothy Skvarenina, an IEEE life senior member, who was honored for accreditation activities that focus on curriculum quality for engineering technology programs and sustained contributions to ABET, the U.S. accrediting body.

Skvarenina is professor emeritus of electrical engineering technology at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind. He has received several awards throughout his career including the IEEE Third Millennium Medal for outstanding contributions to the IEEE Education Society. He has published numerous articles in journals including IEEE Transactions on Education, Frontiers in Education, and the Academy of Educational Leadership Journal. He served on Purdue’s educational policy committee and the University Senate.

EAB Meritorious Achievement Award in Pre-University Education

Lori Nelson received this award, which recognizes individuals for work in a preuniversity school, or those who influence school-based activities for preuniversity students.

Nelson works at Hampton Cove Elementary School, in Huntsville, Ala., where she is the STEM instructor. She was recognized for delivering innovative science, technology, engineering, arts, and math programs and schoolwide initiatives to enhance student opportunities. She has received other education awards including the National Science Teachers Association Sylvia Shugrue Award for Elementary School Teachers.

EAB Meritorious Achievement Award in Continuing Education

IEEE Life Senior Member Roy Cossé and IEEE Life Fellow Jim Bowen shared this award for their 25 years of dedicated service and sustained leadership in the development, implementation, and delivery of continuing-education programs in the Houston area. The award recognizes contributions to the design, delivery, and support of continuing-education courses and programs in the fields of interest to IEEE members.

Cossé is a senior electrical engineer whose consultancy work includes project design and operations support. He helped create the IEEE Houston Section’s Continuing Education on Demand seminar program.

Bowen is a power systems consultant with Aramco. He also is active in the IEEE Houston Section as well as the IEEE Industry Application Society’s petroleum and chemical industry committee.

EAB Meritorious Achievement Award in Outreach and Informal Education

This award, which recognizes members who volunteer their time and effort, highlights the benefits that their work provides to preuniversity and university teachers, students, parents, and the public at large. This year IEEE Member Anis Ben Arfi was honored for delivering outreach education to engage students and young professionals throughout Alberta, Canada. Ben Arfi is a postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Calgary’s iRadio Lab. He is an intern at Analog Devices in Ottawa, focusing on a wide variety of RF components and wireless communication devices.

“Anis’s outstanding achievements in inspiring, energizing, and engaging graduate students and young professionals makes him an influential leader at the University of Calgary,” wrote Tushar Sharma, who nominated Ben Arfi. “He served in different capacities and focused on improving the student experience.”

EAB Section Professional Development Award

This recognition honors IEEE sections for major contributions to IEEE members in the areas of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The IEEE Houston Section received the award for the sustained delivery during the past 25 years of its Continuing Education on Demand (CED) program.

Jerry Harness, the 2020 Houston Section membership development chair, says the program is a well-known technical resource for electrical engineers in the area.

“The IEEE Houston Section takes pride in its CED program and works hard to keep the program relevant for the region’s needs,” Harness says. “I am amazed at the variety of topics and seminars that are consistently offered, and they do not repeat often. This format of education has provided a great alternative for the Houston electrical engineering community.”

Listen to what Christopher Sanderson, the 2020–2021 Houston Section chair, said about the section’s achievement.

IEEE-HKN Distinguished Service Award

This honor recognizes members who have devoted years of service to IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu, resulting in significant benefits to the honor society’s members. IEEE Life Fellow Bruce A. Eisenstein is this year’s recipient for his exemplary volunteer service to the organization and its professional community.

Eisenstein, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, was IEEE president in 2000 and IEEE-HKN president in 2010. While president of Eta Kappa Nu, he was a major force behind the merger between IEEE and HKN, according to his nominator, IEEE Senior Member Timothy Kurzweg. Eisenstein’s vision developed a path to bring an honor society to IEEE and ensure a strong future for HKN.

“This contribution helped every past, current, and future member of IEEE-HKN,” Kurzweg wrote.

IEEE-HKN Asad M. Madni Outstanding Technical Achievement and Excellence Award

This recognition—named in honor of Madni, an IEEE Fellow with nearly 50 years of technical and philanthropic accomplishments and visionary leadership—is the highest award given to practitioners who have distinguished themselves through an invention, development, discovery, or innovation in electrical or computer sciences, engineering, or technology, with worldwide impact.

This year’s recipient, Ming Hsieh, was recognized for his innovations in and commercialization of biometric identification systems and his transformational contributions to modern engineering education.

Hsieh is founder, chairman, and CEO of Fulgent Genetics and Fulgent Pharma. He invented a modeling technique that significantly enhanced digital-fingerprint features. He also invented the programmable matching accelerator, which revolutionized automated fingerprint identification.

Fulgent’s technology platform for genetic testing for cancer offers one of the broadest test menus in the market, impacting cancer research and enabling personalized treatments.

IEEE-HKN C. Holmes MacDonald Outstanding Teaching Award

Jennifer Marley received this award, which recognizes the crucial role of college professors in training and motivating future electrical and computer engineers. Marley, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Valparaiso University, in Indiana, was honored for her excellence as a teacher, her contributions to the scholarship of teaching, and her mentoring of undergraduate research students.

“Professor Marley is an exemplary teacher,” wrote her nominator, Douglas Tougaw, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Valparaiso. “She is brilliant, hard­working, and incredibly creative in finding ways to capture and maintain her students’ attention.”

View all the award recipient videos here.

Johanna Perez is the digital marketing specialist for IEEE Educational Activities.

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.

Ready for a Career Change? Become a Photonics Technician

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-news/ready-for-a-career-change-become-a-photonics-technician

THE INSTITUTE Many technologies—including the Internet, television, and medical equipment—depend on the use of photonics, but there is a shortage of trained technicians who can build, install, and maintain equipment in the field. Photonics is the science and technology of generating, controlling, and detecting particles of light.

In Massachusetts alone, more than 50,000 photonics jobs are going unfilled, according to the “Takeaway” podcast, which reported on the shortage.

To help rectify the situation, IEEE, the Optical Society, and SPIE— the International Society for Optics and Photonics— each donated US $75,000 to pay the tuition of the first 15 students who participate in the Advanced Manufacturing and Integrated Photonics Certificate program.

The 15-month program, which was launched this year, prepares students who have little to no background in science, technology, engineering, or math for a career in the field.

The program was developed by Bridgewater State University, in Massachusetts, and nearby Stonehill College, in collaboration with MIT’s Initiative for Knowledge and Innovation in Manufacturing. The initiative helps create education and training programs, supports research efforts in manufacturing, and helps develop national policy in the field of photonics.

“As technology advances and the resulting applications become mainstream, the demand for technicians grows,” says Douglas M. Razzano, executive director of the IEEE Photonics Society. “These technological advances will continue to create many jobs that require certified technicians.

“This pilot program is the first step in both supporting this level of training and spreading awareness of the obtainable job opportunities available to all in the photonics industry.”


Bridgewater State has run optics-related research programs for 20 years. Stonehill introduced a photonics major and minor this year. Bridgewater already offers undergraduate courses on photonics—which next year will become part of a new accredited photonics and optical engineering degree program, according to a MIT News article.

To receive the certification, students must complete 27 credits—the equivalent of nine undergraduate courses—and work as an apprentice for three months in their final semester. They also participate in two day-long boot camps held at MIT.

The courses cover topics such as fiber optics, digital fundamentals, and photonic integrated circuits.

“The program offers hands-on experience and know-how in everything you will need to gain in well-paid positions in the fast-growing photon and light-based economy,” Bridgewater physics professor Ed Deveney told MIT News. “We hope to grow this new program each year, and help other schools offer similar opportunities to their students.”


In addition to financial support from the three societies, the program has received a grant of $1.8 million from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. It also received $4 million from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative, which supports education and projects working to advance manufacturing.

Thanks to the funding, the program was able to build a photonics lab at Stonehill so that students can work with machinery used by technicians, such as a femtosecond laser, according to the program’s website.

MIT also played a critical role in developing the certification program. The school leads the Aim Academy, an education and workforce development initiative by manufacturing institute Aim Photonics. Several faculty members of the academy and MIT have joined the Bridgewater faculty to teach courses in the technician training program.

“I really enjoy the hands-on experience,” student Kenneth Cardoso told The Institute. “I find it interesting, and I just want to learn more.”

Cardoso, who previously worked as a truck driver, says he discovered a passion for manufacturing and computer programming through his classes.

“I’m excited to [take more] courses to see what else I like,” he says. “I never knew about [photonics and manufacturing] until I started this program. Now I found a career that suits me and I enjoy.

“You can’t be afraid to pursue a different career path.”

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.

What’s in Store for Next Year’s IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Virtual Conference

Post Syndicated from Heather Quinn original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-products-services/whats-in-store-for-next-years-ieee-women-in-engineering-international-leadership-virtual-conference

THE INSTITUTE The 2021 IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC) is scheduled to be held virtually from 27 to 30 April.

The annual conference aims to support and sustain female leaders and technologists, especially those in mid- to senior career.

We are hoping to build on the success of last year’s conference, which was supposed to be held in person in May at the San Diego Convention Center but was converted into a virtual event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Held throughout June, the virtual conference retained all the keynotes, several of the other talks, and many of the networking events.

Last year’s experience proved a virtual conference could keep some of the unique features—including that special, member-to-member connection—that the face-to-face event has always had.

Attendance nearly doubled, from 1,600 attendees to 2,800, and the reach of the conference grew from 50 countries to 95. In many ways, 2020 was the start of true global outreach for the WIE ILC.

Although we will miss seeing attendees in person next year, we hope everyone understands that it is safer for attendees, speakers, sponsors, and the conference committee to meet virtually for a second year in a row.

For our second virtual conference, we hope to provide a truly global experience for attendees, speakers, and sponsors. The intent is to time-shift the conference so that watch parties can gather at specified times to participate when attendees can best tune in, whether that’s during the day or in the evening. The conference will schedule networking events that will accommodate several time zones. We are working to address language barriers, as well, by scheduling some non-English networking events.

I believe the meeting’s magical attendee-to-attendee connection can be transferred to the virtual platform by making it possible for attendees to work together in small groups during workshops so that everyone can discuss what is going on with their engineering projects and how to make their work lives better.


The theme for 2021 is Accelerating Through Change.

In the past, our most popular events at the conference have been skill-building workshops for career management, breakout talks on the newest technologies, and executive leadership training.

Our leadership and career topics include career management; empowerment; government and laboratory work environments; increasing inclusion, intersectionality, and representation; leadership development and advancement; and managing teams and technology during COVID-19.

Sessions on technology will cover artificial intelligence, biotechnology, communications, disruptive/emerging technologies, and machine learning.


We will have a new virtual platform that is more flexible and interactive for attendees, speakers, and sponsors.

The inclusion of a virtual expo floor will help us highlight our sponsors more effectively. The conference’s partners will have a virtual booth for interacting with attendees and sponsoring networking events. The partners can use the virtual platform to show off their newest technology. This new expo floor should be as dynamic as usual, allowing attendees to talk, one on one, with partners to discuss technology or career opportunities. If you are interested in partnership support, contact us.


We are seeking proposals for speakers and events, including keynote addresses, breakout sessions, tutorials, panels, and workshops. Our past speakers have come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Embracing a diversity of representation is always important to the conference.

We hope that some will provide talks specifically focused on managing the COVID-19 pandemic at work, including effectively leading dispersed teams and adapting to working from home. We also would like examples of how technology is helping people thrive.

As a result of the conference, we hope our attendees will come out of the pandemic stronger and more resilient, and with more resources for the next set of challenges.

We also are seeking people who can present on the topics of intersectionality and representation in technology. Intersectionality provides a framework to explain the interconnected nature of race, class, and gender that can disadvantage women of color.

If you would like to be a speaker, please fill out a form. The deadline is 19 December.

You can view several speakers from this year’s conference on IEEE TV. The speeches include keynotes by financial advisor Sally Krawcheck, a founder of Ellevest, who discussed the wealth gap for underrepresented minorities; and Sonita Lontoh, global head of marketing at HP, who shared a story about bringing her passion to the work environment.


You can help us develop our global networking events. If you are interested in hosting an event in your time zone, reach out to the conference committee staff. Such events can focus on specific IEEE regions or sections, including specialized events for non-English speakers.

We believe the full WIE ILC program, including keynotes, breakouts, tutorials, workshops, and networking events, can be restored. We look forward to having you join us as an attendee, speaker, or sponsor. And we hope that we will be able to see you all safely and in person in 2022.

IEEE Senior Member Heather Quinn is general chair for the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference 2021 and 2022.

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 New IEEE Volunteering Platform Lists Opportunities Around the World in One Place

Post Syndicated from Flavia Dinca original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-products-services/this-new-ieee-volunteering-platform-lists-opportunities-around-the-world-in-one-place

THE INSTITUTE The new IEEE Volunteering platform enables members to search for opportunities across the organization, be it short or long term, local or remote. Those who are looking for helpers can post the positions they need to fill. The portal was developed by the IEEE Young Professionals group.

By using the platform, IEEE leaders, volunteers, and members can connect with each other according to their schedule, talent, and interest. Whether it’s student branches, technical societies, programs or initiatives, the platform can meet the needs of just about every IEEE organizational unit.


Through the Web-based application users can:

  • Share information about themselves and their expertise.
  • Find geographical and preference-based volunteering recommendations.
  • Search for projects that could use their skills.
  • Look for projects that cover a specific period of time.
  • Automatically generate a résumé or CV that lists their contributions.
  • Get feedback and endorsements from the team leader.
  • Post volunteering opportunities available within IEEE, including short-term micro-volunteering assignments.
  • Nominate colleagues for positions that fit their skill set.

The platform is set to fully launch early next year, but groups from across IEEE are already trying it out during its soft launch. Groups are collaborating and building teams to advance their humanitarian and technical projects with the help of volunteers from the global community.

Natalie Apadula, product marketing specialist for IEEE Collabratec, says the platform is a useful tool in her program’s efforts to recruit ambassadors with a regional focus. Ambassadors are members who educate others on Collabratec’s benefits.

“The platform is straightforward and user-friendly and allows me to tailor each opportunity to target a specific geographic region and message applicants—all in one place,” Apadula says. “I envision this platform becoming an important asset for the Collabratec program going forward.”


The IEEE Volunteering platform is the culmination of the micro-volunteering program started in 2017 by the IEEE Young Professionals team. The main goals were to remove barriers to first-time engagements, enable flexible volunteering that fits busy schedules, facilitate skills-based recruitment, and enhance volunteer recognition.

During the 2016 IEEE Membership Segmentation Study, it became apparent that although young members wanted to be active in IEEE, they found it difficult to identify volunteering opportunities.

The program and new platform have been led by the IEEE Young Professionals team, but the platform is meant to help all IEEE groups increase the volunteer pipeline. Its goal is to also make it easier for new volunteers to get involved and recognize the time people dedicate to the organization.

Visit the platform to explore available opportunities and start building your volunteering CV.

For questions or to comment, contact the team: [email protected].

Flavia Dinca and Noor E Karishma Shaik are IEEE Young Professionals members.

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.

How a Board Game and Skyscrapers Inspired the Development of the QR Code

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-history/how-a-board-game-and-skyscrapers-inspired-the-development-of-the-qr-code

THE INSTITUTE The use of QR (quick-response) codes has grown in recent years thanks to mobile phones, which can scan them with their built-in camera. Unlike universal product codes (UPCs), which are mechanically scanned by a narrow beam of light, a QR code “is detected by a two-dimensional digital image sensor and then digitally analyzed by a programmed processor,” says an article on Ricardo Illardo’s web design site.

QR codes are used for a variety of applications, including making contactless credit card purchases and scanning airline boarding passes. They have become even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many restaurants are displaying QR codes that allow customers to pull up the eatery’s menu on their phone, allowing them to avoid touching physical menus.

The QR code was introduced in 1994 by Japanese automotive manufacturer Denso, located in Aichi. The company developed the code to speed up its tracking of car parts.

UPCs contain a series of up to 12 numbers—which limits how much information they can store.

“The QR code can handle numbers of up to 7,087 digits,” says IEEE Member Masahiro Hara, inventor of the code. The codes also are more robust, he says: They can be read accurately even if 30 percent of the code area is soiled or damaged.

The most important feature of a QR code, Hara says, is that it can be read five times faster than a typical barcode. QR codes use short URLs, which condense information into a shorter link that loads faster, according to a post about the differences between UPCs and QR codes on the QR Code Generator blog.

The QR code is now an IEEE Milestone. The IEEE Nagoya [Japan] Section sponsored the nomination. Administered by the IEEE History Center and supported by donors, the Milestone program recognizes outstanding technical developments around the world.

The dedication ceremony is being planned for next year due to pandemic restrictions.


Before the QR code, Denso used UPCs to track automotive parts in its factories and warehouses, according to an entry in the Engineering and Technology History Wiki.

Because many of the boxes had several barcodes on them with different information about each part, the scanning was slowing the production and distribution process, according to an NHK World-Japan episode on QR codes.

To ease the employees’ workload, Hara, who at that time was one of the company’s engineers, set out to create a system that could store more information than the existing barcodes. The IEEE member brought together a team of Denso’s engineers and began developing a new type of code in 1992.

To fit more data into the new code, Hara took inspiration from the 2D barcodes invented in 1987 by engineer David Allais at Intermec. UPCs used only the horizontal axis to hold information, but 2D barcodes used both the vertical and horizontal axes.

Hara also was inspired by the board game Go, according to the NHK episode. In the game, pieces are placed at intersections on the board. Even if the pieces are a little off the intersection, the players still know where the pieces are. Hara applied the idea to the QR code. The pixelated parts on a QR code are doubled so that if some are damaged, others can make up for them, according to an article about common QR scanning problems on the QR Code Generator blog.

When the team began testing its new code with a UPC scanner, the device could not read code. Text surrounding the code interfered with the scanning. Hara had to find a solution, because text was necessary to identify the car parts.

He found his answer one morning while riding a train to work.

“I was just looking out the window when I noticed a tall building standing out from its surroundings,” Hara said in an interview with NHK World-Japan for the episode on QR codes. “That scene stuck with me, and I realized the code, too, needed a special symbol—something to make it stand out from the surrounding text.”

While experimenting with different frames around the code, Hara and his team tried different black-to-white ratios (the widths of the contrasting areas), trying to make one unusual enough to stand out. The team created a database of black-to-white ratios by scanning images from newspapers, then developed software that would analyze the data. After three months, Hara found the ratio of black to white needed for the QR code was 1:1:3:1:1, according to the TV show, and created a box using that ratio. The box was placed on each corner of the QR code—which allowed the scanner to successfully read it.

Denso was granted a U.S. patent in 1998, a Japanese patent in 1999, and a European patent in 2000. The QR code was given the ISO standard 18004:2015 in 2000.

“[To me] the most important thing about [the QR code] is that this technology has been adopted all over the world,” Hara told The Institute. “We are honored the QR code is now an IEEE Milestone and are very proud that the technology is utilized in various fields and that they are contributing to the development of industry.”

The Milestone plaque is to be displayed in the Denso Gallery in Aichi, Japan, an interactive exhibition hall that spotlights the company’s inventions. The plaque reads:

DENSO developed two-dimensional QR Code technology, inexpensive machine-readable optical labels that improved on barcoding by conveying larger amounts of data more quickly. Worldwide businesses soon adopted QR Codes to improve manufacturing, logistics, and management. Camera-equipped mobile phones brought QR Codes into advertising, design, and widespread applications such as electronic payments, giving consumers efficient new ways to access digital information.

This article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation’s Realize the Full Potential of IEEE campaign.