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  1. Navigating the Great Resignation and Changing Client Demands

    With IP law firms under increasing pressure to meet client expectations faster and more efficiently, many practices are turning to creative workflow solutions and new staffing models. Register now for this free webinar.

    Join us for the upcoming webinar, Driving IP Law firm growth amidst staffing and market challenges, as our in-house experts, with combined 40+ years of industry knowledge, share key learnings from the experiences of our IP law firm customers, including the considerations for getting it right and ensuring quality outcomes.

    Topics that will be covered:

    • Finding a right-fit resourcing balance: when to outsource vs. keeping in-house
    • Common pitfalls to avoid
    • Key learnings and strategies for firms to manage resourcing successfully
  2. Turing Award Winner On His Pioneering Algorithms

    Jack Dongarra’s dream job growing up was to teach science at a public high school in Chicago.

    “I was pretty good in math and science, but I wasn’t a particularly good student,” Dongarra says, laughing.

    After he graduated high school, there was only one university he wanted to attend: Chicago State. That’s because, he says, it was known for “churning out teachers.” Chicago State accepted his application, and he decided to major in mathematics.

    His physics professor suggested that Dongarra apply for an internship at the Argonne National Laboratory, in Lemont, Ill., a nearby U.S. Department of Energy science and engineering research center. For 16 weeks he worked with a group of researchers designing and developing EISPACK, a package of Fortran routines that compute the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices—calculations common in scientific computing.

    Dongarra acknowledges he didn’t have a background in or knowledge of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—but he loved what he was doing. The experience at Argonne, he says, was transformative. He had found his passion.

    “I thought it was a cool thing to do,” he says, “so I kept pursuing it.”

    About Jack Dongarra

    Employer:University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Title:Professor emeritus, computer science

    Member grade:Life Fellow

    Alma mater:Chicago State University

    The IEEE Life Fellow has since made pioneering contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries for linear algebra, which allowed software to make good use of high-performance hardware. His open-source software libraries are used in just about every computer, from laptops to the world’s fastest supercomputers.

    The libraries include basic linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra package LAPACK, parallel virtual machines (PVMs), automatically tuned linear algebra software (ATLAS), and the high-performance conjugate gradient (HPCG) benchmark.

    For his work, he was honored this year with the 2021 A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. He received US $1 million as part of the award, which is known as the Nobel Prize of computing.

    “When I think about previous Turing Award recipients, I’m humbled to think about what I’ve learned from their books and papers,” Dongarra says. “Their programming languages, theorems, techniques, and standards have helped me develop my algorithms.

    “It’s a tremendous honor to be this year’s recipient. The award is a recognition by the computer-science community that the contributions we are making in high-performance computing are important and have an impact in the broader computer-science community and science in general.”

    Dongarra didn’t end up teaching science to high school students. Instead, he became a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he taught for 33 years. The university recently named him professor emeritus.

    Entrepreneurial Spirit

    After graduating from Chicago State in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Dongarra went on to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, also in Chicago. While there he worked one day a week for Argonne with the same team of researchers. After he got his degree in 1973, the lab hired him full time as a researcher.

    With encouragement from his colleagues to pursue a Ph.D., he left the lab to study applied mathematics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He honed his knowledge of linear algebra there and began working out algorithms and writing software.

    He returned to Argonne after getting his doctorate in 1980 and worked there as a senior scientist until 1989, when he got the opportunity to fulfill his dream of teaching.

    He was offered a joint position teaching computer science at the University of Tennessee and conducting research at the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory which, like Argonne, is a Department of Energy facility.

    “It was time for me to try out some new things,” he says. “I was ready to try my hand at academia.”

    He says Oak Ridge operated in a similar way to Argonne, and the culture there was more or less the same.

    “The challenge,” he says, “was becoming a university professor.”

    "The Turing Award is a recognition by the computer science community that the contributions we are making in high-performance computing are important, and have an impact in the broader computer science community and science in general.”

    University culture is very different from that at a government laboratory, he says, but he quickly fell into the rhythm of the academic setting.

    Although he loved teaching, he says, he also was attracted to the opportunity the university gave its instructors to work on technology they are passionate about.

    “You follow your own path and course of research,” he says. “I’ve prospered in that environment. I interact with smart people, I have the ability to travel around the world, and I have collaborations going on with people in many countries.

    “Academia gives you this freedom to do things and not be constrained by a company’s drive or its motivation. Rather, I get to work on what motivates me. That’s why I’ve stayed in academia for so many years.”

    Man with glasses and checkered shirt sitting in front of a Tektronix computer. In 1980, Dongarra worked as a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, in Lemont, Ill.Jack Dongarra

    Dongarra founded the university’s Innovative Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to provide tools for high-performance computing to the scientific community. He also directs the school’s Center for Information Technology Research.

    He is now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he calls “a wonderful place, with its state-of-the-art equipment and the latest computers.”

    Software for Supercomputers

    It was working in creative environments that led Dongarra to come up with what many describe as world-changing software libraries, which have contributed to the growth of high-performance computing in many areas including artificial intelligence, data analytics, genomics, and health care.

    “The libraries we designed have basic components that are needed in many areas of science so that users can draw on those components to help them solve their computational problems,” he says. “That software is portable and efficient. It has all the attributes that we want in terms of being understandable and providing reliable results.”

    He’s currently working on creating a software library for the world’s fastest supercomputer, Frontier, which recently was installed at the Oak Ridge lab. It is the first computer that can process more than 1 quintillion operations per second.

    Computer-Science Recognition

    Dongarra has been an IEEE member for more than 30 years.

    “I enjoy interacting with the community,” he says in explaining why he continues to belong. “Also I enjoy reading IEEE Spectrum and journals that are relevant to my specific field.”

    He has served as an editor for several IEEE journals including Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Computer Architecture Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems.

    Dongarra says he’s a big promoter of IEEE meetings and workshops, especially the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis, sponsored by ACM and the IEEE Computer Society, of which he is a member. He’s been attending the event every year since 1988. He has won many awards at the conference for his papers.

    “That conference is really a homecoming for the high-performance computing community,” he says, “and IEEE plays a major role.”

    IEEE is proud of Dongarra’s contributions to computing and has honored him over the years. In 2008 he received the first IEEE Medal of Excellence in Scalable Computing. He also received the 2020 Computer Pioneer Award, the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, the 2011 IEEE Charles Babbage Award and the 2003 Sidney Fernbach Award.

    “I’m very happy and proud to be a member of IEEE,” he says. “I think it provides a valuable service to the community.”

  3. Sustainable Weather Balloon Wins Student a $10,000 Scholarship

    Every day thousands of weather balloons are released all over the world, using radiosondes to measure pressure, relative humidity, and temperature. The balloons aren’t environmentally friendly, though, in part because they’re made out of nonrecyclable materials such as latex. Also, there’s a lot of waste.

    After a few hours in the air, a weather balloon bursts and its radiosonde falls to the ground via a parachute. Out of the 75,000 radiosondes launched every year in the United States, only 20 percent are found and returned, according to the National Weather Service. The cost of replacing them adds up.

    Amon Schumann, a senior at the Robert-Havemann-Gymnasium school, in Berlin, has invented eco-friendly, cost-effective solutions.

    A young man holding a device called a radiosonde Amon Schumann’s radiosonde for weather balloons is equipped with a solar-powered battery and GPS.Lynn Bowlby

    Schumann built a coin-size, solar-powered radiosonde that weighs 4.8 grams—far more compact than current models, which weigh about 96 g. The weather balloon he designed can stay in the air longer than traditional models as well.

    His Small Radiosondes on a Great Mission project was showcased in May at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair held in Atlanta.

    At a special awards ceremony, Schumann was caught by surprise when it was announced that his project received the IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship. The award was established by the IEEE Foundation to acknowledge a deserving student for a project that demonstrates an understanding of electrical or electronics engineering, computer science, or other IEEE field of interest. The scholarship is administered on behalf of IEEE Educational Activities and is payable over four years of undergraduate university study. Schumann also received a complimentary IEEE student membership. Susan K. “Kathy” Land, the 2021 IEEE president, presented Schumann with this year’s scholarship.

    “In comparison to launching 2,000 to 5,000 balloons that stay up for just two to three hours, my balloon can stay up in the air for 52 days.”

    Schumann was motivated to improve radiosondes and weather balloons during a visit to a local meteorology museum. There he learned that radiosondes have not significantly changed in the past 100 years.

    Environmentally Friendly

    Because of the increase in air pressure at high altitudes, weather balloons burst at around 35 kilometers. To address the problem, Schumann used layers of foil welded together, plus a heated Teflon wheel, to create a balloon that is able to withstand higher altitudes.

    “In comparison to launching 2,000 to 5,000 balloons that stay up for just two to three hours, my balloon can stay up in the air for 52 days, so fewer balloons have to be launched,” he says.

    His radiosonde provides several times more measurement data per day compared with traditional ones launched every two weeks. The radiosondes are equipped with a solar-powered battery, which is about 20 grams lighter than a lithium battery.

    Schumann also developed an extension module with a camera to record additional data such as cloud formation.

    “The camera can take aerial images of the clouds,” he says, “which allows for a more accurate view of their formation and connections in comparison to a traditional radar system.”

    He added GPS to track his radiosonde in real time. The radiosonde’s location is uploaded to his balloon flight tracker, which he hopes will be of use to those needing weather data.

    The software he designed allows for the radio weather data packets to be transmitted in real time from his radiosonde to an analysis unit in his home. The data is then sent to the Citizen Weather Observer Program, a volunteer-based network. From there it’s forwarded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for possible use in general weather forecasting.

    Schumann says he plans to study electrical engineering at a technical university in Berlin.

    Brain-Computer Interface

    This year’s second-place recipient was Navya Ramakrishnan, a senior at Plano Senior High School, in Texas. Her interface uses brain signals to complete household tasks such as turning on a television.

    Ramakrishnan’s brain-computer interface was designed for people with paralysis and neuromuscular disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. She says her inspiration came from the machine Steven Hawking built that used his eye movements to communicate.

    “That was definitely the starting point, when I thought about a way to have a universal communication-aid machine for ALS patients,” Ramakrishnan says. Instead of using eye movements, she used brain waves measured by an EEG headset to gauge activity.

    A female student wearing a lanyard identifying her as a finalist at ISEF. Second-place recipient Navya Ramakrishnan designed a brain-computer interface to help those with paralysis and neuromuscular disorders do household tasks such as turning on a television.Lynn Bowlby

    She discovered that a spike in the EEG data, a P300 signal, occurs in reaction to an event. Using a computer monitor, she created a visual display of commonly used home-automation command phrases. The BCI system is connected with the home’s circuit, which controls lights, appliances, and more. The command is performed via wireless transmission to the part of the circuit in control of that task.

    When users see their desired command flash on the monitor, they count in their head until it stops—which triggers a reaction and creates a P300 signal. The BCI system pinpoints which command lit up at the time the signal occurred.

    “Let’s say the user wants to turn on a light. Every time that ‘Light on’ command flashes on the screen I ask them to count in their head,” she explains. “The counting will generate that ‘Oh, there’s the light on command,’ reaction, and it will generate that spike in the EEG data.

    “Essentially what my system does,” she says, “is ask, ‘Where did those P300 signals occur?’ Because where they occur means the user just reacted to the command that flashed on the screen.”

    Ramakrishnan said she will be attending Harvardthis year to pursue a degree in computer science with a concentration in mind, brain, and behavior.

    Detecting Leukemia

    Adelle Jia Xin Yong, a junior at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, was awarded third place for her Smart Leukemia Labs project. Her portable microscope and diagnostic tool accurately and quickly detects acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

    A female student holding a black portable microscope and diagnostic tool. Adelle Jia Xin Yong was awarded third place for her portable microscope and diagnostic tool that accurately and quickly detects acute lymphoblastic leukemia from a drop of blood.Lynn Bowlby

    The invention is compatible with smartphones. An attachment magnifies a drop of blood on a 0.5-millimeter glass slide up to 1,000 times. An app that uses object detection, image recognition, and semantic segmentation identifies abnormal blood cells to diagnose leukemia.

    Yong says her invention combines her passion for helping the community and improving access to health care.

    “In seventh grade I had a friend who unfortunately had leukemia,” she says. “As I saw her go through the treatments, I wondered how people who didn’t have access to the technology she had were able to obtain treatments or even a diagnosis.”

    Yong’s diagnostic tool is targeted at those living in underserved regions. It costs about US $28 to make and uses low-cost materials, most of which can be found around the home, such as a metal pin and a tiny plastic tube.

    When Yong heard her name called at the fair, she was shocked, she says.

    “ISEF is a really big thing,” she says. “I was happy with my invention, but I didn’t know I would win something. I am just absolutely thrilled.”

    Yong’s father introduced her to engineering. In 2020 she taught herself how to code by watching YouTube videos.

    She founded GStar, a club at her high school that is focused on empowering women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

    She says she hopes to attend medical school and become a doctor. Her goal is to turn her patented prototype into a viable product with the help of manufacturers and labs.

  4. This Startup Builds USVs That Collect Data About Oceans

    Because most of the ocean’s vast area is far from land, it can be dangerous and expensive for crewed vessels to conduct research expeditions. This spurred Julie Angus to cofound the startup Open Ocean Robotics to design, build, and operate oceangoing uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) drones. She is the company’s CEO.

    “Our planet’s oceans are full of information that can help us protect at-risk marine life, allow ships to select more fuel-efficient routes, crack down on illegal fishing, better understand the impacts of climate change, and more,” Angus says. The IEEE member also belongs to the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society.

    The startup offers marine data as a service using its solar-powered Data Xplorer ocean drones, which eliminate the need for traditional crewed vessels. They can travel for months at a time collecting ocean and environmental data.

    “Our team will help you plan the mission and execute it from start to finish,” she says.

    The company designs and builds the drone’s hull, deck, and circuit boards. There is a patent pending on the self-righting roll-bar system. The drone is equipped with electro-optical and infrared cameras. Its sensors include hydrophones that can listen to marine life, as well as environmental sensors to measure water temperature, salinity, turbidity, and weather conditions. The USV weighs just over 100 kilograms, and its motor propels it at up to 33.3 kilometers per hour.

    “We have 360-degree video streaming, so the operator can use a joystick to remotely drive the boat,” Angus says. “Otherwise, our command-and-control portal can program a vehicle for autonomous activity, such as uploading a route [for] doing a grid survey.” Thanks to the combination of solar cells and lithium batteries, she says, “our boats can operate and travel nonstop for months, without needing refueling or external recharging.”

    Open Ocean Robotics has received several awards and recognitions, including being named a 2019 IEEE N3XT Star. The N3XT program showcases engineering-driven founders and entrepreneurial topics.

    The company began in the Anguses’ garage on Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada, in 2018. The following year, the company moved to the Vancouver Island Technology Park research and tech center. Today, Open Ocean has more than two dozen full-time employees, plus contractors and part-time staff, bringing the total to just over 30. The company has received more than US $5 million in funding.

    Angus knows firsthand about how challenging the ocean can be. Her water expeditions throughout the world include five months during 2005 and 2006, when she and her husband rowed from Portugal to Costa Rica. It was the first time a woman had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean from mainland to mainland. In 2009, the couple cofounded Angus Rowboats, which manufactures rowboats and creates sailboat kits and plans for the recreational market.

    “Our boats can operate and travel nonstop for months, without needing refueling or external recharging.”

    Angus also brings an academic perspective to her ponderings of the deep. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont., Canada, and a master’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Victoria, in British Columbia.

    As of June, Open Ocean Robotics had three Data Xplorers in service, and two more nearly completed. It plans to start manufacturing another 10 later this year.

    “We are still primarily doing pilot projects in both Canada and the United States, but we are transitioning into more recurring-revenue contracts,” Angus says.

    The startup is eager for new technology such as smaller base stations for low Earth orbit communication satellites when its USV can’t get cellular service. The company also plans to invest in continued advancements in photovoltaic cells and in power storage—and smaller, more energy-efficient sensors.

    Although Open Ocean is committed to its maritime focus, “we are not necessarily limiting ourselves to surface vehicles,” Angus says. “I can also imagine having aerial drones or underwater vehicles as part of our data-collection services. For us, the goal is data collection, helping to build an Internet of Things for the sea.”

    Data Xplorer

    This article appears in the August 2022 print issue as “Julie Angus.”

  5. What’s the Tech Background of an Autonomous-Vehicle Engineer?

    Cruise, the San-Francisco–based designer and operator of all-electric self-driving cars, employs nearly 2,000 engineers, including somewhere between 300 and 900 engineers with Ph.D. degrees. They work in hardware and software. They specialize in AI, security, and safety. And though, indeed, some have robotics, automation, or automotive backgrounds, many don’t. Instead, they come from an incredibly long list of different technical fields—e-commerce, finance, game development, animation, cameras, semiconductors, and app development.

    Here’s what Mohamed Elshenawy, Cruise’s executive vice president of engineering, told IEEE Spectrum about the company’s workforce. (Elshenawy himself came to Cruise from stints as chief technology officer at a financial services startup and leader of a technology team at Amazon.)

    IEEE Spectrum: Let’s start with the big picture of your engineering team.

    Mohamed Elshenawy:In AI, we have machine-learning (ML) engineers that build the on-the-road decision-making modules. We also have the engineers that help build the tools for our continuous-learning machine. We have data engineers and data scientists, and even UI folks that help with the tools that the main core ML engineers use.

    In robotics, we have AV foundations engineers, who build and maintain our robotics operating systems, and embedded systems developers.

    In our security and safety operations, we have engineers working on threat modeling, app security engineering, IT enterprise security, and the security of the vehicle itself, along with all the systems engineers responsible for test validation, generating test-case scenarios, and tracking it all.

    Our hardware engineers build our own EVs from the ground up, in partnership with GM and Honda. They handle the definition, design, development, and production of sensors, compute modules, and related hardware and include about 50 engineering disciplines, including acoustic engineers, power engineers, system-on-chips people, and so on.

    Finally, we have the product engineering team—that covers both user-facing and internal apps—and the infrastructure team which builds the technical foundations (cloud infrastructure, internal tools, etc.) that the rest of our engineers rely on every day to get work done.

    Where do these engineers generally come from?

    Elshenawy: Many of our AI engineers come from academia, consumer tech, and finance. Our simulation group is part of this team. They include several engineers that helped build The Sims and others that worked for gaming and animation studios like Pixar, LucasArts, and Ubisoft. Our hardware engineers include people who came from Kodak, JPL, and chipmakers, as well as academia. For robotics, we generally look to robotics, other automotive, and aerospace companies for hiring. On the security side, we hire a mix of researchers and practitioners—and even literal hackers, including the team that infamously hacked a Jeep. Our product and infrastructure engineers come from a variety of traditional engineering companies as well as startups; they’ve previously built videoconferencing software, cloud computing platforms, and even a meditation app.

    How has the mix shifted over the years?

    Elshenawy: We’re solving for a problem that is mainly rooted in general AI, so we’ve always been heavy on the AI side of things. Because we are cloud native, we are able to leverage a lot of the existing technology that is provided by cloud providers, such as Google Cloud Platform and Azure; we don’t need to reinvent that. So we’re leaning more heavily towards AI, robotics, and hardware over time.

    Also, we’re ramping up product engineering now that we have started charging members of the public to ride in fully driverless cars. We expect that to continue to grow there as we solve for the technology and expand to multiple cities in the United States and internationally.

    You mean people working on the customer-facing app?

    Elshenawy: That and a lot more. This includes the customer-facing app that lets you order a ride, the in-car experience, and all the fleet operation on the back end, where we control our fleet, placing our fleet ahead of demand and determining pricing, and all the services that keep these lights on.

    What do your engineers have in common?

    Elshenawy: The self-driving cars problem is a great AI problem, and some people think about it as essentially a research problem, because you’re pushing the state of the art. But when you think about how you are actually going to pragmatically ship something continuously, it’s all rooted in experimentation.

    So one common factor that we find in the engineers who are successful here, regardless of where in our organization that they land, is having the experimentation mind-set, the humble, resilient mind-set of someone who’s continuously curious and very agile in nature. There are certain types of engineers that don’t deal well with uncertainty and experimentation, and there are other engineers who thrive under an environment of continuous learning.

    So the common trait among all these engineers is that learning, curiosity, and experimentation mind-set, and having the agility to deal with an unknown problem like this one.

    What are the hardest roles to fill right now?

    Elshenawy: Software, in general, has a shortage and will always have less supply than demand in the coming years, particularly in AI, applied machine learning, and deep learning, and we will continue to need these engineers in many different areas as we grow. Robotics specializations, and in general, control theory, will be very important as we go forward and those areas will continually face high demand.

  6. Lotfi Zadeh and the Birth of Fuzzy Logic

    The denunciations were sometimes extreme.

    “Fuzzy theory is wrong, wrong, and pernicious,” said William Kahan, a highly regarded professor of computer sciences and mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1975. “The danger of fuzzy theory is that it will encourage the sort of imprecise thinking that has brought us so much trouble.”

    Another berated the theory’s scientific laxity. “No doubt professor Zadeh’s enthusiasm for fuzziness has been reinforced by the prevailing political climate in the United States—one of unprecedented permissiveness,” said R. E. Kalman in 1972, who is now a professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee. “Fuzzification is a kind of scientific permissiveness, it tends to result in socially appealing slogans unaccompanied by the discipline of hard scientific work.”

    This article was first published as “Lotfi A. Zadeh.” It appeared in the June 1995 issue of IEEE Spectrum.A PDF version is available on IEEE Xplore. The photographs appeared in the original print version.

    A multitude of other outspoken critics also disputed the theory of fuzzy logic, developed by Lotfi A. Zadeh in the mid-1960s. Some 20 years were to pass before the theory became widely accepted—capped by this year’s award of the IEEE Medal of Honor to Zadeh “for pioneering development of fuzzy logic and its many diverse applications.” Even today some critics remain. But Zadeh never wavered. He had found himself alone in his scientific opinions on several earlier occasions.

    “There is a picture of me in my study, taken when I was a student at the University of Tehran,” Zadeh told IEEE Spectrum. “I sit at a table, and above the table is a sign in Russian. ODIN, which means ‘alone.’ It was a proclamation of my independence.”

    Child of Privilege

    Perhaps the confidence Zadeh had in his judgment despite some tough opposition, and his willingness to stand apart from the crowd, originated in a childhood of privilege. He was born in 1921 in Azerbaijan, then part of the Soviet Union, and moved to Iran at age 10. His parents—his father a businessman and newspaper correspondent, his mother a doctor—were comfortably well off. As a child, Zadeh was surrounded by governesses and tutors, while as a young adult, he had a personal servant.

    His career goal, for as long as he can remember, was to be an engineering professor. He never considered going into industry, he said, because money was no problem. Rather, he thought of scientific and engineering research as a type of religion, practiced at universities.

    Zadeh received an electrical engineering degree from the University of Tehran in 1942. But instead of taking the comfortable route—becoming a professor in Iran—he emigrated to the United States.

    “I could have stayed in Iran and become rich, but I felt that I could not do real scientific work there,” he told Spectrum. “Research in Iran was nonexistent.”

    Vital Statistics


    Lotfi A. Zadeh

    Date of Birth

    Feb. 4, 1921


    Baku, Azerbaijan


    178 cm


    Wife, Fay; children, Stella and Norman


    BSEE, University of Tehran, 1942; MSEE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1946; PhD, Columbia University, 1949

    First job

    Design and analysis of defense systems, International Electronics Corp., New York City, summer of 1944


    One U.S. patent, two Iranian patents.

    Favorite books

    “I made a conscious decision to stop reading fiction at age 15, when I was a voracious reader. I now read scientific books and other nonfiction only.”

    Favorite periodicals

    Four newspapers daily (The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, The Wall St. Journal or San Jose Mercury News), Business Week, The Economist

    Favorite kind of music

    Classical and electronic

    Favorite composers

    Sergey Prokofiev, Dimitry Shostakovich


    A Hewlett-Packard workstation, which is used “only to print my e-mail; I dictate all my answers to my secretary.”

    Favorite television show

    “MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour”

    Least favorite food

    Any kind of shellfish

    Favorite restaurant

    Three Cs Café, an inexpensive crêperie in Berkeley, Calif.

    Favorite expression

    “No matter what you are told, take it as a compliment.”

    Favorite city

    Berkeley, Calif.

    Leisure activities

    Portrait photography (has photographed U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Harry Truman, as well as other notables), high-fidelity audio, garage sales


    Nissan Quest Minivan

    Languages spoken

    English, Russian, Iranian, French

    Airline mileage

    Two million miles in past 10 years on American and United Airlines alone, uncounted mileage on other airlines

    Key organizational memberships

    The IEEE, Association for Computing Machinery, International Fuzzy Systems Association, American Association for Artificial Intelligence

    Top awards

    The IEEE Medal of Honor (1995) and the Japan Honda Prize (1989)

    After graduation, Zadeh had a business association with the US. Army Persian Gulf Command. That enabled him to be financially independent when he came to the United States to enroll in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. “MIT didn’t have many graduate students at the time,” Zadeh recalled, “so it was fairly easy to get in, even though the University of Teheran had no track record.”

    “No doubt professor Zadeh’s enthusiasm for fuzziness has been reinforced by the prevailing political climate in the United States—one of unprecedented permissiveness," said R. E. Kalman in 1972

    MIT, it turned out, was an easy ride after the demanding course work Zadeh had faced in Tehran.

    His choice of subject for his master’s thesis, though, marked one of the first times he would sail against the prevailing technical winds. He chose to study helical antennas, a subject deemed unreasonable by the professor who had taught him antenna theory. Undaunted, Zadeh found another professor to supervise his work.

    “I felt that my judgment was correct, and the judgment of people who supposedly knew much more about the subject than I did was not correct,” Zadeh said. “This was one of many such situations. Helical antennas came into wide use in the ‘40s and OS, and my judgment was vindicated.”

    By the time Zadeh received his master’s degree in 1946, his parents had moved from Tehran to New York City. So instead of continuing at MIT, he searched out a post as an instructor at New York City’s Columbia University and began his Ph.D. studies there. His thesis on the frequency analysis of time-varying networks considered ways of analyzing systems that change in time.

    “It was not a breakthrough,” he recalled, “but it did make an impact and opened a certain direction in its field.”

    What he views as his first technical breakthrough came in 1950, when, as an assistant professor at Columbia, he coauthored a paper with his doctoral thesis advisor, John R. Ragazzini, on “An extension of Wiener’s theory of prediction.” This analysis of prediction of time series is often cited as an early classic in its field. This thesis introduced the use of a finite, rather than an infinite, preceding time interval of observation for subsequent smoothing and prediction in the presence of multiple signals and noises. This, and Zadeh’s other work while he was at Columbia, made him a well-known figure in the analysis of analog systems.

    Berkeley Beckons

    As Zadeh was pretty much entrenched at Columbia, he surprised his colleagues when he packed up in 1959 and moved to the University of California at Berkeley.

    “I had not been looking for another position,” Zadeh said, “so the offer from Berkeley was unexpected.’’ It came from electrical engineering department chairman John Whinnery, who called him at home over the weekend and offered him a position. “If my line had been busy, I believe l would still be at Columbia,” Zadeh told Spectrum.

    Whinnery recalls it slightly differently. He had heard from a colleague that Zadeh had been toying with the idea of leaving Columbia. Minutes later, Whinnery picked up the phone and called him, arranged to meet him in New York City for dinner, and soon afterward hired him. Berkeley was then growing rapidly, and Whinnery was on the lookout for young scholars who were considered brilliant in their fields. Zadeh fit the bill.

    For Zadeh, moving to Berkeley was a simple decision to make: “I was happy at Columbia, but the job was too soft. It was a comfortable, undemanding environment; I was not challenged internally. I realized that at Berkeley my life would not be anywhere near as comfortable, but I felt that it would be good for me to be challenged.” Zadeh has never regretted the decision. To this day he remains at Berkeley, although by now as professor emeritus.

    A number of departmental colleagues felt that the trend toward computer science was a fad.

    At Berkeley, Zadeh initially continued his work in linear, nonlinear, and finite state systems analysis. But before long he became convinced that digital systems would grow in importance. Appointed as chairman of the electrical engineering department, he decided to act on that conviction, and immediately set about strengthening the role of computer science in the department’s curriculum. He also lobbied the electrical engineering community nationwide to recognize the importance of computer science.

    Once again, he found himself fighting conventional wisdom. A number of departmental colleagues felt that the trend toward computer science was a fad, and that computer science should not be assigned a high departmental priority. ‘They accused me of being an Yves St. Laurent,” Zadeh recalled, “a follower of fads.” Elsewhere, professors in the mathematics department, along with the head of the computer center, were lobbying to set up their own computer science department.

    Zadeh fought this battle as he has fought others, with polite persistence, his former chairman recollected. “We had many differences of opinion when he was chairman,” Whinnery said. “When he couldn’t convince people, he would get upset, but [even now] you can only tell this by the expression on his face. He doesn’t yell or scream. Then he goes ahead and does what he was going to do anyway. And mostly he’s been right, particularly about the importance of computers in electrical engineering.”

    Said Earl Cox, chief executive officer of the Metus Systems Group, Chappaqua, N.Y., who has known Zadeh since the ’70s: “I’ve never seen him anger anybody, even though he prides himself in going his own way, in thinking his own thoughts.” (Zadeh is also known for encouraging others to be independent. He insists his graduate students publish in their own name, noted former student Chin L. Chang, who is now president of Nicesoft Corp., Austin, Texas. That practice goes against custom.)

    Zadeh finally got his way in 1967: the name of the department was changed to electrical engineering and computer science (EECS). A separate computer science department was also established in Berkeley’s College of Letters, but after a few years it folded and became absorbed into EECS.

    Fuzzy is Born

    While he was focusing on systems analysis, in the early 1960s, Zadeh began to feel that traditional systems analysis techniques were too precise for real-world problems. In a paper written in 1961, he mentioned that a new technique was needed, a “fuzzy” kind of mathematics. At the time, though, he had no clear idea how this would work.

    That idea came in July 1964. Zadeh was in New York City visiting his parents and planned to leave soon for Southern California, where he would spend several weeks at Rand Corp working on pattern recognition problems. With this upcoming work on his mind, his thoughts often turned to the use of imprecise categories for classification.

    “One night in New York,” Zadeh recalled, “I had a dinner engagement with some friends It was canceled, and I spent the evening by myself in my parents’ apartment 1 remember distinctly that the idea occurred to me then to introduce the concept of grade of membership [concepts that became the backbone of fuzzy set theory]. So it is quite possible that if that dinner engagement had not been canceled, the idea would not have occurred to me.”

    Fuzzy technology, Zadeh explained, is a means of computing with words—bigger, smaller, taller, shorter. For example, small can be multiplied by a few and added to large, or colder can be added to warmer to get something in between.

    Man in brown sportscoat leaning over railing

    Once the issue of classification had been solved, Zadeh could develop the theory of fuzzy sets quickly. Two weeks later he had a fairly fleshed-out group of concepts to present to his collaborator at Rand, Richard Bellman. “His response was enthusiastic,” Zadeh said, “and that was a source of encouragement to me-though had he been very critical, I wouldn’t have changed my mind.”

    Since he was Berkeley’s electrical engineering department chairman at the time and engaged in his struggle over the place of computer science at the university, Zadeh had little time to work on his new theory of fuzzy sets. He published his first paper in 1965, convinced that he was onto something important, but wrote only sparingly on the topic until after he left the department chairmanship in 1968. Since then, fuzzy sets have been his full-time occupation.

    “I continue to be an active player,” he said. “I am not merely an elder statesman who rests on his laurels. I give many talks, and this puts me under pressure. I must constantly think of new ideas to talk about and keep up with what others are doing.”

    The Golden Fleece

    Acceptance of fuzzy set theory by the technical community was slow in coming. Part of the problem was the name—“fuzzy” is hardly proper terminology. And Zadeh knew it.

    “I was cognizant of the fact that it would be controversial, but I could not think of any other, respectable term to describe what I had in mind, which was classes that do not have sharp boundaries, like clouds,” he said. “So I decided to do what I thought was right, regardless of how it might be perceived. And I’ve never regretted the name. I think it is better to be visible and provocative than to be bland.”

    And, as expected, fuzzy theory did cause controversy. Some people rejected it outright because of the name, without knowing the content. Others rejected it because of the theory’s focus on imprecision.

    “I’ve never regretted the name. I think it is better to be visible and provocative than to be bland.” —Lotfi Zadeh

    In the late 1960s, it even garnered the passing attention of Congress as a prime example of the waste of government funds (much of Zadeh’s research was being funded by the National Science Foundation). Former Senator William Proxmire (D-Wis.), the force behind the Golden Fleece Awards that honored such government boondoggles as $600 toilet seats, sent a letter to the foundation suggesting that such “fuzzy” garbage they were supporting should earn a Golden Fleece nomination. A flurry of correspondence from Zadeh and the foundation emerged in defense of the work.

    Zadeh remembers the challenge of developing his theories “in the face of opposition, even hostility. Someone with a thinner skin would have been traumatized,” he said.

    And Cox remarked, “He meets people who have written some really nasty things, and he’s nice to them.”

    But, observed Berkeley’s Whinnery, “I do think this lack of acceptance bothered him, although he now describes it with some humor.”

    Eventually, fuzzy theory was taken seriously—by the Japanese.

    Eventually, fuzzy theory was taken seriously—by the Japanese. And their implementations of it surprised even Zadeh.

    He at first had expected fuzzy sets to apply to fields in which conventional analytic techniques had been ineffectual, for work outside of the hard sciences, for work in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, biology, and so on. He also thought that the theory might apply to control systems, in engine control, for example. But he never expected it to be used in consumer products, which today is perhaps its biggest application, thanks to Japanese electronics companies.

    Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. was the first to apply fuzzy theory to a consumer product, a shower head that controlled water temperature, in 1987. Now numerous Japanese consumer products—dishwashers, washing machines, air conditioners, microwave ovens, cameras, camcorders, television sets, copiers, and even automobiles—quietly apply fuzzy technology.

    These products make use of fuzzy logic combined with sensors to simplify control. For example, cameras have several focusing spots and use fuzzy’s IF-THEN rules to calculate the optimal focus; camcorders use fuzzy logic for image stabilization; and washing machines use sensors to detect how dirty the water is and how quickly it is clearing to determine the length of wash cycles.

    The introduction of fuzzy products by the Japanese riveted press attention on this apparently “new” technology (some two decades after Zadeh had developed the theory). Growing acknowledgment of the theory by his colleagues followed, although some still reject it.

    Acceptance, colleagues say, has somewhat changed Zadeh. “Since fuzzy logic has turned into something with so much panache, and he has finally come into his own after being ignored for so many years, I think Lotfi has come out of his shell,” said Cox.

    “Had I not launched that theory, I would fall into the same category as many professors—be reasonably well known… but not have made a long-lasting impact.” —Lotfi Zadeh

    To date, hundreds of books have been published on the topic, and some 15 000 technical papers have been written (most, it seems, piled around his office, where stacks of papers leave only a narrow path from the door to his desk). Zadeh is now known as the Father of Fuzzy.

    “Had I not launched that theory,” said Zadeh, “I would fall into the same category as many professors—be reasonably well known, have attained a certain level of recognition, and written some books and papers, but not have made a long-lasting impact. So I consider myself to have been lucky that this thing came about.”

    “The important criterion of your impact is: has what you have done generated a following? With fuzzy sets, I can definitely say, ‘Yes.’”

    Editor’s note: Lotfi Zadeh died in 2017 at the age of 96.

  7. Leading the Way for More LGBTQ Inclusivity in STEM

    Arti Agrawal, who is gay, didn’t have access to LGBTQ+ support groups when growing up in India, where homosexuality was a crime until 2018.

    “The society itself was very homophobic,” she says. “I had to live under the radar, and it was very difficult and quite traumatizing to live that way.”

    Agrawal found solace in advocacy and support organizations in London after moving there in 2005. She went on to form her own groups and lead diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the universities she worked for in London and Sydney.

    This year she started a consulting firm, where she helps businesses around the world improve their DEI programs. She also has spearheaded DEI campaigns for the IEEE Photonics Society.

    For her efforts, the senior member received the society’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award.

    Fighting for Diversity and Inclusivity in STEM

    After graduating in 2005 from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, with a doctorate in physics, Agrawal decided to move to the United Kingdom. “I didn’t think I could be my true self at home,” she says, “and I thought I could live more openly.” She joined City, University of London, as a research fellow working on computational photonics.

    But she discovered there were fewer women in science, technology, engineering, and math at the university than at her alma mater. And, she says, the workplace atmosphere wasn’t welcoming.

    About Arti Agrawal

    Employer:Vividhataa in Sydney

    Title:Founder and CEO

    Member grade:Senior member

    Alma mater:City, University of London

    “I never felt like I was treated the same as my male peers or was given the same opportunities,” she says.

    She also faced homophobia, Agrawal says.

    “Even though the public opinion on gay rights in the U.K. was shifting, it wasn’t like that within STEM,” she says. “It was quite a closed space. You didn’t talk about sexual orientation. And it was okay for people to make homophobic jokes.”

    Because of such attitudes, Agrawal got more involved in support groups for members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as women in STEM. She joined The London Gay Women’s Network, which offers professional development and networking opportunities to community members who are pursuing a college degree.

    But, Agrawal says, she still felt isolated because the groups had few members from underrepresented ethnicities and cultures. So she created her own subgroup in 2009: the Gay Women’s Network Multicultural. It provides women of color a safe space to connect with each other.

    In 2011 she took a position at the university as a lecturer and started her own LGBTQ+ network there so she could help create a better environment. The group got school officials to install gender-neutral bathrooms, and it won the right for students and faculty members to use their preferred pronouns on human resource forms and in email.

    In 2018 she left to join the University of Technology in Sydney as director of its Women in Engineering and IT program. It works to increase the enrollment of women in the school’s engineering program and to support them throughout their academic career by offering mentoring, scholarships, and professional development workshops.

    While there, she shook up the engineering school’s admissions process and helped increase cultural awareness. The percentage of women in the undergraduate program at the university “had been stuck at around 16 percent for more than 40 years,” she says. “No number of mentoring programs, scholarships, or industry outreach had changed this statistic.”

    To help more female candidates qualify for the engineering school, Agrawal pushed to change the admissions policy. Prospective students are ranked based on their Higher Secondary Certificate scores. HSC is a subject-based qualification whereby students take three or four courses of their choice in their last year of secondary school. The top-ranking 100 students, no matter their gender, were admitted to the engineering program. Agrawal recommended adding 10 points to every female applicant’s rank.

    “It doesn’t change their actual marks,” she says. “It just changes their rank.”

    “If you want to make a change in a very difficult and unchanging environment, you must be disruptive. You have to do something bold and brave and have the courage to stand up to the backlash that will come eventually.”

    The policy change was reviewed and approved by several university committees as well as by the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination board, which handles citizen complaints. The board approved the change for 10 years.

    Since the policy change, implemented in 2019, the number of women in the program has increased by 10 percent, Agrawal says.

    The change created a huge backlash, though, Agrawal says, as people said “unqualified women would receive degrees.” Many women were against the change, saying it was doing them a disservice.

    “But there were people who understood that the administration wasn’t changing anyone’s scores,” Agrawal says. Every student who was admitted met the minimum criteria, she says; the change just bumped up the ranking of some qualified women.

    “If you want to make a change in a very difficult and unchanging environment, you must be disruptive,” she says. “You have to do something bold and brave and have the courage to stand up to the backlash that will come eventually.”

    Agrawal also worked to create stronger interpersonal relationships among the faculty and staff at the engineering school. She created social events, held every two weeks, at which faculty and staff meet over coffee and learn about cultural customs—such as Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, and Chinese New Year—from one another.

    “In a very informal sort of way, faculty and staff members raised their cultural awareness,” she says. “The overall environment also became more positive and welcoming.”

    Launching a DEI Startup

    Agrawal left the university last year, and this year she started her own diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting business, Vividhataa, in Sydney.

    Vividhataa aims to help companies set goals and create strategies to achieve them. It also is educating managers and employees on gender identity, cultural sensitivity, disability inclusion, and related topics, Agrawal says.

    Creating a Safe Space at IEEE

    Agrawal has been involved in similar efforts at IEEE. She joined the organization as a doctoral student at the Indian Institute of Technology so she could become a member of the IEEE Photonics Society chapter there.

    She first became involved in the IEEE Women in Photonics group as its associate vice president. She spearheaded a campaign to increase the number of local chapters. The society also held events worldwide that addressed the needs of established chapters. The campaign grew to include hosting panels on DEI policies at conferences and holding leadership training.

    Agrawal founded the society’s diversity oversight committee in 2017 and became associate vice president. She explored how to attract more members from underrepresented groups. She says she also wanted to create a more welcoming environment for members regardless of their age, sexual orientation, or disability. She focused on increasing cultural, racial, and religious diversity.

    In 2018 she helped organize the society’s first Pride in Photonics symposium. During the event, LGBTQ+ engineers trained attendees on how to be a good ally to members of the community. Speakers also presented on their optics research and shared their personal journeys.

    “It brought the community together and helped reduce the sense of isolation that people can feel,” she says.

    The committee collaborated with the U.S. National Society of Black Physicists, the National Society of Hispanic Physicists, and other groups on joint conferences at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The groups are also working to increase representation on IEEE’s committees and councils.

    The Photonics Society’s diversity oversight committee helped run a marketing campaign in 2020 to increase the number of nominations of qualified women and those from IEEE’s underrepresented regions for the organization’s 2021 medals, recognitions, and technical field awards. It also made a pledge to diversify its panels, meetings, conferences, and events, Agrawal says.

    “I thought the Photonics Society was, and still is, a marvelous society,” she says. “It has embraced diversity and inclusion and made a lot of headway in that area.”

  8. IEEE STEM Activity Kits Are In Demand at 150 U.S. Public Libraries

    More than 150 public libraries throughout the central United States now lend out activity kits that let children explore just about any aspect of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The kids can check them out just like they would a book. The kits teach youngsters what engineers do, as well as how to code, build robots, design video games, and create animations.

    The collections have been made possible by the IEEE Region 4 Science Kits for Public Libraries program with funding from Region 4 members and corporate sponsors. The SKPL program is the brainchild of IEEE Life Senior Member John A. Zulaski, the chair of the SKPL committee.

    Activity kits aren’t new to libraries, but STEM kits didn’t exist 10 years ago. Nowadays large, well-funded libraries might have them, but that’s not the case for many small and midsize ones, Zulaski says.

    He says he is on a mission to encourage other IEEE entities to make the kits available at local libraries. Only public libraries in IEEE Region 4 currently are eligible for an SKPL grant.

    “This is the perfect project for IEEE life members or young professionals to undertake,” Zulaski says. “The kits get kids interested in pursuing a technical career—which, by the way, helps increase IEEE membership down the road.”

    Currently all 80 branches of the Chicago Public Library have the kits, as do libraries in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

    STEM in Libraries

    After Zulaski retired as director of electronic products at S&C Electric, in Chicago, he became a trustee for his local library, in Mount Prospect, Ill. During his visits there, he noticed cloth bags filled with puzzles and other activities, but none were specific to STEM. He recalled the wonderful experiences he had as a child playing with Erector sets, Lincoln Logs, and other activity kits, and he realized many children today are not so fortunate. In 2009 he talked to the library’s executive director, Marilyn Genther, about creating science kits that could be circulated. She was interested but said she didn’t have the US $2,000 in her budget she estimated it would take to create such a collection.

    Zulaski ran the idea past the IEEE Chicago Section, which agreed to provide funding. Assembled by youth librarians and IEEE volunteers, 12 kits were created for children in Grades 1 through 5. They included hands-on off-the-shelf STEM projects, instructions written by the librarians, and a recommended list of books, DVDs, videos, and other reference material from the library, Genther says. All the items were stowed in backpacks.

    Genther says having libraries offer the kits makes a lot of sense. There is no curriculum for students to follow, so they can learn at their own pace and pick topics they find interesting.

    “The kits get into the hands of children who may not have an opportunity to learn about STEM otherwise,” she says. Genther has since retired and is now a member of the IEEE SKPL committee.

    Zulaski says the prototype kits were flying off the shelves—which persuaded the IEEE Chicago Section to launch the SKPL project in 2010. Through the generosity of the section’s members and a few corporate donors, more than 25 libraries in the Chicago area began circulating the science kits.

    The kits get into the hands of children who may not have an opportunity to learn about STEM otherwise.

    Kids aren’t the only ones checking out the collections. Teachers, Boy Scout leaders, parents who homeschool their children, and libraries that have in-house STEM programs do as well.

    The kits are tailored to the needs of the local children, Zulaski says.

    “We decided early on that we did not want to dictate to the libraries what should be in their kits,” he says. “They are in a better position to make that determination because they can look at their records on STEM-related books that have been checked out and see what subjects seem to be most popular.”

    Generous Donors

    In 2011 the project received funding from the IEEE Foundation and the IEEE Life Members Committee to enable 26 libraries in the Midwest to build science kit collections.

    The SKPL committee set up a formal application process for granting money to libraries. The number of libraries applying for SKPL grants has grown. This year the committee has received 79 applications, up from 40 last year. It awarded 15 grants of up to $2,000.

    In a testimonial about the SKPL grant received by the Batavia Public Library, in Illinois, its youth services librarian, Amanda Vanderwerf, said, “The deeper understanding that comes from sustained engagement with these kits is something we are proud to offer to our patrons, and we thank you for this opportunity. The Batavia community, the library staff, and especially the youth services department thanks IEEE for allowing us to be part of this fantastic opportunity to create circulating science kits.”

    S&C Electric made a substantial donation to provide SKPL collections to the entire Chicago Public Library system. The company also makes an annual donation to maintain the existing kits and add new ones to the collection. Other corporate donors include American Transmission, Eaton, Elite Electronics, Emerson Electric, and Milwaukee Tool. IEEE-USA, the IEEE Professional Activities Committee, and the IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Society’s Chicago chapter also have donated money.

    With cash Zulaski received in 2015 from the IEEE New Initiatives Committee, the SKPL committee created a marketing campaign to promote the project, developed fundraising initiatives, and built its website.

    The 2023 submission period for SKPL grant applications period begins 1 November 2022 and closes 15 January.

    Zulaski says Region 4 members are making their libraries aware of the opportunity. He says he hopes that by this time next year, other IEEE groups will be offering grants. To help make that happen, funding is being sought to create a toolkit to train other IEEE entities how to implement their own SKPL program.

    “Hopefully this can be accomplished by the end of this year, assuming major donors step forward,” Zulaski says. “There are around 10,000 public libraries in the United States alone and hundreds of thousands around the world. Much remains to be accomplished.”

    If your IEEE entity is interested in offering the SKPL program, complete this form.

    Donations to the program are welcome.

  9. New AI-Powered Platform Aids Telecom Product Designers

    Engineers designing communications products need access to information—the latest research, lists of parts and components, and technical standards to help ensure that their design will work seamlessly with others. But tracking down resources across multiple websites can be time-consuming, and the material might not be relevant or the sources could be questionable.

    The new IEEE DiscoveryPoint for Communications platform aims to solve those problems by providing one-stop access to searchable, curated content from trusted sources on just about any telecommunications topic. Its library contains more than 1 million full-text research documents; 10,000 technical standards; 8,000 online courses; 400 ebook titles; 18 million parts and various solutions from manufacturers and distributors; and 1,100 industry and product news bulletins, blogs, and white papers.

    The documents come from reputable organizations including AT&T, the IEEE Xplore Digital Library, F5 Networks, the International Telecommunication Union, River Publishers, Qualcomm, Verizon, and SMPTE.

    “There’s nothing on the market right now that fully supports the workflow of the design engineer and that delivers all the information needed in one place,” says Mark Barragry, senior product manager for corporate markets at IEEE Global Products and Marketing.

    In designing IEEE DiscoveryPoint, Barragry says, “We reconstructed the work process of a product design engineer and put together a set of resources that meet all the information needs they would have during a standard product-development cycle.”

    Significant Resources

    IEEE has a wealth of content for telecom designers, Barragry says. IEEE publishes nine of the 10 most-cited journals in telecommunications. More than 40 percent of U.S. patents related to telecommunications cite an IEEE publication. The organization also sponsors more than 7,000 conferences that focus on communications, networking, and broadcast technologies. And the IEEE Standards Association has developed more than 900 standards related to communications, including the popular IEEE 802.11 WiFi standard.

    Barragry adds that design engineers who tested the platform before launch said they liked that it came from IEEE, a trusted source.

    Search Algorithm

    The subscription-based product’s intuitive search engine saves users time because it zeroes in on key concepts related to the topic they’re searching for. To get started, the user types a word, phrase, concept, the name of an author or company, or another term into the search bar. The search engine’s ranking algorithm analyzes the full text and the metadata of the documents to find relevant material.

    The results are organized into channels and categorized by type of material, such as research papers, standards, books, or industry news. For each search result, a machine-learning feature examines the document and generates a short summary of key points, which get highlighted in the document.

    Search results can be sorted by relevance or by time period, starting with the previous 90 days and going as far back as 10 years for journals and five years for conferences. The results also can be grouped, for example, by a publication’s name. Searches can be saved, and users can bookmark documents.

    IEEE DiscoveryPoint also recommends content based on an automated analysis of the user’s reading activity during the previous 30 days. Users can set up email alerts for new content that fits their search criteria.

    In one testimonial about IEEE DiscoveryPoint, a director of technology development said, “I really appreciated the thought that went into this product. It’s an unmet need for people like me.”

    The subscription price is based on the size of the organization and how many engineers and technical professionals will be using it. To request a demo, complete this form.

  10. IEEE Education Week Offered Hundreds of Learning Opportunities

    IEEE members across the globe came together to celebrate the first-ever IEEE Education Week from 4 to 8 April. The weeklong celebration highlighted educational opportunities provided by IEEE and its many organizational units. More than 60 IEEE operating units, regions, sections, and technical societies offered live events, virtual resources, special offers, and a daily online quiz that awarded a digital badge for participants who answered correctly.

    “Education Week was a chance to show the collective impact IEEE has on lifelong learning and education at every level,” says Jamie Moesch, managing director, Educational Activities. “From preuniversity STEM programs and university offerings to continuing professional education courses and tutorials, there are so many ways to engage with education from IEEE. This week was about bringing all those resources together in one place and making sure our members know about all of the amazing educational opportunities available to them.”

    The celebration highlighted resources for:

    • Engineers and professionals working in technical fields.
    • University students and faculty members.
    • Anyone looking for preuniversity STEM education resources and experiences to encourage the next generation of engineers and technologists.

    Events included:

    “For both young technical professionals and those who are more established in their fields, taking the time to learn new skills in this age of hybrid and remote working can help their careers flourish,” says Stephen Phillips, vice president, IEEE Educational Activities.

    A group of students hold up signs that spell IEEE Edu Week 2022 along with a banner. The IEEE Antennas, Propagation, Microwave Theory, and Techniques student branch chapter at the Indian Institute of Technology, in Kharagpur, celebrated IEEE Education Week at Hijli College, in West Bengal, India. On 9 April, they led a hands-on session on how to use basic electronic components like resistors, switches, buzzers, wires, breadboards, and DC battery sources.Pallab Kumar Gogoi

    “IEEE Education Week highlighted all of the preuniversity STEM, university, and continuing professional education resources for students, engineers, and technical professionals,” says Babak Beheshti, chair of the IEEE Educational Activities continuing education committee. “As the private sector ramps up hiring, many are looking for candidates who have skills in emerging technologies. IEEE’s educational offerings directly address this increasing need.”

    Save the date for next year’s IEEE Education Week, to be held from 2 to 8 April. Follow updates on social media via #EducationAtIEEE and sign up for email updates at

    ​The inaugural event also boasts some impressive stats:

    • 225 events.• 102 resources provided.• 90 volunteer ambassadors from 23 countries.• Participation by 65 operating units, regions, sections, and technical society partners.• 434 quiz submissions.• 80 digital badges issued.• Visitors from 99 countries.• US $5,975 donated to the IEEE Foundation to support educational programs.

  11. This VC Is Betting Big on Flying Taxis and Scooters

    Adam Grosser wants to improve transportationof people, goods, and energy. That’s why the chairman and managing partner of the early-stage venture capital fund UP Partners is investing in several mobility projects. They include Beta Technologies electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft, Quincus’s operating system for supply-chain and logistics providers, and Teleo’s teleoperation platform for mining, construction, and other heavy equipment.

    “Transportation is the underlying fabric of society,” Grosser says. “At UP, we invest in key enabling technologies that help move people and goods faster, safer, more efficiently, and sustainably. This can include anything from new kinds of ground, sea-born, air, or space vehicles to production lines, packages, and units of automation.”

    The mobility sector is ripe for improvement, he says. “Arguably just about everything on a car, except for a few safety systems, was invented by 1920—although not necessarily put into widespread practice. But mobility hasn’t previously been an investable category.”

    He credits several factors for this. Faster, smaller, and cheaper additive manufacturing is now available. Also, rapid shifts in battery capacity and electric motor torque have dramatically changed how mobility vehicles and methods are built and work.

    The question, he says, is how to pull all these together into something that is safe and more environmentally friendly than what we do today—and which has a viable financial model.

    One company that ticks all these boxes for Grosser is Kolors, in Acapulco, Mexico, which aims to transform the bus industry across Latin America by offering a website for riders to reserve a seat on an intercity bus. The company does not own the buses. Instead, it partners with small and medium-size bus lines that own their vehicles to provide a consistent customer experience and offer a single ticketing framework. He describes Kolors as an “asset-light bus company” and compares it to Uber, the ride-hailing service, which also doesn’t own the vehicles customers use.

    At UP Partners, we invest in key enabling technologies that help move people and goods faster, safer, more efficiently, and sustainably.

    Grosser decided to get into the investment business after two decades in senior positions at Apple, LucasArts, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and @Home Network. He spent more than a decade at Foundation Capital, primarily in early-stage ventures. He then moved to large-cap private equity firms, including Silver Lake. He’s been with UP Partners since May 2020.

    “Most people who go into tech investing today do that with a fairly clear intention of being an investor,” Grosser says. “[By contrast], I would consider myself an inadvertent investor. I’ve spent decades working to solve meaningful challenges, first as an engineer, then as an entrepreneur, and for the past 21 years as an investor.”

    What helped him succeed at his investing goals? Mentors.

    “I have been lucky enough to have amazing mentors and partners, from my college days through to the present," Grosser says. One was the late Kathryn Gould, who founded Foundation Capital. In addition to being one of the first female venture capitalists, she was also a physicist and concert violinist.

    “She pulled me in and said, ‘I think you will be a good investor. Let me teach you.’”

    Grosser also credits his diverse engineering experiences with helping him talk knowledgeably about potential new technologies and companies to invest in as well as conduct due diligence.

    Grosser uses some of what he learned through his hands-on experience with a variety of vehicles. He has built airplanes, boats, hydrofoils, and motorcycles. He even built a cycle-by-wire electric trike for a close friend who had been an avid cyclist but was essentially paralyzed by ALS. He also builds and restores classic cars and vintage military aircraft. He recently finished building a 1963 Porsche 356 B for his daughter. He also is converting the drivetrain of a 1974 Jaguar E-Type to an electric one.

    Grosser has been a pilot for more than 40 years and has flown everything from gliders and biplanes to helicopters and seaplanes. He currently holds an Airline Transport Pilot rating certificate, which is the highest achievement of pilot certification.

    His advice for would-be investors is to use the knowledge they already have.

    “Courses like robotics or thermodynamics that may not have been part of your major can be integrated with whatever you’ve learned and done in software, hardware, and product design,” he says. “Any of this knowledge and experience can help you establish rapport and make more-informed selections.”

    This article appears in the July 2022 print issue as “Adam Grosser.”

  12. From Fixing Farm Equipment to Becoming a Director at 3M

    Gerard “Gus” Gaynor says he knew he would become an engineer when he was 7 years old, inspired by his father’s monthly Popular Mechanics magazines. As his fascination with different engineering fields grew, he set out to explore them. He visited a Ford auto manufacturing plant in his home state of Michigan, watched the printing presses roll at the Detroit Free Press plant, and listened on his crystal radio receiver to the broadcast of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight in 1927.

    His enthusiasm for understanding how things work continued when, during the Great Depression, his family moved from his hometown of Detroit to a small farm in Livonia, Mich., about 32 kilometers away. He and his older brother repaired farm equipment and cars there, and they built their own chicken-plucking machine to automate the process.

    “We couldn’t afford to pay [US] $350 to buy a machine at that time, so we had to build our own,” he says.

    Gaynor’s hands-on experience and love of engineering led to a successful career with 3M in St. Paul, Minn. The IEEE Life Fellow and Fulbright scholar held a variety of positions during his 25 years with the company, working his way up from instrumentation specialist to director.

    Gaynor, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, has been an active IEEE volunteer for more than three decades.

    “I worked with Gus Gaynor in multiple capacities for over 30 years,” says IEEE Life Senior Member Celia Desmond, a former president of the IEEE Technology and Engineering Management Society. “He has been consistently active through this entire time, always offering his vast knowledge of management techniques, problems, and solutions. He has been active at the board level in all the iterations of what is now [the] Technology and Engineering Management [Society], guiding many volunteers over the years. He has also been active in Technical Activities, where his influence was felt by a much wider audience. His contributions have brought incredible value to IEEE.”


    Like many people who lived through the Great Depression, Gaynor faced economic challenges that made a college degree seem unattainable. But he was determined to be an engineer. During the day he installed telecommunication equipment for Michigan Bell, a subsidiary of AT&T, and at night he attended the Lawrence Institute of Technology (now Lawrence Technological University), in Southfield, outside of Detroit.

    During that time, he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps Reserve and spent six months training in basic electronics. When World War II began, he was drafted to serve in Europe, where he was stationed for three years. After he was discharged, he continued his education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

    While pursuing his bachelor’s degree, he worked part time as a technician at a university research lab that had a contract with the U.S. government. He designed equipment that could measure the upper atmosphere’s temperature and pressure.

    “I worked there for two years until I graduated” in 1950, he says. “I was guaranteed a job at the research lab, so I didn’t bother looking for a different one.” But just a few days before graduation, the lab’s contract with the government was terminated and Gaynor was laid off.

    Gaynor says the best part about being an IEEE volunteer is the camaraderie.

    He found work as a technician for telephone equipment supplier Automatic Electric, in Chicago. The company required incoming employees to go through a training program that taught them to install its telephone switch. Gaynor already knew how to do that. When the company wouldn’t let him skip the training, he quit.

    He soon found a job at Johnson Farebox, which made coin-collection systems for streetcars and buses. He was put in charge of establishing an electronics lab at the company. Its first project was to develop a device—now known as an electromagnetic flow meter—that could measure fluid movement without any interruptions in the pipe. Gaynor’s group also developed equipment for testing a streetcar’s exhaust and battery levels.

    Throughout the nearly 10 years Gaynor spent there, the company moved its offices twice. First it merged with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and Gaynor moved his family to Washington, D.C. Two years later the company relocated to Fort Wayne, Ind.

    Gaynor says the work was satisfying, and he enjoyed giving presentations to technology companies and publishing research papers. But eventually, he felt his work was becoming stagnant. In 1959 he asked to be transferred to another division, in California. His supervisor refused the request, so Gaynor resigned.

    He “tried his hand at being an entrepreneur,” he says, and founded a startup in Chicago. The company developed instrumentation and process control systems for Ford, Hotpoint, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and several small companies. But after three years, Gaynor took a job as an instrumentation specialist with 3M, where he worked for 25 years.

    He says “3M was a very progressive company. Engineers and scientists could spend 15 percent of their time working on whatever projects they wanted.”

    In 1964 3M bought an Italian company, Ferrania Photographic Operations, which made several types of film as well as inexpensive cameras. Gaynor was promoted to chief engineer there and relocated his family to Italy, where they lived for seven years. He’s most proud, he says, of turning the company’s 50-year-old plant into a successful modern photographic facility that produced triacetate film, which is the base material for photographic emulsions.

    “The technologies that [the] engineers were using were backward compared to what Kodak and Fuji were using,” Gaynor says, “so we redesigned the entire operation.” It was a big investment, he remembers: “We managed to get $20 million of initial funding from 3M, but in the three years it took to complete the redesign, the company put in well over $150 million.”

    He eventually became director of engineering for 3M Europe and then director of worldwide engineering for its graphic technologies sector. The sector generated approximately 25 percent of 3M’s revenue, Gaynor says.

    He also chaired task forces on performance improvement in research and engineering, future trends in technology, and project management processes.

    After retiring in 1987, he did consulting work for 3M and became more active in IEEE.


    Gaynor joined the Institute of Radio Engineers, one of IEEE’s predecessor societies, as a student member in 1942. He wanted to get involved with the organization then, he says, but between going to night school and working full time, he couldn’t find the extra time to do so.

    It wasn’t until he was asked to attend a meeting of the IEEE Twin Cities (Minn.) Section in 1962 that he became more involved. At the talk, he met Joel Snyder, who was 2001 IEEE president and “built up a very personal relationship with him,” Gaynor says. Snyder introduced him to other IEEE leaders and inspired him to become a member of the IEEE Technical Activities’ finance committee, which jump-started his volunteerism.

    During the past three decades, he has served on more than 10 IEEE boards and committees including the Publications Services and Products Board, the Educational Activities Board’s lifelong learning committee, and the New Initiatives Committee.

    He was the founding editor of Today’s Engineer, which was published by IEEE-USA to report on government legislation and issues affecting U.S. members’ careers. The 48-page magazine was discontinued after three years, but it is now available as the e-newsletter, IEEE-USA InSight.

    Gaynor remains active. He’s currently a member of the IEEE Technology and Engineering Management Society (TEMS) and vice president of its publications.

    “At the tender age of 100, Gus is a living legend in the field of technology and engineering management,” says IEEE Member Andy Chen, 2021 president of IEEE TEMS. “Being the founding editor of Today's Engineer magazine, Gus’s contribution in the field of engineering management is well respected by scholars, researchers, and industry experts around the globe.”

    Gaynor says the best part about being an IEEE volunteer is the camaraderie. He says he relishes the relationships he’s built.

  13. This Computer Pioneer’s Invention Made Zoom Possible

    Many IEEE members credit a parent or a teacher for encouraging them to pursue an engineering career, but for Erol Gelenbe it was his next-door neighbor in his hometown of Ankara, Turkey.

    Egbert Adriaan Kreiken, a professor of astronomy at Ankara University, convinced the teenager that electronics engineering was going to be the “next big thing.” That was in the late 1950s.

    “Kreiken told me studying anything else was absolutely crazy,” Gelenbe recalls. “He started selling the idea to me and even bribed me by promising an internship at Philips, where he had connections. He had emigrated from the Netherlands. He kind of twisted my arm.” Philips was the largest electronics company in the world.

    Because electrical engineering uses a lot of mathematics, a subject Gelenbe liked, he figured he wouldn’t be wasting his time by studying EE. He ended up loving the subject and went on to earn a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a doctoral degree, all in EE. And Kreiken did keep his promise about that internship at Philips, where Gelenbe conducted measurements on some early transistor circuits.

    Riding the wave of that “next big thing” has paid off for the IEEE Fellow. He is recognized as a pioneer in the field of modeling and performance evaluation of computer systems and networks. He is best known for creating G-networks and random neural networks, probabilistic models inspired by the spiking behavior of neurons. An RNN can offer efficient learning algorithms for recurrent networks such as those used for cybersecurity applications and video compression.

    Other technologies he invented can be found in production lines and in the first packet-based video-conferencing systems.

    “For my Ph.D., I was interested in computers, but not computers in the sense of practical things,” Gelenbe says. “I was interested in computation—how computers can calculate and also by how the languages that the computers are able to process are transformed by random events that can occur for a variety of reasons. Then I became interested in the foundations of the design of computer systems and networks, and how design choices impact their performance.”

    Gelenbe has spent his entire career in academia, and he has established a computer research lab at just about every university where he taught. Currently he is a professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Theoretical and Applied Informatics, in Gliwice, where he conducts research and supervises Ph.D. students.

    To recognize his many contributions, this year the Islamic World Academy of Sciences made Gelenbe an honorary Fellow.


    Gelenbe graduated in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Middle East Technical University, in Ankara. He was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to pursue a master’s degree at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now part of New York University) which, in the 1960s, was considered one of the leading engineering schools. With financial support from a NATO science fellowship, he stayed on at the school to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering in 1970.

    His doctoral thesis was on stochastic automata theory, “which was an esoteric subject at that time for the foundation of computers, with impacts on digital systems and formal languages,” he says. “The results in my thesis were about how randomness can actually enhance the power of computation.”

    His first teaching job was as an assistant professor of computer, information, and control engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The university had one of the first computer science departments in the United States. One of the two courses he was assigned to teach each semester was on computer systems.

    But Gelenbe had a problem. “I knew nothing about computer systems,” he now acknowledges with a laugh. At that time there wasn’t much literature on the field, so he says he devised explanations based on conducting research and writing research papers.

    “I barely kept one step ahead of the students, researching and learning at night and teaching in the morning,” he says. “To develop a rational and systematic understanding of the subject so that I could explain it in a sensible way to the students, I was doing research about aspects that I did not understand.

    “If you have something which is not really built on theory but just built on practice, you must extract or invent the theoretical elements. Through theoretical methods and math-based methods I became interested in explaining how computer systems and networks work.”

    He found out that a few other professors at the time were in the same boat.

    “It turned out that I was not the only poor chap or poor woman trying to do that, because some colleagues also had this problem,” he says. “The field was essentially built through the work of a few people like me who were at other universities such as Princeton and Harvard.”

    He began contributing groundbreaking research himself while at Michigan. He developed queueing network models of computer systems and networks, through which he was able to establish optimum design choices for diverse issues such as computer communication protocols, optimum checkpointing in databases, and page-replacement problems in virtual memory systems.

    He invented G-networks, generalized queueing networks that model both data networks and neural networks. A G-network, also known as a Gelenbe network, is used for queueing systems with specific control functions, such as data packets waiting to be transmitted to devices, like those used for network telephony.

    In addition, he worked on improving the performance of multiprogramming computer systems, virtual memory management, and database reliability. He designed and built the first random-access LAN that uses fiber-optic connections, long before Ethernet became the standard.

    Gelenbe says he had the most fun inventing the cognitive packet network for real-time adaptive routing in packet networks without routing tables, for which he holds a patent. He holds two patents for the first packet-voice telephone switch, which he designed in the 1990s. The switch is used in Skype and Zoom video-conferencing services. He also created the FlexSim, a computer-based model of a production system used for inventory, assembly, and transportation systems.

    Not only was he inventing, he also was busy setting up computer science research labs around the world. They include the Modeling and Performance Evaluation of Computer Systems research group at Inria, the French national research institute for digital science and technology, in Paris. There is also the Laboratory for Computer Science at Université Paris-Saclay; L’école d’Informatique Hesias at Université Paris Cité; and theUniversity of Central Florida’s college of electrical engineering and computer science, in Orlando.

    After retiring in 2019 from Imperial College London, Gelenbe joined the Polish Academy of Sciences. There he is researching energy-efficient computer systems, self-aware networks, network security, and networked auctions. He also consults for several companies.

    He enjoys academia, he says, because “you’re always surrounded by young people, so you’re constantly in contact with people who are asking questions and don’t take things for granted.”


    Gelenbe has been elected Fellow of the French National Academy of Technologies, the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, and the science academies of Hungary, Poland, and Turkey. In 2008 ACM awarded him its annual Sigmetrics Achievement Award. ACM said he was “the single individual who, over a span of 30 years, has made the greatest overall contribution to the field of computer system and network performance evaluation.”

    France bestowed on him its Order of the Legion of Honor’s chevalier award, and named him a commander of the National Order of Merit for his service to higher education and research in the country. While serving as a science and technology advisor to the French minister for universities from 1984 to 1986, he introduced computer science education to all undergraduate programs.

    Italy honored him with a Commander of Merit award and named him a grand officer of the Order of the Star.


    Despite Gelenbe’s storied career, he has faced racism along the way.

    “I’ve experienced forms of discrimination in every country I’ve been to,” he says. “Sometimes it’s blatant.”

    In his first academic job in France, he says, one day he found a note written in French and posted on his office door. It said: “Immigrant worker in his Sunday best.”

    “The implication was that I was an immigrant, which is true, and a worker, which is also true. I like to work hard,” he says. “All that is fine but, the ‘Sunday best reference was that I was trying to look better than I should.”

    Another example was an article about him that said: “Someone like that should not be a professor here, because most people who come from that same country are working in the coal mines.”

    He says he hasn’t overcome the pain such comments have caused him; he’s just developed a thick skin: “I have accepted that it’s ‘normal’ that I will not get equal treatment in certain circumstances. I’ve compensated for this by the fact that I am quite gregarious and have developed connections with people.”


    Gelenbe joined IEEE as a student member because, he says, it gave him easy access to its publications—which is harder today because a subscription is needed to the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

    An active volunteer, he was the faculty advisor to Imperial College’s IEEE student branch. From 1979 to 1986 he chaired the IEEE Computer Society’s France Section. He also helped found the society’s International Symposium on Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation of Computer and Telecommunication Systems Conference. Today he is a Distinguished Visitor for the society.

    He says IEEE gives people in engineering professions the possibility of a career path.

    “It is a way of viewing themselves not just in terms of who is employing them but also in terms of their professional standing and their professional activities, which are going to be outside of their strict job requirements. I would certainly recommend membership to anyone with a career in our fields, whether the person is an academic or not.”

  14. Get the Coursera Campus Skills Report 2022

    Get comprehensive insights into higher education skill trends based on data from 3.8M registered learners on Coursera, and learn clear steps you can take to ensure your institution's engineering curriculum is aligned with the needs of the current and future job market. Download the report now!

  15. Startup Makes It Easier to Detect Fires With IoT and Flir Cameras

    Fires at recycling sorting facilities, ignited by combustible materials in the waste stream, can cause millions of dollars in damage, injuring workers and first responders and contaminating the air.

    Detecting the blazes early is key to preventing them from getting out of control.

    Startup MoviTHERM aims to do that. The company sells cloud-based fire-detection monitoring systems to recycling facilities. Using thermal imaging and heat and smoke sensors, the system alerts users—on and off the site—when a fire is about to break out.

    To date, MoviTHERM’s system operates in five recycling facilities. The company’s founder, IEEE Member Markus Tarin, says the product also can be used in coal stockpiling operations, industrial laundries, scrapyards, and warehouses.

    In 1999 Tarin launched a consulting business in Irvine, Calif., to do product design and testing, mostly for medical clients. Then thermal-camera manufacturer Flir hired him to write software to automate non-contact temperature measurement processes to give Flir’s customers the ability to act quickly on temperature changes spotted by their camera.

    “That was the beginning of me going into the thermal-imaging world and applying my knowledge,” he says. “I saw a lot of need out there because there weren’t very many companies doing this sort of thing.”

    Tarin started MoviTHERM in 2008 to be a distributor and systems integrator for Flir thermal imagers. The company, now with 11 employees and Tarin at the helm, is still in that business. However, Tarin became frustrated by the fact that the software he developed was not scalable; rather, it was tailored to each customer’s specific needs. And he began to discover around 2015 that interest in such custom software had fallen off.

    “I could no longer easily sell a customized solution,” he says, “because it was perceived as too risky and too expensive.”

    “We are trying to prevent catastrophic losses and environmental damage.”


    In 2016 he began developing the MoviTHERM Series Intelligent I/O module (MIO). He targeted it at fire detection in recycling facilities, he says, because “we had a lot of customers reaching out for solutions in that field.”

    The Ethernet-connected programmable device includes eight digital alarm switches and eight channels of 4- to 20-milliampere outputs that can be used with up to seven Flir cameras. Once the module is connected to a camera, it starts monitoring. MIO can be expanded by adding more modules, Tarin says.

    MoviTHERM sells the MIOs for Flirs in several versions for different camera models. Each variant supports from one to seven cameras, and they range in price from US $895 to $5,995.

    MIO allows customers to “just click and connect multiple Flir cameras and set up the alarms without programming any software,” Tarin says. “The intelligent module sits on the network along with the cameras and sounds an alarm if a camera detects a hot spot,” he says. MIO won the 2016 Innovators Award for industry-best product from Vision Systems Design magazine.

    Tarin says Flir was “so fascinated by MIO that it began distributing the module worldwide.”

    “It’s the only product the company is distributing that’s not a Flir product,” he says.

    But, he says, that MIO series lacks the ability to send alerts to customers via voice, text, or email. It can use its built-in digital alarm outputs only to announce an alarm via a connected tool such as a siren or a flashing light.


    To add those features and more, Tarin late last year introduced MoviTHERM’s subscription-based iEFD early fire detection system, which can monitor and record a facility’s temperatures throughout the day. The system uses interconnected sensors, instruments, and other tools connected to cloud-based industrial software applications. It can check its own cameras and sensors to make sure they are working. Users can monitor and analyze data via an online dashboard.

    If a camera detects a hot spot that could potentially develop into a fire, the system can send an alert to the phones of workers near the area to warn them, potentially giving them time to remove an item before it ignites, Tarin says.

    The system also includes an interactive real-time map view of the facility that can be emailed to firefighters and first responders. The map can include information about the best way to access a facility and the location of utilities at the site, such as water, gas, and electricity.

    “Firefighters often aren’t familiar with the facility, so they lose valuable time by driving around, figuring out how to enter the facility, and where to go,” Tarin says. “The map shows the best entry point to the facility and where the fire hydrants, water valves, electrical cabinets, gas lines, and so on are located. It also shows them where the fire is.

    “We recently demonstrated this map to a fire marshal for a recycling facility, and he was blown away by it.”

    By stopping fires, Tarin says, his system helps prevent toxic emissions from entering the atmosphere.

    “Once you put the fire out, you have more or less an environmental disaster on your hands because you’re flushing all the hazardous stuff with fire suppressant, which itself might also be hazardous to the environment,” he says. “We are trying to prevent catastrophic losses and environmental damage.”

  16. Testing Products for Consumer Reports

    For over 80 years, people have turned to Consumer Reports for honest and authoritative assessments of products before they put their money down. Today, the responsibility for managing testing and ratings for tech-containing products falls to Maria Rerecich, senior director of product testing at the independent nonprofit member organization.

    Rerecich, an IEEE member, joined Consumer Reports in 2013 after almost three decades at Standard Microsystems Corp. (acquired in 2012 by Microchip Technology). At SMSC she was responsible for integrated circuit design, validation, and product engineering of silicon chips used in PCs.

    There are obvious differences between the two jobs, Rerecich acknowledges. For starters, Consumer Reports rates products; it doesn’t build them. “We are testing products we don’t make and aren’t trying to sell,” Rerecich says. “My teams are testing to compare performance and check if products work as claimed, but we don’t have to try to fix them if they don’t.”

    Her 30-person department specifies tests and develops the scoring and ratings, has roughly 30 people who work closely with the operations people in the lab, where the tests are executed. “We work with a variety of interesting products in all types of categories and sometimes need to develop unexpected tests,” she says.

    One example was a situation known as Bendgate. “When the iPhone 6 came out in September 2014, there were reports that the larger model was bending when people put it in their rear pockets and sat on it,” Rerecich recalls. “Lots of Bendgate videos were posted of people bending phones using their thumbs. While a little flex may be acceptable, you don’t want it to deform to the point where it doesn’t come back, or to break.”

    This concern felt like a perfect match for the organization’s methodologies and test lab resources, Rerecich says.

    “People’s thumbs aren’t calibrated. We wanted to set up a more scientific test, quantify the forces needed...and compare the iPhone 6 to other phones. We had an Instron universal testing machine, which does tensile and compression testing. We rigged it up to do bending tests on half a dozen different phones and models. We broke a lot of phones while doing testing.”

    Initial bending-phone reports had started coming in on a Wednesday, and by that Friday, Rerecich’s team had developed and completed testing.

    Former low- or no-tech consumer products such as doorbells and dog collars are now part of the ever-increasing Internet of Things devices Consumer Reports is now testing. As a result, Rerecich’s mission has expanded to tackle privacy and data security concerns.

    “We’ve seen issues in many consumer IoT products related to incomplete encryption, substandard authentication, or open vulnerabilities,” she says. “For example, we’ve seen video doorbells and wireless home security cameras sending email addresses, IP addresses, lists of commands, network names, and even Wi-Fi passwords as unencrypted data. When we find these [instances], we alert the manufacturers, and in many cases they fix what we’ve found.”

    She was one of the architects for the organization’s data privacy and security initiative, and helped develop its Digital Standard framework of product testing criteria for connected products and services. She led a pilot test of several mobile applications, which resulted in an app developer making immediate improvements to protect consumers’ data and privacy of sensitive personal and medical information. To date, Rerecich estimates, more than 500 products have been tested and rated for privacy and security.

    Rerecich’s advice to students and recent graduates includes, “Learn to touch-type well and quickly, since you may spend more time at a keyboard than in a lab.” Also, she urges students to get exposed to different areas of study and different types of courses. “You may not know what you like and are good at until you’ve tried it. For me, that was [a] chip design course at MIT—but I had also taken a course related to biomedical engineering because I thought I wanted to go into that. It’s good to keep an open mind about different areas and learn as much as you can.”

    This article appears in the June 2022 print issue as “Maria Rerecich.”

  17. Tony Fadell: The Nest Thermostat Disrupted My Life

    The thermostat chased me for 10 years.

    That is pretty extreme, by the way. If you’ve got an idea for a business or a new product, you usually don’t have to wait a decade to make sure it’s worth doing.

    For most of the 10 years that I idly thought about thermostats, I had no intention of building one. It was the early 2000s, and I was at Apple making the first iPhone. I got married, had kids. I was busy.

    But then again, I was also really cold. Bone-chillingly cold.

    Every time my wife and I drove up to our Lake Tahoe ski cabin on Friday nights after work, we’d have to keep our snow jackets on until the next day. The house took all night to heat up.

    Book cover for Build by Tony Fadell

    Adapted from the book BUILD: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making by Tony Fadell. Copyright 2022 by Tony Fadell. Reprinted by permission of Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

    Walking into that frigid house drove me nuts. It was mind-boggling that there wasn’t a way to warm it up before we got there. I spent dozens of hours and thousands of dollars trying to hack security and computer equipment tied to an analog phone so I could fire up the thermostat remotely. Half my vacations were spent elbow-deep in wiring, electronics littering the floor. But nothing worked. So the first night of every trip was always the same: We’d huddle on the ice block of a bed, under the freezing sheets, watching our breath turn into fog until the house finally warmed up by morning.

    Then on Monday I’d go back to Apple and work on the first iPhone. Eventually I realized I was making a perfect remote control for a thermostat. If I could just connect the HVAC system to my iPhone, I could control it from anywhere. But the technology that I needed to make it happen—reliable low-cost communications, cheap screens and processors—didn’t exist yet.

    How did these ugly, piece-of-crap thermostats cost almost as much as Apple’s most cutting-edge technology?

    A year later we decided to build a new, superefficient house in Tahoe. During the day I’d work on the iPhone, then I’d come home and pore over specs for our house, choosing finishes and materials and solar panels and, eventually, tackling the HVAC system. And once again, the thermostat came to haunt me. All the top-of-the-line thermostats were hideous beige boxes with bizarrely confusing user interfaces. None of them saved energy. None could be controlled remotely. And they cost around US $400. The iPhone, meanwhile, was selling for $499.

    How did these ugly, piece-of-crap thermostats cost almost as much as Apple’s most cutting-edge technology?

    The architects and engineers on the Tahoe project heard me complaining over and over about how insane it was. I told them, “One day, I’m going to fix this—mark my words!” They all rolled their eyes—there goes Tony complaining again!

    At first they were just idle words born of frustration. But then things started to change. The success of the iPhone drove down costs for the sophisticated components I couldn’t get my hands on earlier. Suddenly high-quality connectors and screens and processors were being manufactured by the millions, cheaply, and could be repurposed for other technology.

    My life was changing, too. I quit Apple and began traveling the world with my family. A startup was not the plan. The plan was a break. A long one.

    We traveled all over the globe and worked hard not to think about work. But no matter where we went, we could not escape one thing: the goddamn thermostat. The infuriating, inaccurate, energy-hogging, thoughtlessly stupid, impossible-to-program, always-too-hot-or-too-cold-in-some-part-of-the-house thermostat.

    Someone needed to fix it. And eventually I realized that someone was going to be me.

    Hardware including a square with electronics and paper with CAD electronic diagrams. This 2010 prototype of the Nest thermostat wasn’t pretty. But making the thermometer beautiful would be the easy part. The circuit board diagrams point to the next step—making it round.Tom Crabtree

    The big companies weren’t going to do it. Honeywell and the other white-box competitors hadn’t truly innovated in 30 years. It was a dead, unloved market with less than $1 billion in total annual sales in the United States.

    The only thing missing was the will to take the plunge. I wasn’t ready to carry another startup on my back. Not then. Not alone.

    Then, magically, Matt Rogers, who’d been one of the first interns on the iPod project, reached out to me. He was a real partner who could share the load. So I let the idea catch me. I came back to Silicon Valley and got to work. I researched the technology, then the opportunity, the business, the competition, the people, the financing, the history.

    Making it beautiful wasn’t going to be hard. Gorgeous hardware, an intuitive interface—that we could do. We’d honed those skills at Apple. But to make this product successful—and meaningful—we needed to solve two big problems:

    It needed to save energy.

    And we needed to sell it.

    In North America and Europe, thermostats control half a home’s energy bill—something like $2,500 a year. Every previous attempt to reduce that number—by thermostat manufacturers, by energy companies, by government bodies—had failed miserably for a host of different reasons. We had to do it for real, while keeping it dead simple for customers.

    Then we needed to sell it. Almost all thermostats at that point were sold and installed by professional HVAC technicians. We were never going to break into that old boys’ club. We had to find a way into people’s minds first, then their homes. And we had to make our thermostat so easy to install that literally anyone could do it themselves.

    It took around 9 to 12 months of making prototypes and interactive models, building bits of software, talking to users and experts, and testing it with friends before Matt and I decided to pitch investors.

    “Real People” Test the Nest

    Once we had prototypes of the thermostat, we sent it out to real people to test.

    It was fatter than we wanted. The screen wasn’t quite what I imagined. Kind of like the first iPod, actually. But it worked. It connected to your phone. It learned what temperatures you liked. It turned itself down when nobody was home. It saved energy. We knew self-installation was potentially a huge stumbling block, so everyone waited with bated breath to see how it went. Did people shock themselves? Start a fire? Abandon the project halfway through because it was too complicated? Soon our testers reported in: Installation went fine. People loved it. But it took about an hour to install. Crap. An hour was way too long. This needed to be an easy DIY project, a quick upgrade.

    So we dug into the reports—what was taking so long? What were we missing?

    Our testers...spent the first 30 minutes looking for tools.

    Turns out we weren’t missing anything—but our testers were. They spent the first 30 minutes looking for tools—the wire stripper, the flathead screwdriver; no, wait, we need a Phillips. Where did I put that?

    Once they gathered everything they needed, the rest of the installation flew by. Twenty, 30 minutes tops.

    I suspect most companies would have sighed with relief. The actual installation took 20 minutes, so that’s what they’d tell customers. Great. Problem solved.

    But this was going to be the first moment people interacted with our device. Their first experience of Nest. They were buying a $249 thermostat—they were expecting a different kind of experience. And we needed to exceed their expectations. Every minute from opening the box to reading the instructions to getting it on their wall to turning on the heat for the first time had to be incredibly smooth. A buttery, warm, joyful experience.

    And we knew Beth. Beth was one of two potential customers we defined. The other customer was into technology, loved his iPhone, was always looking for cool new gadgets. Beth was the decider—she dictated what made it into the house and what got returned. She loved beautiful things, too, but was skeptical of supernew, untested technology. Searching for a screwdriver in the kitchen drawer and then the toolbox in the garage would not make her feel warm and buttery. She would be rolling her eyes. She would be frustrated and annoyed.

    A white handheld device with 4 screwdriver heads, one on the bottom, and three at the top. Shipping the Nest thermostat with a screwdriver "turned a moment of frustration into a moment of delight"Dwight Eschliman

    So we changed the prototype. Not the thermostat prototype—the installation prototype. We added one new element: a little screwdriver. It had four different head options, and it fit in the palm of your hand. It was sleek and cute. Most importantly, it was unbelievably handy.

    So now, instead of rummaging through toolboxes and cupboards, trying to find the right tool to pry their old thermostat off the wall, customers simply reached into the Nest box and took out exactly what they needed. It turned a moment of frustration into a moment of delight.

    Honeywell Laughs

    Sony laughed at the iPod. Nokia laughed at the iPhone. Honeywell laughed at the Nest Learning Thermostat.

    At first.

    In the stages of grief, this is what we call Denial.

    But soon, as your disruptive product, process, or business model begins to gain steam with customers, your competitors will start to get worried. And when they realize you might steal their market share, they’ll get pissed. Really pissed. When people hit the Anger stage of grief, they lash out, they undercut your pricing, try to embarrass you with advertising, use negative press to undermine you, put in new agreements with sales channels to lock you out of the market.

    And they might sue you.

    The good news is that a lawsuit means you’ve officially arrived. We had a party the day Honeywell sued Nest. We were thrilled. That ridiculous lawsuit meant we were a real threat and they knew it. So we brought out the champagne. That’s right, f---ers. We’re coming for your lunch.

    Nest Gets Googled

    With every generation, the product became sleeker, slimmer, and less expensive to build. In 2014, Google bought Nest for $3.2 billion. In 2016 Google decided to sell Nest, so I left the company. Months after I left, Google changed its mind. Today, Google Nest is alive and well, and they’re still making new products, creating new experiences, delivering on their version of our vision. I deeply, genuinely, wish them well.

  18. New Courses on Technical Standards Used in Aerospace and Defense

    As the world tries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the aerospace and defense industries are predicted to grow from US $416 billion to $551 billion by 2030, according to Mordor Intelligence. The growth means increased development of aviation, space, and other systems that are crucial to the industries. The use of technical standards can ensure that critical software and systems components that run the systems are reliable and secure.

    To help systems engineers, software engineers, and people working on back-end systems, IEEE Educational Activities and the IEEE Standards Association partnered to create a five-course program: IEEE Software and Systems Engineering Standards Used in Aerospace and Defense.The program offers an overview of IEEE Std. 1012 and the IEEE 29119 series of standards developed with the aerospace and defense industries.

    The courses offered in the program are:

    Life Cycle Processes

    From this course, learners can better understand engineering concepts, be able to select and apply systems and software engineering standards, and employ special considerations for critical programs. Complex issues throughout the life cycle are covered.

    Implementing DevOps Best Practices

    This course discusses the required development and operations practices for building reliable and secure systems both in general and in regulated environments. Learners can better understand DevOps, including how the practices can be implemented and what their value is.

    Verification and Validation of Systems, Software, and Hardware

    Learners explore the basic concepts, purposes, and benefits of verification and validation in software and hardware covered in IEEE Std. 1012.

    Software Testing Driven by Standards and Models

    This course provides an overview of the IEEE 29119 series of standards. It teaches how the standards can be applied during the software life cycle, with an emphasis on aerospace and defense purposes.

    Using ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 for Software Testing

    This series of courses explores the five steps taught in the Software Testing Driven by Standards and Models course. The series provides details on the five supporting parts of the IEEE 29119 series of standards, from proposal to retirement. Included are processes, documentation, testing techniques, and keyword-driven testing.

    Individuals who complete the program can earn up to 0.5 continuing education units or five professional development hour credits, plus a digital badge.

    Institutions interested in the program can contact an IEEE account specialist to learn more.

    Visit the IEEE Learning Network for member and nonmember pricing.

  19. How Eddie Custovic Is Building His Legacy

    Edhem “Eddie” Custovic says he always wanted to leave behind a legacy. He’s now doing so, in a number of ways.

    The IEEE senior member established an innovation lab for budding entrepreneurs at La Trobe University, in Melbourne, Australia, where he is an engineering professor. He also set up a foundation to provide youngsters in his home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina with educational opportunities, mentorship, and scholarships. And if that isn’t enough, he is working to combat impending food shortages by developing imaging technology to determine how to grow plants in inhabitable environments.

    For his “leadership in the empowerment and development of technology professionals globally,” Custovic is the recipient of this year’s IEEE Theodore W. Hissey Outstanding Young Professional Award.The award is sponsored by IEEE Young Professionals and the IEEE Photonics and Power & Energy societies.

    Receiving the award is “by far the greatest achievement” in his career, he says. “It encompasses all the work that I’ve put in over the years in empowering young people to achieve more. It’s particularly special to me because it bears the name of Theodore Hissey, someone who I find inspirational and have had the pleasure of working with on numerous occasions at IEEE.”

    Hissey, an IEEE Life Fellow and IEEE director emeritus, has supported the IEEE Young Professionals community over the years.


    Custovic says he has always been entrepreneurial.

    “It goes back to being a refugee in Switzerland, where my brother and I had to learn how to earn money,” Custovic says. He and his family fled Bosnia in 1991 because of ethnic violence there. They later moved to Australia.

    He says those experiences gave him the mentality that “you have to earn and work for [things] yourself.”

    Custovic’s first big entrepreneurial venture began in 2010, while he was a doctoral student at La Trobe. While conducting research for his thesis, he noticed that there was little collaboration between disciplines at the university. It inspired him in 2016 to found the La Trobe Innovation and Entrepreneurship Foundry,which promotes multidisciplinary research among the school’s faculty members and students, plus engineers in industry.

    “We’ve had a lot of success through the lab,” Custovic says. “Not only have participants developed various innovative technologies, but they have also gained interdisciplinary thinking.”

    One project that came out of the foundry is CountaKick, a tool that detects fetal movements during the third trimester of pregnancy to help determine whether the fetus is healthy. The project brought engineers together with computer scientists and health care professionals.

    The foundry team developed a wearable belt that is embedded with 16 microphones to detect fetal movement. It uses machine learning to differentiate the sounds of fetal movement from background noises and other sounds from the mother’s body. CountaKick was bought by another company, which is now working to commercialize it.

    Another one of Custovic’s entrepreneurial ventures—the Bosnia and Herzegovina Futures Foundation, inTuzla, Bosnia—hits closer to home.

    Eddie Custovic with students from the La Trobe Innovation & Entrepreneurship Foundry Custovic [bottom right] with students from the La Trobe Innovation & Entrepreneurship Foundry.Courtesy Eddie Custovic

    “As a kid growing up in Australia, I felt a sense of pride for the place where I was born,” he says. “I grew up in a healthy environment and had the opportunity to pursue the career I wanted. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who didn’t have that same opportunity.”

    He started the foundation in 2015 with his brother, Resad, who is a civil engineer and also an entrepreneur. They wanted to create an organization that would be their “life legacy” and would help Bosnia and Herzegovina prosper by empowering youth through access to education and mentorship, as well as helping them develop technologies.

    Almost 2 million Bosnians and Herzegovinians were displaced by the 1990s Bosnian War and now live in 30 countries worldwide, Custovic says. Inspired by IEEE’s global membership, the two brothers created a network for them to collaborate on technology projects and mentor youths.

    The foundation provides students with scholarships and mentorship as well as internships in a number of countries. It also holds conferences on emerging technology, interdisciplinary research being done around the world, and how to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

    “My mentor Barry Shoop, who was the 2016 IEEE president, said that being a leader is about paving the way for others to succeed,” Custovic says. “I’ve really taken that to heart.”


    Custovic is working to make sure there’s enough food to feed the growing human population. According to a study conducted by humanitarian organization Oxfam, Earth will run out of food by 2050.

    Custovic is developing imaging technology that uses artificial intelligence to conduct plant phenotyping—or assessing a plant’s expressed characteristics. By linking the automated assessments to each plant’s genetic data, researchers can study the genetic changes that result in desirable traits such as drought-resistance or high crop yields.

    The research group at La Trobe is composed of engineers, geneticists, and plant biologists. It’s also collaborating with several medicinal agriculture companies such as Photon Systems Instruments of Drasov, Czech Republic. It’s leading the development of plant phenotyping technology worldwide.

    “Being an engineer and being a leader is about paving the way for others to succeed.”

    “We have no more land available for agriculture,” Custovic says, “so we now have to look at how we create efficiencies in growing food.”

    The team is also using the phenotype and genotype data to determine how to grow plants without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Fertilizers contain phosphorus, which pollutes groundwater and harms aquatic life.

    “Most people are not aware of the impact of phosphorus on the environment,” Custovic says. “We are trying to engineer new plants that will be less dependent on phosphorus and therefore grow effectively without it.”

    The imaging technology will determine how to effectively grow plants—both for human consumption and medicinal use, he says, in environments where they wouldn’t normally grow as well as areas that have been severely impacted by climate change.

    “It’s an honor to work alongside so many talented engineers and scientists in developing technologies,” he says, “and apply their capabilities that have the goal of saving, extending, and improving human lives.”


    Custovic joined IEEE as a doctoral student at La Trobe and says the organization has played an enormous role in his life.

    In 2010 he founded the student branch at La Trobe. He says his volunteerism in IEEE “really took off from there.” In 2014 he became secretary of the IEEE Victorian (Australia) Section and eventually served as its chair. The experience helped him gain leadership skills he wouldn’t have been able to acquire otherwise, he says.

    Custovic was a member of the IEEE Young Professionals committee from 2015 to 2017.

    He also served on the IEEE Publication Services and Products Board’s strategic planning committee—first as the Young Professionals representative and then as a member-at-large—for six years. In addition, he was a member of the product development team, which explored potential offerings for members.

    He was the inaugural chair of the Board of Directors’ Industry Engagement Committee and oversaw the creation of the industry advisory board alongside other IEEE volunteers.

    “It's exciting to interact with people who are working on solving different problems around the world,” he says, “and not only learning about emerging technology but also creating a global network.”

  20. Why I Became An Advocate for Girls and Women

    Readers of my “A Father’s Perspective About Daughters and Engineering” and “Fathers Can Be Gender Equity Advocates” articles often ask what inspired me to become such a strong advocate for girls and women.

    The answer? My mother, Wedad Ahmad Bani Yaseen. She was my mentor. I owe her everything I have and will achieve in life.

    She died on 8 March.

    I was fortunate to have spent the first 25 years of my life living with her. Even when I moved out, I lived just a few miles away. I relied on her advice in almost all my choices and decisions. She was always there when I needed her. Even when I didn’t ask for her advice, if she felt that something was not right, she would not hesitate to give me her thoughts.

    My mother was not a college graduate, and she did not have a professional career. Her job was raising her kids and taking care of her family including her siblings. She learned from an early age how to find meaning in everything she did. She constantly learned new things. She was the most confident person I have met.

    She was born to lead. Her father—my grandfather—was a leader, and she naturally became one herself. He was a village mayor, known as mukhtarin Arabic.

    He was one of two mukhtars who represented the village of Kafr Al-Maa, in Irbid, Jordan. He was the leader of the largest clan in the Arabic village, located in the denuded eastern foothills of the Jordan Valley. The clan had the largest population in the area and was by far the richest. As mukhtar, he and the clan’s largest landowners often socialized in his guesthouse, where they shared information, discussed and resolved disputes, gossiped, and made economic exchanges.

    My mother loved my role as an advocate for women in engineering, and she thought girls would be great in whatever career they chose.

    My mother’s attendance at those gatherings taught her leadership skills. My grandfather empowered her—which helped her become more mature. Over the years, she became the person who would help resolve issues and tell everyone what they needed to do.

    For three years, she helped build the family’s 250-square-meter house while my father traveled for work. While he was away, on her own, she took care of six kids, looked after their education and their health, and fulfilled their needs in a village that lacked electricity and running water. All my siblings are accomplished and living in either Texas or the United Arab Emirates. Most of them, as well as their children, either have graduated from a university or are about to.


    Her wisdom in understanding the true meaning of cultural diversity was sparked by her honeymoon in the holy city of Jerusalem, where she and my father later lived for more than a year. She used to tell me that living in peace in one of the oldest cities in the world—which three major Abrahamic religions consider to be the holiest—gave her the wisdom to understand different perspectives, and it changed her spiritually.

    I admire my mother for teaching me those qualities.

    Because of her, I was able to achieve the highest level of academic success. During the summer she turned our house into an academic camp for my friends and me. I graduated No. 1 in my class in high school. In college, I completed an engineering program of 170 credit hours in only four and a half years, when most students take more than five. I was the first of my siblings to earn a university degree—which was a great achievement—and I was glad to be able to do that for her. For years, she proudly displayed my college graduation photos in her house.

    I would always talk to her about my career choices, the projects I worked on, and the issues I had. When I sought advice from her, she never hesitated in giving it. On job interviews, she told me, ask first about the owners of the business, as she believed that only people with good ethical values would offer good opportunities.

    I recently moved back to the Middle East from Texas, and I was fortunate to be able to talk to her almost daily. She knew about my volunteer duties with IEEE and was interested in the articles I wrote, even though she didn’t read English. She loved my role as an advocate for women in engineering, and she thought girls would be great in whatever career they chose.

  21. Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

    In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

    And he had a problem.

    The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

    Getting those customers would require abandoning the company’s mechanical inertial-sensor systems in favor of a new, unproven quartz technology, miniaturizing the quartz sensors, and turning a manufacturer of tens of thousands of expensive sensors a year into a manufacturer of millions of cheaper ones.

    Madni led an all-hands push to make that happen—and succeeded beyond what anyone could have imagined with the GyroChip. This inexpensive inertial-measurement sensor was the first such device to be incorporated into automobiles, enabling electronic stability-control (ESC) systems to detect skidding and operate the brakes to prevent rollover accidents. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the five-year period spanning 2011 to 2015, with ESCs being built into all new cars, the systems saved 7,000 lives in the United States alone.

    The device went on to serve as the heart of stability-control systems in countless commercial and private aircraft and U.S. missile guidance systems, too. It even traveled to Mars as part of the Pathfinder Sojourner rover.

    Vital Statistics

    Name:Asad M. Madni

    Current job:Distinguished adjunct professor, University of California, Los Angeles; retired president, COO, and CTO, BEI Technologies

    Date of birth: 8 September 1947

    Birthplace:Mumbai, India

    Family:Wife (Taj), son (Jamal)

    Education: 1968 graduate, RCA Institutes; B.S., 1969, and M.S., 1972, University of California, Los Angeles, both in electrical engineering; Ph.D., California Coast University, 1987

    Patents:39 issued, others pending

    Hero:My father, overall, for teaching me how to learn, how to be a human being, and the meaning of love, compassion, and empathy; in art, Michelangelo; in science, Albert Einstein; in engineering, Claude Shannon

    Most recent book read: Origin by Dan Brown

    Favorite books: The Prophet and The Garden of the Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

    Favorite music: In Western music, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley; in Eastern music, Ghazals

    Favorite movies:Contact, Good Will Hunting

    Favorite cities:Los Angeles; London; Cambridge, U.K.; Rome

    Leisure activities:Reading, hiking, listening to music

    Organizational memberships:IEEE Life Fellow; U.S. National Academy of Engineering; United Kingdom Royal Academy of Engineering; Canadian Academy of Engineering

    Most meaningful awards: IEEE Medal of Honor: “For pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of innovative sensing and systems technologies, and for distinguished research leadership”; UCLA Engineering Alumnus of the Year 2004

    For pioneering the GyroChip, and for other contributions in technology development and research leadership, Madni received the 2022 IEEE Medal of Honor.

    Engineering wasn’t Madni’s first choice of profession. He wanted to be a fine artist—a painter. But his family’s economic situation in Mumbai, India (then Bombay) in the 1950s and 1960s steered him to engineering—specifically electronics, thanks to his interest in recent innovations embodied in the pocket-size transistor radio. In 1966 he moved to the United States to study electronics at the RCA Institutes in New York City, a school created in the early 1900s to train wireless operators and technicians.

    “I wanted to be an engineer who would invent things,” Madni says, “one who would do things that would eventually affect humanity. Because if I couldn’t affect humanity, I felt that I would have an unfulfilling career.”

    After two years completing the electronics technology program at the RCA Institutes, Madni went on to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), receiving a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1969. He continued on to a master’s and a Ph.D., using digital signal processing along with frequency-domain reflectometry to analyze telecommunications systems for his dissertation research. While studying, he also worked variously at Pacific States University as an instructor, at Beverly Hills retailer David Orgell in inventory management, and at Pertec as an engineer designing computer peripherals.

    Then, in 1975, newly engaged and at the insistence of a former classmate, he applied for a job in Systron Donner’s microwave division.

    Madni’s startedat Systron Donner by designing the world’s first spectrum analyzer with digital storage. He had never actually used a spectrum analyzer before—these were very expensive instruments at the time—but he knew enough about the theory to talk himself into the job. He then spent six months working in testing, picking up practical experience with the instruments before attempting to redesign one.

    The project took two years and, Madni reports, led to three significant patents that started his climb “to bigger and better things.” It also taught him, he says, an appreciation for the difference between “what it is to have theoretical knowledge and what it is to commercialize technology that can be helpful to others.”

    He went on to develop numerous RF and microwave systems and instrumentation for the U.S. military, including an analyzer for communications lines and attached antennas built for the Navy, which became the basis for his doctoral research.

    Though he moved quickly into the management ranks, eventually climbing to chairman, president, and CEO of Systron Donner, former colleagues say he never entirely left the lab behind. His technical mark was on every project he became involved in, including the groundbreaking work that led to the GyroChip.

    Before we talk about the little quartz sensor that became the heart of the GyroChip,here’s a little background on the inertial-measurement units of the 1990s. An IMU measures several properties of an object: its specific force (the acceleration that’s not due to gravity); its angular rate of rotation around an axis; and, sometimes, its orientation in three-dimensional space.

    A photo of a close up of a microchip The GyroChip enabled electronic stability-control systems in automobiles to detect skidding and prevented countless rollover accidents. Peter Adams

    In the early 1990s, the typical IMU used mechanical gyroscopes for angular-rate sensing. A package with three highly accurate spinning mass gyroscopes was about the size of a toaster oven and weighed about a kilogram. Versions that used ring-laser gyroscopes or fiber-optic gyroscopes were somewhat smaller, but all high-accuracy optical and mechanical gyros of the time cost thousands of dollars.

    So that was the IMU in 1990, when Systron Donner sold its defense-electronics businesses to BEI Technologies, a publicly traded spinoff of BEI Electronics, itself a spinoff of the venerable Baldwin Piano Co. The device was big, heavy, expensive, and held moving mechanical parts that suffered from wear and tear, affecting reliability.

    Shortly before the sale, Systron Donner had licensed a patent for a completely different type of rate sensor from a group of U.S. inventors. It was little more than a paper design at the time, Madni says, but the company had started investing some of its R&D budget in implementing the technology.

    The design centered on a tiny, dual-ended vibrating tuning fork carved out of quartz using standard silicon-wafer-processing techniques. The tines of the fork would be deflected by the Coriolis effect, the inertial force acting on an object as it resists being pulled from its plane of rotation. Because quartz has piezoelectric properties, changes in forces acting upon it cause changes in electric charge. These changes could be converted into measurements of angular velocity.

    The project continued after Systron Donner’s divisions became part of BEI, and in the early 1990s BEI was manufacturing some 10,000 quartz gyroscopic sensors annually for a classified defense project. But with the fall of the Soviet Union and ensuing rapid contraction of the U.S. defense industry, Madni worried that there would be no more customers—at least for a long time—for these tiny new sensors or even for the traditional mechanical sensors that were the main part of the division’s business.

    “We had two options,” Madni recalls. “We stick out in the sands and peacefully die, which would be a shame, because nobody else has this technology. Or we find somewhere else we can use it.”

    “If I couldn’t affect humanity, I felt that I would have an unfulfilling career.”

    The hunt was on. Madni says he and members of his research and marketing teams went to every sensors conference they could find, talking to anyone who used inertial sensors, regardless of whether the applications were industrial, commercial, or space. They showed the quartz angular-rate sensors the company had developed, touting their price, precision, and reliability, and laid out a path in which the devices became smaller and cheaper in just a few years. NASA was interested—and eventually used the devices in the Mars Pathfinder Sojourner rover and the systems that allowed astronauts to move about in space untethered. Boeing and other aircraft and avionics-system manufacturers began adopting the devices.

    But the automotive industryclearly represented the biggest potential market. In the late 1980s, car companies had begun introducing basic traction-control systems in their high-end vehicles. These systems monitored steering-wheel position, throttle position, and individual wheel speeds, and could adjust engine speed and braking when they detected a problem, such as one wheel turning faster than another. They couldn’t, however, detect when the direction of a car’s turn on the road didn’t match the turn of the steering wheel, a key indicator of an unstable skid that could turn into a rollover.

    An image of part of a circuit. This quartz tuning fork responds to inertial forces and forms the heart of the GyroChip. Peter Adams

    The industry was aware this was a deficiency, and that rollover accidents were a significant cause of deaths from auto accidents. Automotive-electronics suppliers like Bosch were working to develop small, reliable angular-rate sensors, mostly out of silicon, to improve traction control and rollover prevention, but none were ready for prime time.

    Madni thought this was a market BEI could win. In partnership with Continental Teves of Frankfurt, Germany, BEI set out to reduce the size and cost of the quartz devices and manufacture them in quantities unheard of in the defense industry, planning to ramp up to millions annually.

    This major pivot—from defense to one of the most competitive mass-market industries—would require big changes for the company and for its engineers. Madni took the leap.

    “I told the guys, ‘We are going to have to miniaturize it. We are going to have to bring the price down—from $1,200 to $1,800 per axis to $100, then to $50, and then to $25. We are going to have to sell it in hundreds of thousands of units a month and then a million and more a month.’”

    To do all that, he knew that the design for a quartz-based rate sensor couldn’t have one extra component, he says. And that the manufacturing, supply chain, and even sales management had to be changed dramatically.

    “I told the engineers that we can’t have anything in there other than what is absolutely needed,” Madni recalls. “And some balked—too used to working on complex designs, they weren’t interested in doing a simple design. I tried to explain to them that what I was asking them to do was more difficult than the complex things they’ve done,” he says. But he still lost some high-level design engineers.

    “The board of directors asked me what I was doing, [saying] that those were some of our best people. I told them that it wasn’t a question of the best people; if people are not going to adapt to the current needs, what good do they do?”

    A photo of a seated man in a dark suit with binary numbers on the wall behind him. Peter Adams

    Others were willing to adapt, and he sent some of those engineers to visit watch manufacturers in Switzerland to learn about handling quartz; the watch industry had been using the material for decades. And he offered others training by experts in the automotive industry, to learn about its operations and requirements.

    The changes needed were not easy, Madni remembers. “We have a lot of scars on our back. We went through a hell of a process. But during my tenure, BEI became the world’s largest supplier of sensors for automotive stability and rollover prevention.”

    In the late 1990s, Madni says, the market for electronic stability-control systems exploded, as a result of an incident in 1997. An automotive journalist, testing a new Mercedes on a test track, was performing the so-called elchtest, often referred to as the “elk test”: He swerved at normal speed, intending to simulate avoiding a moose crossing the road, and the car rolled over. Mercedes and competitors responded to the bad publicity by embracing stability-control systems, and GyroChip demand skyrocketed.

    Thanks to the deal with Continental Teves, BEI held a large piece of the automotive market for many years. BEI wasn’t the only game in town at that point—Germany’s Bosch had begun producing silicon-based MEMS rate sensors in 1998—but the California company was the only manufacturer using quartz sensors, which at the time performed better than silicon. Today, most manufacturers of automotive-grade rate sensors use silicon, for that technology has matured and such sensors are cheaper to produce.

    While manufacturing for the auto market ramped up, Madni continued to look for other markets. He found another big one in the aircraft industry.

    The Boeing 737 in the early and mid-’90s had been involved in a series of crashes and incidents that stemmed from unexpected rudder movement. Some of the failures were traced to the aircraft’s power control unit, which incorporated yaw-damping technology. While the yaw sensors weren’t specifically implicated, the company did need to redesign its PCUs. Madni and BEI convinced Boeing to use BEI’s quartz sensors in all of its 737s going forward, as well as retrofitting existing aircraft with the devices. Manufacturers of aircraft for private aviation soon embraced the sensor as well. And eventually the defense business came back.

    Photo of a young man in a sweater talking to another man in front of a balckboard

    A group of men sitting around a table looking at a device.  Asad Madni explains a problem in electron ballistics to a classmate at the RCA Institutes in 1966 [top]. In 1977, Madni [seated, center] discusses the communications-line analyzer he developed for the U.S. Navy. Asad Madni

    Today, electronic angular-rate sensors are in just about every vehicle—land, air, or sea. And Madni’s effort to miniaturize them and reduce their cost blazed the trail.

    By 2005, BEI’s portfolio of technologies had made it an attractive target for acquisition. Besides the rate sensors, it had earned acclaim for its development of the unprecedentedly accurate pointing system created for the Hubble Space Telescope. The sensors and control group had expanded into BEI Sensors & Systems Co., of which Madni was CEO and CTO.

    “We weren’t looking for a buyer; we were progressing extremely well and looking to still grow. But several people wanted to buy us, and one, Schneider Electric, was relentless. They wouldn’t give up, and we had to present the deal to the board.”

    The sale went through in mid-2005 and, after a brief transition period and turning down a leadership position with Schneider Electric, Madni officially retired in 2006.

    While Madni says he’s been retired since 2006, he actually retired only from industry, crossing over into a busy life in academia. He has served as an honorary professor at six universities, including the Technical University of Crete, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of Waikato, in New Zealand. In 2011, he joined the faculty of UCLA’s electrical and computer-engineering department as a distinguished scientist and distinguished adjunct professor and considers that his home institution. He is on campus weekly to meet with his advisees, who are working in sensing, signal processing, AI for sensor design, and ultrawideband high-speed instrumentation. Madni has advised 25 graduate students to date.

    One of his former UCLA students, Cejo K. Lonappan, now principal systems engineer at SILC Technologies, says Madni cares a lot about the impact of what his advisees are doing, asking them to write an executive summary of every research project that goes beyond the technology to talk about the bigger picture.

    “Many times in academic research, it is easy to get lost in details, in minor things that seem impressive to the person doing the research,” Lonappan says. But Madni “cares a lot about the impact of what we are doing beyond the engineering and scientific community—the applications, the new frontiers it opens.”

    S.K. Ramesh, a professor and former dean of electrical engineering and computer science at California State University, Northridge, has also seen Madni the advisor in action.

    “For him,” Ramesh says, “it’s not just about engineering. It’s about engineering the future, showing how to make a difference in people’s lives. And he’s not discouraged by challenges.”

    “We had a group of students who wanted to take a headset used in gaming and use it to create a brain-control interface for wheelchair users,” Ramesh says. “We spoke to a neurologist, and he laughed at us, said you couldn’t do that, to monitor brain waves with a headset and instantaneously transfer that to a motion command. But Prof. Madni looked at it as how do we solve the problem, and even if we can’t solve it, along the way we will learn something by trying.”

    Says Yannis Phillis, a professor at the Technical University of Crete: “This man knows a lot about engineering, but he has a wide range of interests. When we met on Crete for the first time, for example, I danced a solo Zeibekiko; it has roots from ancient Greece. He asked me questions left and right about it, why this, why that. He is curious about society, about human behavior, about the environment—and, broadly speaking, the survival of our civilization.”

    Madni went into engineering hoping to affect humanity with his work. He is satisfied that, in at least some ways, he has done so.

    “The space applications have enhanced the understanding of our universe, and I was fortunate to play a part of that,” he says. “My contributions [to automotive safety] in their own humble way have been responsible for saving millions of lives around the world. And my technologies have played a role in the defense and security of our nation. It’s been the most gratifying career.”

  22. Learn How to Model Electric Motors

    Tune into this free webinar to see the capabilities of COMSOL Multiphysics for electric motor design. The presentation will address electromagnetics, vibrations, and thermal management and stress by coupling electromagnetics with heat transfer and solid mechanics. The webinar will also include a live demo and a Q&A session. Register now!

    Electric motors play an important role in a potentially fossil-free transport sector. The design of such machines requires a multiphysics approach to improve aspects like thermal management for magnets and coils, power density, efficiency, reliability, and cost.

    The optimization of a permanent magnet motor with respect to the shapes and positions of the magnets will also be discussed. We will demonstrate how to model electric motors to compute various parameters like torque as well as core and copper losses.


    Vignesh GurusamyApplications Engineer, COMSOLVignesh Gurusamy joined COMSOL in 2021 as an applications engineer specializing in low-frequency electromagnetics. He received his PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas, where he worked on electrical motors and medium-frequency transformers

  23. How Purdue University Commercializes Its Research

    For Yung-Hsiang Lu, improving the energy efficiency of computer technology to provide real-world benefits has been a lifelong focus.

    “When I was learning data structures, I began to see things from a different viewpoint—how to make things efficient,” says Lu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and a university faculty scholar at Purdue University’s Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, in West Lafayette, Ind.

    The IEEE Fellow’s research focuses on developing energy-efficient computing systems. Improved efficiency is increasingly essential for tasks like computer vision and imaging activities. It is particularly critical where battery weight, size, and capacity is a precious resource, such as in small and mobile devices like distributed sensor networks, autonomous robots, wireless communication, and real-time systems.

    Over the past several years, his research has included collecting and analyzing data from networked cameras in department stores, optimizing how they place their products, and assessing COVID-19 lockdown compliance based on multinational camera data.

    Lu is also guiding the next generation of researchers—both graduate and undergraduate students.

    “I used to think I just wanted to write research papers,” Lu says. But after several of his students won the 2014 Schurz Innovation Challenge at Purdue, where students presented concepts for Web and mobile applications, Lu says he wanted to help students go from “research to technology transfer and commercialization. I want to see research results get used in the real world.

    “I still do research, of course," Lu notes. "In fact, I received three research grants last year.”

    Lu was inspired to conduct research in improving efficiency when he was an undergraduate student at the National Taiwan University, in Taipei, where his studies included courses in algorithms and data structures.

    “Algorithms are very applicable to real life,” he explains. “I use them every morning to decide how I want to organize my day.”

    After earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the school in 1992, Lu went on to receive a master’s degree in EE in 1996 and a Ph.D. in EE in 2002, both from Stanford.

    Lu has also written several books. His Intermediate C Programming (CRC Press, 2015) covers programming concepts, debugging, and the connection between programming and discrete mathematics. He also coedited Low-Power Computer Vision: Improve the Efficiency of Artificial Intelligence (Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2022), which collected methods for improving energy efficiency for computer vision on battery-powered systems.

    Throughout the past decade Lu’s focus has been increasingly expanding beyond conducting research to include teaching real-world-relevant goals, helping students commercialize their technologies, and learning how to start and grow companies. He says he realized that he “wanted to help move our discoveries in the lab out to the world for impact through patents and technology transfer commercialization opportunities.

    “For the 2014 Schurz competition, I’d given some suggestions to help the students develop the business plans and win the competition, and then helped them pursue commercialization, including developing SBIR [Small Business Innovation Research] proposals,” he says.

    In 2015, Lu became a principal investigator for the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program, which helps NSF-supported professors understand the commercial value of their research.

    That same year, Lu helped start the now-international IEEE Low-Power Computer Vision Challenge, an annual competition that aims to improve the energy efficiency of computer vision (CV) for running on systems with stringent resource constraints. Computer vision, Lu says, “remains one of the grand challenges in AI. To date, the competition has received more than 500 solutions for CV problems from over 100 teams around the world.”

    Lu also helps undergraduates conduct research in relation to real-world problems through his involvement in Purdue’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program. For his work, Lu received the 2019 Outstanding VIP-Based Entrepreneur Award.

    He has also been involved in several technology challenge events. He is one of the organizers of this year’s IEEE Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Competition, which challenges teams to see which of their UAVs can successfully follow a moving target without a teleoperator.

    Lu was appointed the inaugural director of Purdue’s John Martinson Entrepreneurial Center in 2020—which, Lu points out, is one of many entrepreneurial programs and activities at Purdue.

    One important observation Lu says he made during the NSF I-Corps program is that “the problems people in the real world face may not be the ones we at universities imagined.” He says it’s important for researchers to talk with people outside of academia because “they look at things differently.”

    Lu also encourages students to try to get involved in a project that lasts more than one semester and for professors to provide these opportunities.

    “When you are working on a one-semester project, it’s so short you don’t think about consequences for bad decisions,” he says. “If you are in a project for one year, a lot of bad decisions will come back and hurt you, which you learn from.”

  24. This Community-Run Internet is Bridging the Digital Divide

    For many of us, the Internet is part of daily life. But that’s not the case for more than 3.5 billion people around the world who don’t have meaningful access to it, according to a Brookings Institution report, “Bridging the Global Digital Divide.” There are many reasons for the divide, including affordability, the lack of digital literacy, and the absence of relevant content and services in local languages.

    Last year the IEEE Future Networks initiative ran the inaugural IEEE Connecting the Unconnected Challenge to seek out innovative projects and ideas aimed at increasing connectivity. It solicited early-stage projects that have already been piloted but not yet widely deployed, plus theoretical concepts that have potential. The entries were judged on their technical ability to improve Internet access, the strength of their business model for making access more affordable, and the likelihood that the community would adopt their solution.

    More than 250 academics, companies, nonprofit organizations, individuals, and students from 69 countries entered the contest. Eleven winners were selected, and US $60,000 in cash prizes was awarded. Funding came from the IEEE New Initiatives Committee as well as sponsors including Cenerva, Intelsat, Meta, Microsoft, and VMware.

    Based on the strong response last year, IEEE Future Networks plans to make the challenge an annual program. The submission portal for this year is due to open soon.

    Last year’s winning projects were presented at the Connecting the Unconnected Summit, a virtual event held in November. First place in the best overall proof-of-concept category went to social enterprise startup Wakoma for the Nimble, an open-source, portable, wireless mesh network system that communities can build and deploy locally.

    Wireless mesh networks connect large areas inexpensively by using radio nodes—access points, or routers—which connect to each other in a mesh topology. The resilient networks can share a backhaul connection.

    A photo of a table full of components The Nimble is comprised of form-factor networking hardware housed in a weatherproof case.Wakoma

    “There aren’t a lot of resources out there that show people how to build a network without spending a ton of money,” says the startup’s founder, Eric Nitschke. “The goal is to enable communities to quickly build a low-cost, low-power, and yet still portable network that meets their own connectivity and education needs.”

    When a Nimble is deployed, users can conduct video and voice chats, stream videos, share files, build and run e-learning courses and websites, create shared spreadsheets and documents, read e-books, play games, and more, completely offline.

    “If it’s open-source software, there’s a good chance we can bring it into the platform and run it offline,” Nitschke says. When an Internet connection does become available, it can be plugged into the Nimble to provide access to anyone already connected within the mesh.

    Community networks can cover a village, a city, or entire regions, offering cheaper and more reliable connectivity than existing operators. The web of wireless nodes is resilient to the failure of individual nodes, Nitschke says.

    The Wakoma team operates out of four countries and supports Nimbles in Canada, the Czech Republic, South Africa and the United States, with upcoming deployments planned in India, Kenya, and Mexico.

    “There’s a rapidly growing movement of community-based networks around the world working on bringing more people online,” Nitschke says. “Many of these networks are planned, designed, built, and operated by the community and local partners. Our team is accelerating this with localized open-source hardware and software and capacity building.”


    The Nimble includes small form-factor networking hardware housed in a weatherproof case. The entire system runs on less than 100 watts of power and can handle thousands of users.

    “We want to make it easy for communities to bring their own hardware and add it to their Nimble,” Nitschke says. “For example, if they have a small server already we can quickly 3D-design a shelf for it that can be printed locally.”

    The open-source designs and specifications are available on the company’s website and on Printables.

    For those without access to a 3D printer, Wakoma partners with facilities that do, such as universities and makerspaces and fablabs, which can print and ship the components.

    IEEE Announces First Winners of Connecting the Unconnected Challenge, a New Competition Providing...

    “About 60 percent to 80 percent of humanitarian funding is spent on logistics and supply-chain activities,” Nitschke says. “Distributed manufacturing of Nimble units can significantly reduce the cost and speed of production and make us less reliant on international supply chains.”

    The software that powers the Nimble is Lokal, an open-source platform also designed by Wakoma.

    “Since it’s open, you can run really whatever you want on the server,” Nitschke says, “but we’re building Lokal specially with and for underserved communities.”


    One reason communities don’t access the Internet, he says, is because they can’t find entertaining, educational, or otherwise valuable content in their language. And they often don’t have the equipment, skills, or money to create their own content. The Nimble lets them curate content they want to be made available, or Wakoma can do so.

    “For example,” Nitschke says, “if an NGO or local group has its own videos, photos, stories, or audio clips, they can upload those so the community can access them even when the Internet is not available.”

    “Our team is working on making it easier for users to control who gets access to which content and services, which are sometimes sacred and sensitive.”

    “The goal is to enable communities to quickly build a low-cost, low-power, and yet still portable network that meets their own connectivity and education needs.”

    Wakoma has partnered with Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading in South Africa to start a wireless community network operating in townships and informal settlements around Cape Town. VPUU works to transform low-income neighborhoods into safer, more sustainable communities. The 10-Gbps network is now one of the largest community-based networks in South Africa, with more than 100 hotspots and 60,000 unique users. VPUU is building several Nimble V-BOXunits to seed the network in new settlements, Nitschke says.

    Wakoma also worked with the DigitalNWT team and rural Indigenous communities in Canada’s Northwest Territories to design curriculum and Nimble hardware for improving digital literacy training. Sixteen Nimble units have been built by community “clusters” for delivering mobile training workshops and establishing networks.

    The price of a Nimble ranges from $500 to $2,000, depending on what hardware and components are selected.

    Nitschke says the competition’s $10,000 prize money will enable his team to develop Nimble models that are smaller and less expensive, as well as add-on kits for activities such as offline Internet of Things,live broadcasting and e-learning classes within a network, and LEO connectivity.

    “Our team is very grateful for this prize and IEEE support,” he says. “We’re already putting it toward empowering underserved communities to connect themselves in ways they find relevant and meaningful.”

    Access to the Connecting the Unconnected Summit portal is still open. It contains keynote talks from experts on the digital divide as well as panel discussions on network infrastructure, Internet policy, and more.

  25. Understanding Software Engineering Salaries in 2022, in 5 Charts

    Programming in Go, the open-source language, is the most in-demand skill; the cybersecurity talent shortage continues to intensify; and Silicon Valley companies continue to offer the highest salaries, even to their remote workers. And the average U.S. salary for software engineers in 2021 was $156,000 annually, up 1 percent from 2020.

    Those are a few of the takeaways from Hired’s 2022 State of Software Engineers report. The online employment-marketplace firm looks each year at its own data; this time around, the assessment included 366,000-plus interactions between companies and software engineers. Hired also conducted a survey of more than 2,000 software engineers to fill in additional details.

    Here’s a summary of Hired’s analysis, in five charts:

    Security Engineers Can Take Cyber Skills Straight to the Bank

    The recent rise in cyberattacks prompted companies to reevaluate and prioritize their security strategies in 2021, the Hired report indicated, boosting demand for security engineers and lifting their average salary by 7.59 percent compared with the 2020 figure. The average salary for engineers working in augmented and virtual reality, at the top of Hired’s 2020 ranking, dropped 7.42 percent, to sixth place. Several other specialties also saw dips in average salaries offered on the Hired platform in 2021.

    If Go Is Your Coding Skill, You Go to the Top

    Hired looked at its 2021 job postings and interview requests to identify the most in-demand software skills. According to this analysis, engineers proficient in the Go programming language received 1.8 times as many interview requests as the average software engineer did. (Compared with Hired’s 2020 numbers, however, that’s not a big premium. In 2020, Go coders received 2.3 times the average number of interview requests and still were not the most in-demand specialists; engineers skilled in Redux.js landed interviews at a rate 2.9 times the average.)

    But Python Gets the Most Love from Engineers

    Hired also asked software engineers to rank their favorite coding skills; here, Go placed sixth, while Python and JavaScript came out on top. Asked to explain, survey respondents pointed to those languages' useful and well-maintained libraries and packages.

    Silicon Valley Engineers Make Top Dollar, Even When Telecommuting to Another Region

    Average San Francisco Bay Area salaries for local software engineering hires climbed 2 percent in 2021, to $170,000 per year (not including bonuses or stock options), and average salaries for engineers living in the Bay Area but working remotely climbed to $168,000 per year. Indeed, opportunities for remote work drove remote salaries up everywhere Hired looked. In some regions, however, local salaries slipped slightly from 2020. And Austin continues to come on strong, with local salaries up 7 percent to $142,000 and remote salaries up 8 percent to $150,000, according to Hired’s data

    Saving the World Through Software

    Many software engineers are looking to use their coding skills to make the world a better place—either through what they do on the job or what they do in their free time. Given that we are living through a pandemic, it’s no surprise that the No. 1 area for such passion projects is public health. But engineers are also eager to take on other challenges, including rethinking education, the future of work, and climate change.

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  27. Use a New IEEE Standard to Design a Safer Digital World For Kids

    Strengthening the online privacy protections of children is becoming a top priority around the world. Last month, a U.K. High Court judge agreed to let a class action–style privacy lawsuit proceed against TikTok over how the video-focused social-media service allegedly mishandled children’s data. In the United States, a group of state attorneys general is investigating whether the service, as well as Instagram, a photo- and video-sharing competitor, are causing physical and mental harm to children. And in his State of the Union address on 1 March, U.S. president Joe Biden called on Congress to boost data privacy protections for children.

    To help digital-service providers do a better job of designing products and services with children in mind, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) recently published IEEE 2089-2021. The Age Appropriate Digital Services Framework Working Group developed the standard under the auspices of the emerging technology standards committee of the IEEE Consumer Technology Society.

    The IEEE Standard for an Age Appropriate Digital Services Framework Based on the 5Rights Principles for Children provides practical steps that project teams, suppliers, process assessors, and others can take to ensure their online products and services are safer for minors.

    The 5Rights Foundation established the principles as part of its mission to make “systematic changes to the digital world to ensure it caters [to] children and young people, by design and default.” The five principles are: presenting information in an age-appropriate way, upholding children’s rights, offering fair terms for children, recognizing childhood, and putting children ahead of commercial interests and ahead of platform status.

    The term age appropriateness covers a variety of values that support children, including sustainability, privacy, usability, convenience, controllability, accountability, and inclusivity, according to the 55-page standard.

    IEEE SA said it believes the standard will encourage organizations to design their services with children in mind, demonstrate commitment to social responsibility, and encourage adherence to local regulatory requirements.

    “While there are localized efforts to address children’s rights and safety in digital products and services, there has never been consensus-driven guidance applicable on a global scale,” Konstantinos Karachalios, managing director of IEEE SA, said in a news release about the standard.

    “This standard provides organizations a framework to practically orient design processes for age-appropriate digital services toward responsible technological innovation inclusive of children,” Karachalios says. “IEEE SA believes IEEE 2089-2021 is part of a new generation of standards that emphasize ethical alignment by design, alongside the IEEE 7000 series, and help us collectively build a better digital world for children.”


    The IEEE 2089-2021 working group is composed of developers, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits, legal firms, and other stakeholders. The group also consulted with some children and young adults.

    The group looked at a variety of ways information about children is collected and stored. They include search engines that expose young people to advertising, messaging systems used in online gaming such as chat apps, in-game purchasing, video-streaming services, websites, blogs, and social-media platforms. The group also reviewed augmented-reality applications, role-playing games, multimedia content and the use of microphones, cameras, and other items that are part of Internet-connected devices.

    Unlike other standards, IEEE 2089-2021 is not a protocol, a technology, or a specification, says IEEE Senior Member Katina Michael, the standard’s working group chair.

    Michael is a professor with Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, with a joint appointment in the school of computing and augmented intelligence. She is the director of the Society Policy Engineering Collective.

    “IEEE 2089 is a design practice,” she says. “It’s about acknowledging and identifying risks and addressing them before you deploy a new service.”

    “While there are localized efforts to address children’s rights and safety in digital products and services, there has never been consensus-driven guidance applicable on a global scale.”

    The standard outlines 11 processes to follow to mitigate and manage risks throughout the life cycle of development, delivery, and distribution of digital products and services. The framework includes recognizing child users and meeting their needs, upholding children’s rights, taking a child-centered approach to data use, and writing published terms in age-appropriate formats. For each process, the standard defines the purpose; outcomes; activities and tasks; and inputs and outputs. It also identifies key roles for project teams such as an age-appropriate lead and a children’s-rights advocate.

    Michael says companies that have explicit design phases might want to compare what they’re doing to what the standard proposes and decide whether to add phases and roles.

    “A framework is something that can be applied in practice, providing the building blocks, steps, and phases to be followed, but with the freedom to adapt one’s way of doing things,” Michael says. “It’s a benchmark for you to follow. I hope organizations will see its value and adopt it.”


    The standard also embodies the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, an agreement that establishes the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of all children.

    “There’s international consensus at the highest levels that children have rights in the digital world,” Michael says. The standard “is really about advocating for the child’s rights and going beyond security and safety to helping children flourish.”

    “This standard supplements the efforts from regulators to enable the design of a digital world with children in mind,” said Beeban Kidron, chair of the 5Rights Foundation, “by providing practical guidance for achieving that aim. Because this offers a vision of what a global consensus on ‘good’ looks like, no company [or] international or national organization should ignore its comprehensive approach.

    “For many years we have asked how to design digital services for children,” Kidron says. “The IEEE 2089 standard answers that question.”

    IEEE SA is making the standard available at no cost because of its expected impact. The How to Design a Digital World Where Children Can Thrive on-demand webinar provides additional details.

  28. Learn Who Will Receive a “Technology Oscar” From IEEE

    After two years of holding the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit virtually, this year’s event is scheduled to be in person. The annual VIC summit, to be held on 6 May at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, brings together technology innovators, visionaries, and disruptors to share insights on emerging technologies and discuss their potential impacts on humanity.

    The summit culminates with the IEEE Honors Ceremony, what some call the “Oscars of Technology.” In the ceremony, to be live-streamed on, the recipients of IEEE’s highest awards will be honored for contributions to communications, medical imaging, visual media, information systems, and other fields.

    Marguerite Gong Hancock Marguerite Gong HancockIEEE Awards

    The moderator of this year’s summit is Marguerite Gong Hancock, vice president of innovation at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. Hancock oversees innovation across the museum’s programming including its exhibits, educational sessions, and diversity and inclusion efforts.


    Summit panels are expected to explore the impact of technology on aerospace, cybersecurity, and smart cities.

    Keynote speaker Albert Greenberg is set to discuss networking in private clouds. Greenberg is vice president of platform engineering at Uber Technologies. The company develops applications for navigation and ride sharing as well as payment-processing solutions. He is the executive sponsor for the company’s senior engineers who are striving to make architecture and technical standards more effective, reliable, and sustainable.

    Yi Soyeon, South Korea’s first astronaut, is part of a panel discussing aerospace technologies. In 2008 Yi was part of the crew on the Soyuz TMA-12 mission to the International Space Station. During the 11 days she spent at the station, she completed experiments that contributed content for South Korea’s science textbooks. She is now managing director of business development and partnership at biotechnology startup Noul, in Yongin, South Korea.


    Asad M. Madni Asad M. MadniIEEE Awards

    During the Honors Ceremony in the evening, award recipients will be celebrated. Life Fellow Asad M. Madni will be honored with the IEEE Medal of Honor—IEEE’s highest award. Madni is being recognized for “pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of innovative sensing and systems technologies, and for distinguished research leadership.” The award is sponsored by the IEEE Foundation.

    Other pioneers being honored include IEEE Life Fellow John Brooks Slaughter, the recipient of the IEEE Founders Medal. The award is sponsored by the IEEE Foundation's Richard and Mary Jo Stanley Memorial Fund. An educator, scholar, ambassador, and champion of “engineering for all,” Slaughter is dedicated to advancing participation of underrepresented populations in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

    Deborah Estrin Deborah EstrinIEEE Awards

    IEEE Fellow Deborah Estrin is set to receive the IEEE John von Neumann Medal for leadership in mobile and wireless sensing systems technologies and applications, including personal health management. The award is sponsored by IBM.

    The first recipients of the IEEE Frances E. Allen Medal are IEEE Senior Member Eugene Myers and Webb Miller. Sponsored by IBM, the Allen Medal honors the computing pioneer and IEEE Fellow. She helped design and build Alpha, a code-breaking language that featured the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system-defined ones.

    Myers and Miller are being recognized for pioneering contributions to sequence analysis algorithms and their applications to biosequence search, genome sequencing, and comparative genome analyses. Their computational innovations have been central to progress on DNA and protein sequence data analysis, enabling the genomic revolution.


    As a pre-event to the IEEE VIC Summit and Honors Ceremony, on 5 May Qualcomm plans to host an Evening of Innovation at its offices in San Diego. It is scheduled to include a panel discussion with some of the award recipients—highlighting their journeys, innovations, and insights on emerging technologies.

    For details about all the speakers or to learn more about this year’s honorees, visit IEEE Corporate Awards webpage.

  29. Engineers Say “Nyet” to Doing Business in Russia, Survey Says

    Get my company out of Russia: That’s the sentiment expressed by 64 percent of tech professionals responding to a survey conducted by Blind at the request of IEEE Spectrum. (Blind operates private social networks for verified tech employees.) Respondents in Europe were more likely to answer “Yes,” but many engineers at most companies surveyed supported an exit.

    Exceptions included Meta (formerly Facebook), Spotify, Twitter, and ByteDance (owner of TikTok). (Some other exceptions, like Instacart, haven’t ever done business in Russia, so the question didn’t really apply.) See the chart below for company-by-company details.

    Blind conducted this survey on its platform from 11 to 15 March 2022. It received responses from 7,948 tech professionals in the United States and 839 in Europe.

    The survey also asked whether respondents had taken personal action in support of Ukraine, such as making a donation or participating in a demonstration. Here, the numbers were much higher in Europe than in the United States, with 56 percent of respondents in Europe taking action compared with 36 percent in the United States.

    More than 2,600 respondents provided details on actions taken via a write-in response. Of those write-ins, the vast majority (77 percent) indicated that they had made a donation, including several donating entire paychecks. A number of respondents also indicated that they participated in demonstrations, provided direct support to Ukrainians, or booked Airbnbs in the Ukraine. These and others wrote that they have also been cooking for refugees, coordinating evacuations, housing refugees, creating informative websites, or helping with data transfer for Ukraine-based organizations. Others are flying the Ukrainian flag at their homes and painting it on rocks around their neighborhoods. Three respondents—two at Amazon and one at Microsoft—indicated that they had personally participated in cyberoperations or done computer hacking in support of Ukraine. And a Meta employee indicated that he has traveled to the Ukraine to directly assist.

  30. Getting More Students to Develop Tech That Benefits Society

    Many of today’s engineering students want to work on technologies that address public-interest challenges, IEEE Fellow Deborah Estrin says.

    Estrin, a computer science professor at Cornell Tech, in New York City, founded the school’s Public Interest Tech Initiative to give students that opportunity. PiTech helps them develop technologies to help meet societal needs such as accessibility, food security, and sustainability.

    Estrin, who says she was “always intrigued with inventing and creating things,” has spent much of her career conducting research on technology for the public good. She helped create the Internet’s multicast protocols, which simultaneously send data to multiple destinations within the same network. And she pioneered research in sensor networks to collect and analyze real-time data about the world, for environmental monitoring and health applications.

    The professor is the recipient of this year’s IEEE John von Neumann Medal for “leadership in mobile and wireless sensing systems technologies and applications, including personal health management.” The award is sponsored by IBM.

    As it turns out, Estrin—whose parents are IEEE Fellows Gerald and Thelma Estrin—has a connection to von Neumann, a mathematician who made contributions to physics, computing, and game theory. In the 1950s he was her father’s first supervisor at the Institute for Advanced Studies, in Princeton, N.J.

    “I’m honored that I received this award,” Estrin says, “and I smile to think what my parents’ reactions would have been if they were still around.” Estrin’s father died in 2012, and her mother died in 2014.


    Perhaps it’s no surprise that Estrin pursued a career in engineering and computer science. Her parents were pioneers in computer science and biomedical engineering. Her sister Judy is a successful tech entrepreneur, and her other sister, Margo, is a medical doctor.

    Gerald Estrin led the development of the WEIZAC, the first digital electronic computer made in the Middle East, and he helped found the computer science department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Thelma Estrin, who also worked on the WEIZAC, championed the use of computers for medical research and treatment. At UCLA, she designed one of the first systems for analog-to-digital conversion of electrical activity from the nervous system. While Judy Estrin was a student at Stanford in the 1970s, she was a member of Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf’s group that helped develop the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. She went on to found or help found eight technology companies, and she is currently chief executive of consulting firm JLabs, in Menlo Park, Calif.

    Deborah Estrin says she’s always been drawn to experimental work. In the early 1980s, she conducted research in Internet security and architecture as a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT.


    Estrin joined IEEE as a UC Berkeley student. Her mother, Thelma, got Estrin and her sister Judy memberships in the organization when they started college.

    “[My mother] wanted to be able to tell her male colleagues that she had two daughters in the IEEE,” Estrin recalls.

    “I’ve never considered letting my membership lapse, because of IEEE’s central role in the research and innovation community,” she says. “IEEE is a place for setting intellectual standards for publications, and it creates a place for a lot of open dialogue through conferences.”

    She says that when she renews her membership, she does so in honor of her mother.

    In 1985 she joined the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, as a computer science professor. She continued to work on Internet protocols for USC’s Information Sciences Institute and was an active member of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Internet Advisory Board (now known as the Internet Architecture Board) and the Internet Engineering Task Force.

    During that time, she helped develop a method for communication among a collection of hosts; the technique is known as interdomain routing and large-scale protocol-independent multicast routing.

    In the late 1990s, she worked on diffusion protocols to support in-network processing in large-scale sensor networks.

    As study chair of the U.S. National Research Council’s committee on networked systems of embedded computers, Estrin led the exploration of potential uses of the emerging technologies in agriculture, environmental science, transportation, and logistics. The group’s 2001 report, “Embedded, Everywhere,” described a research agenda for distributed sensing that would enable large-scale systems, devices, and sensors to collect, share, and process information that could change the way people interact with their surroundings.

    She left USC in 2000 to join UCLA and founded the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing. CENS brought together technologists, data scientists, seismologists, ecologists, and environmental engineers to research how embedded networked sensing could be used to study wildlife and the environment. One of her projects involved placing tiny imagers in birds’ nests to study the birds’ behavior and nesting cycles.

    “I joined Cornell Tech to continue my own research but, more importantly, to help grow this institution.”

    In 2006 Estrin expanded her research to digital health monitoring. She was one of the first researchers to leverage data collection on mobile phones to help patients and their caregivers better understand, monitor, and manage health outcomes. According to a 2018 article in the Cornell Chronicle, she and her team worked on “participatory sensing,” which collects usage data from cellphones, GPS tools, fitness trackers, and email to study people’s health. The work led her to help found the Open mHealth nonprofit in 2010. The startup uses open-source software to build customized applications that address health conditions such as chronic pain, diabetes, and depression.

    That work resulted in Estrin being named a MacArthur Fellow in 2018. Known as the Genius Grant, the fellowship comes with a US $625,000 award, which Estrin used to help launch PiTech.


    In 2012 Estrin joined the recently created Cornell Tech. The New York City campus houses the Ivy League university’s business, law, and engineering schools. In addition to being a computer science professor there, she serves as an associate dean focused on fostering external partnerships.

    “I joined Cornell Tech to continue my own research but, more importantly, to help grow this institution,” she says.

    These days, Estrin’s work is focused on ensuring that engineering students get experience developing technology to help solve societal needs. Cornell Tech’s engineering master’s degree program, for instance, requires students to take part in the Studio series of courses wherein they develop tech solutions.

    Most students work with startups, she says, but she was concerned that students weren’t being exposed to public-sector projects. So last year she founded PiTech to give them that experience.

    The initiative consists of three programs. PiTech Studio is for master’s degree candidates who are interested in developing technology-based social ventures. The Impact Fellowships program supports doctoral students doing summer externships with public-interest companies working in criminal justice reform, climate change, public health, and similar arenas. The Visiting Practitioners program brings in well-known engineers who work on public-interest technology to give talks, mentor students, and provide feedback on students’ products and business ideas.

    PiTech’s newest program, to be launched later this year, will support faculty members who dedicate their sabbatical to “do a social venture,” Estrin says.

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