People are joining IEEE’s cutting-edge technical communities at a rapid pace. Combined membership in the communities formed around the 11 groups that were created by the IEEE Future Directions Committee totaled more than 51,000 last year. The groups include ones dedicated to cloud computing, the Internet of Things, the life sciences, and the smart grid.
The technical communities were established in 2013. Their purpose is to keep members abreast of developments in their fields by, for example, announcing upcoming conferences and sending links to news articles. And members may discuss research topics and recent developments. Membership is free.
The Internet of Things community enjoyed the most growth and now has nearly 10,000 members, up from a little more than 3,700 in 2014. The smart-grid community ended 2015 with about 8,200 members, adding more than 2,800 during the year. The cloud-computing group increased its ranks to more than 7,700 people from around 3,000. And the life-sciences community ended the year with more than 4,000 members after adding at least 1,700.
“The IEEE technical communities are a growing ecosystem where the diversity of interests, competences, and needs finds a fertile environment for discussion and enrichment,” says IEEE Senior Member Roberto Saracco, chair of the Future Directions Committee. “Out of this environment, IEEE membership becomes even more valuable.”
The Institute asked several chairs of the fast-growing communities if they could explain what has spurred such great interest.
“The ‘glue’ of our community is the quality of contributions offered through several channels including the Internet of Things Web portal with its articles, interviews, webinars, and newsletter,” says IEEE Member Roberto Minerva, who chairs the IoT Technical Community. “And we continually strive to provide more and higher-quality content.”
The IoT community is active on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media outlets, as well as Flipboard, a magazine-format mobile app that lets users browse their social networking and website feeds. IEEE Collabratec, an online platform with tools for networking, collaborating, and creating, is becoming another important place for communications, Minerva says.
The IoT group’s success, he adds, poses a challenge: how to grow while continuing to engage its members. To that end, in an effort to involve industry more, the group held panel discussions with business representatives at the Internet of Things World Forum and other conferences. The IoT initiative also partnered with the IEEE Standards Association to hold startup events for attracting more members at venues including this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show in January.
“Our technical community is now more heterogeneous and reaches into the DIY area,” Minerva says. “The community and DIY events are places where IEEE can reach new people.”
One future goal, he adds, is ensuring a smooth transition of the IoT initiative from the Future Directions Committee to a stable and robust group supported by IEEE’s societies and organizational units. “To do this it’s paramount to learn how to leverage the current community and continue to offer fresh and high-quality information generated by our members,” he says.
Technologies applied to the smart grid have undergone a revolution in the past five years, points out IEEE Fellow Massoud Amin, chair of the Smart Grid Technical Community: “The slow evolution of past decades in terms of meeting changing demand and needs is a thing of the past. The whole landscape of the energy sector has really changed.”
People in the field are seeking out experts and information to help them stay current. Amin points to the wealth of resources on the smart-grid community’s Web portal including a monthly newsletter, which has nearly 17,000 subscribers, and its compendium. Published last year, the compendium features 32 “best of the best” articles from the newsletter’s archives. Also available are interviews with experts, videos, and Ask Me Anything sessions.
The group holds monthly webinars that attract an average of 800 people. More than two dozen past webinars are already on the portal.
In addition to being IEEE’s second largest technical community, it’s also the largest smart grid–related LinkedIn group, with more than 30,000 members. It has more than 13,000 Twitter followers and nearly 13,000 viewers on Flipboard. The group recently launched a Facebook page as well.
“Our members benefit from the open exchange of ideas, opportunities to collaborate, and participation in a global community of professionals in pursuit of solutions,” Amin says.
IN THE CLOUD
The cloud touches almost all areas of computing and many other technical areas as well, according to IEEE Member Christine Miyachi, who chairs the Cloud Computing Technical Community.
The group’s Web portal houses the e-magazine Cloud-Link as well as podcasts and blogs. Its educational resources include tutorials on applications, platforms, challenges, benefits, and compliance issues.
The community is active on social media as well.
IEEE Mobile Cloud 2016 and the IEEE International Conference on Big Data Security on Cloud are two of the conferences sponsored by the cloud-computing community.
“All these resources provide benefits to our members,” Miyachi says, “and those benefits will increase as more members get involved in our activities.”
The Life Sciences Technical Community also has a Web portal with articles and videos, plus educational and career resources. It publishes a monthly newsletter and Life Sciences Letters, a digital, peer-reviewed open-access journal that covers personalized medicine, pharmaceutical engineering, synthetic biology, and related topics.
Among the events the group has held are the IEEE SY-Bio Workshop, and IEEE HealthCom. In January, it sponsored the Life Sciences Grand Challenges Conference: Biorobotics and Bionics. The group’s members are active in the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, which is focused on improving health care through information technology.
IEEE Life Fellow Donna Hudson, who chairs the community, holds monthly teleconferences with representatives from the seven societies that collaborate with the group to help her develop new activities.
“If I had to define the atmosphere of the community,” Hudson says, “it would be that we have a common cause: We are dedicated to the idea that life sciences has a large role to play within IEEE.”