Opportunities for Expanding Our Technical Reach

Life sciences and smart grid are just some of the areas where IEEE can make a significant impact

8 September 2010
ray IEEE is committed to exploring emerging areas and becoming a stronger, more visible organization that is better able to serve its members and customers Photo: Bill Cramer/Wonderful Machine

Now spanning three centuries, IEEE first encompassed only power engineering. Later it added radio and electronics and more recently computing and software engineering. It now has 45 societies and councils that cover hundreds of technical interest areas—a list that grows every day.

The expanding list is driven by new and emerging technologies as well as the convergence of existing ones. It all provides great opportunities for IEEE to extend its reach into other fields.

We are involved in a number of new areas through our working groups, including ones dedicated to biometrics, distributed diagnosis and home health care, the hydrogen economy and alternative fuels, and the smart grid.

The smart grid is an excellent example of an area with great opportunities for IEEE. It is a relatively new initiative and is a logical fit with our long history in electric power and standards development. The smart grid is a grand vision to create an electrical transmission and distribution system that is more reliable, secure, economical, environmentally friendly, and safe. Several IEEE societies and the IEEE Standards Association are taking lead roles in making it a reality.

For example, the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) sponsored the first Conference on Innovative Smart Grid Technologies in January, in Washington, D.C. The immense scope of the smart grid can be seen in the list of its technical co-sponsors: the IEEE Communications, Computer, Power Electronics, and Signal Processing societies, along with IEEE-USA. The smart grid also was a major topic at the annual IEEE Transmission and Distribution Conference held in New Orleans in April—which was sponsored by PES.

IEEE is uniquely positioned to guide the development of technical standards for the smart grid. There are already nearly 100 IEEE standards and standards in development in areas relating to the grid. In addition, the IEEE Standards Association is collaborating with the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology and other groups to create the Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Roadmap, which includes plans for developing the architecture and infrastructure. It also identifies nearly 80 existing standards that can be used now to support the smart grid and points out gaps where new or revised standards are needed.
And IEEE has launched its Smart Grid Web Portal, which features news and information about conferences, publications, standards, and tutorials.

Other disciplines not traditionally associated with IEEE also offer opportunities for us to expand our technical reach. Health care science is a natural fit for IEEE. There will always be a need for a source of reliable information on the topic. Health care scientists are vital in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a large number of medical conditions. Along with doctors, nurses, and other professionals, they are essential members of today’s health care team. There are obvious needs for information on standards and interoperability among the various professional skill areas of health care science.

Life science aims at improving our health and well-being as well, and it is an area where IEEE has vast expertise. The broad field includes animal science, biochemistry, neuroscience, plant science, and tissue engineering. A quick search on the term “life sciences” in the IEEE Xplore digital library shows more than 10 000 articles and conference papers on the subject. To make IEEE a key player in the life sciences, however, we need to attract professionals from the field to join IEEE.

Another developing interest area for IEEE is entertainment engineering. It is not a new field, but it is one that, again, is a natural fit for us. It applies electrical engineering and information technology along with disciplines such as mechanical and structural engineering. All those fields come together to create special equipment, devices, and processes for the entertainment industry. It is the driving force behind the 3-D techniques used in the movie Avatar and the technology for IMAX theaters. Entertainment engineering is also involved with helping design and run theme parks where, for example, mechatronics and robotics are used extensively.

IEEE is committed to exploring emerging areas and becoming a stronger, more viable organization that is better able to serve its members and customers around the world. I would like to hear your ideas for new areas of interest for IEEE. You can e-mail me at president@ieee.org.

Pedro Ray
IEEE President and CEO

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