Technology Time Machine Symposium Probes Beyond 2020

Knowing what’s happening today in your own area of technology isn’t always enough to tell you where it’s going tomorrow

6 May 2011

Knowing what’s happening today in your own area of technology isn’t always enough to tell you where it’s going tomorrow. You need to foresee developments outside your specialty that might swoop in and redirect its technology’s future. Think of what GPS navigation has done for mobile phones, how microcomputers have expanded medical imaging, and of digital photography’s effect on home remodeling, to name just a few examples.

Getting a broad perspective on the next decade’s technologies and how they are likely to impact the R&D and business sectors is the goal of the IEEE Technology Time Machine (TTM). IEEE’s first symposium on future technologies, it is scheduled for 1 to 3 June in Hong Kong and is expected to attract 300 attendees.

The TTM addresses emerging, potentially high-impact technologies, assessing their current state of maturity and possible scenarios for the future. The IEEE Technical Activities Future Directions Committee and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are sponsoring the symposium.

The target audience includes industry leaders, academics, and decision-making government officials who direct R&D activities, plan research programs, or manage portfolios of research activities.

“These are people who have a broad interest profile, not specialists,” says IEEE Fellow Neuvo Yrjö, the symposium’s program chair, “so they need to get an overall perspective on each of the technologies: What could they be in 10 years? What kinds of businesses might they create? How do they work? The presentations will primarily be PowerPoint slides, followed by Q&A sessions.”

Reinforcing IEEE’s connections and relevance to industry, not just to research, is one reason for the symposium, says José Roberto B. de Marca, the executive chair of the meeting.

“We want to set a high bar for this event,” he says. “Our speakers are high-level people. We’ve asked a lot of CEOs to actively participate. Our academic attendees want to hear people from industry.”

The topics are wide-ranging. Plenary sessions include ones on the impact of technology on the environment and the smart grid, and China’s growing role in high tech, as well as a panel of global corporate R&D leaders. The first day’s sessions cover future directions in wireless, cloud computing, the Internet of things (interconnected systems and devices of all kinds), and the future of silicon-based microelectronics.

Sessions on the second day explore future mobile services (including payment systems), advances in biomedical engineering, e-health, and carbon nanostructures and conducting polymers. The final day’s sessions cover digital content at home and energy harvesting and storage. There’s also a discussion aimed at young scientists, followed by optional excursions to leading Hong Kong and Chinese research institutes and industries.

Abstracts are to be published in the IEEE Xplore digital library, and presenters are being asked to provide their slides to registered attendees. The PowerPoint approach helps the conference attract high-level presenters, according to de Marca. “Our speakers are busy people with little time to write formal papers,” he says.

The symposium is structured to facilitate informal discussions among the attendees and speakers. To ensure ample opportunity for interaction between people from different fields, attendance is limited to 300. “We’re keeping it relatively small and focused so people will benefit from this unique setup,” Yrjö says.


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