Publicizing the "Cool" Factor in Engineering and Technology

New communications program seeks to raise IEEE’s global visibility

6 August 2009

Algorithms, signal processing, sensors, neuroimaging—these are terms that describe technologies being used to benefit humanity around the world. But ordinary people have probably never heard of them and usually don’t understand their impact on everyday life.

Explaining how these complicated terms are being applied to “cool” applications is one of the tasks of the IEEE Public Visibility Initiative, a communications program seeking to raise IEEE’s global visibility and increase public understanding of how engineering, computing, and technology benefit humanity. For example, algorithms are being used in cancer detection; signal processing is improving auditory functions via cochlear implants; sensors embedded in intelligent transportation systems are making for “smarter” cars and safer transportations systems around the globe; and neuroimaging is making medical imaging scans of the brain clearer.

The Public Visibility team in the IEEE Corporate Communications department, in Piscataway, N.J., works with IEEE members and the media to tell the story behind these and other technologies. Articles over the last year have appeared in leading media outlets in 10 targeted countries, including the United Kingdom’s BBC TV; the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Medical Device Daily, and Network World in the United States; China’s Science & Technology Daily and 21st Century Business Herald; and EE Times in India.

Here’s a sampling of IEEE technical experts in the news:

IEEE Fellow Ray Liu, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maryland, in College Park, appeared in the April edition of Control Engineering magazine. In “IEEE: Computing, Robotics, Education Benefit From Tighter Human-Technology Interactions,” he discussed using algorithms to analyze proteins in order to predict the likelihood of cancer growth with 85 percent or better accuracy.

On the medical front, cochlear implant expert and IEEE Senior Member Hugh McDermott, professor of auditory communication and signal processing at the University of Melbourne, Australia, spoke with Medical Device Daily in May about the latest advances in cochlear devices to help the hearing-impaired. Cochlear implants use signal processing techniques to convert sound waves into electrode stimulation of auditory nerves inside the cochlea, making the implants, according to McDermott, more than just “souped-up hearing aids that amplify sound.”

On other topics, an article on worldwide intelligent transportation systems in the May 2009 issue of China’s CIO Weekly magazine included an interview with IEEE Fellow Fei-Yue Wang, editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems. Wang emphasized that communication technologies play a crucial role in effective urban emergency response and traffic management. This is an issue common to all major cities of the world, including cities with major traffic problems like Beijing and Shanghai in China. He went on to point out that vehicle GPS systems based on sensors and wireless communication platforms can enable the monitoring, deployment, and alarm functions of various moving objects and can provide other information about them as well—making for safer transportation systems. Original Version - In Chinese and Translated Version - In English.

In its May/June issue, Medical Device Technology magazine ran a Q&A with IEEE Fellow Bin He, professor of biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, eliciting his perspective on the medical device technology industry. For He, the most exciting development on the horizon will be the ability to integrate information from magnetoencephalograms (MEGs), which are recordings of the magnetic fields produced by electrical brain activity, and electroencephalograms (EEGs), which are recordings of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain, with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Although this development is currently in the research stage, He, who is president of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, believes it could eventually lead to every clinical MRI scanner being equipped with an EEG/MEG device.

These and other stories are putting IEEE members in the news and increasing the public’s understanding of how engineering, computing, and technology benefit humanity. For other Public Visibility media coverage, visit the IEEE Newsroom.

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