Volunteers represent IEEE at UTAR Engineering and Science Fiesta

By Dr. Celia Shahnaz

The IEEE-UTAR Student Branch, IEEE-EMBS Student Club, and MySIGHT4Rehab showcased their historical work building devices to help rehabilitate children with movement disorders at the UTAR Engineering and Science Fiesta February 20 – 21.

The groups have built various prototypes over the past four years and shared them with fellow students in the two-day conference. The devices are aimed at Affordability, Accessibility, and Availability of rehabilitation equipment needed by these rehabilitation centres. The majority of the prototypes were commissioned by various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as the Hulu Langat Children with Disability Society (PKKI Hulu Langat), and others.

More than 1000 visitors attended the event. As such, MySIGHT4Rehab and the IEEE Student Branch successfully organized membership recruitment drives. It is anticipated that the groups should recruit more members from various backgrounds such as biomedical engineering, physiotherapy and early childhood studies, merging hands to champion this cause for these communities in need.

Dr. Celia Shahnaz is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as well as the 2017 Communications Chair of the IEEE SIGHT steering Committee.

Fig 1

Helping Countries Connect and Thrive, Starting with Tunisia

By Mei Lin Fung, co-founder of People Centered Internet

The Internet is a powerful tool to connect people, organizations, and countries. Funders like the World Bank, and professional organizations, like IEEE will convene twice a year at the IMF/World Bank Spring and Fall Meetings to track our progress in harnessing the Internet to improve people’s lives. There are formidable barriers to Internet adoption (Diagram 1), within countries and across countries. How are we organizing ourselves to break through the barriers?

SIGHT Internet adoption

    1. Pioneers: Countries put their hands up and designate a Project Team
    2. Global Connectivity Corps: Funding, technical, policy professionals assist the Pioneer Teams to create roadmaps, get access to resources by investment grade project models, track progress, implement effectively and learn from each other


  1. Global Connectivity Council: Institutional Oversight and Advisory Board with senior members from IEEE, World Bank and invited institutions to be substantively involved.
  2. Learning Lab Network: All involved participate within a fully transparent long-range Learning Lab Network for fast feedback on strategy, operations and tactics, (Diagram 2) Learn Innovate Forecast Test or L I F T. 1. Pioneer Project Team work on the How, 2. Global Connectivity Corps on the What and 3. Global Connectivity Council on the Why.

After the meeting convened by Secretary Kerry and President Kim in April, the Ministers from Tunisia offered their country to be the first Pioneer. A broad range of organizations who actively participated in the meetings joined together in a Global Connectivity Corps for Tunisia: People-Centered Internet initiative, the U.S. State Department and Global Connect, the World Bank, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, and the IEEE. An oversight Connectivity Council is in the process of being formed for oversight and top level coordination and liaison.

Our Global Connectivity Corps’ first step was to work with the IEEE-SIGHT (Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology) Volunteer Network and has begun engagement with leaders of some of the 15 IEEE chapters in Tunisia brought together by IEEE member Anis Ben Arfi, a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary in Alberta who said “The 4th Generation LTE standard was put into service a couple of months ago with a deployment strategic plan specifying that the three telecommunication operators in Tunisia: Tunisie Télécom, Ooredoo, Orange, should prioritize the access to rural and rugged areas. …this is the right time to get involved in this project as IEEE volunteers.
- This project is based on a clear vision that we can track with tangible goals and milestones throughout the five years. In my opinion, considering Tunisia as an example for your upcoming projects is a great choice.”

Tunisian pupils in rural areas are getting connected to technology through the IEEE SIGHT volunteer team. The IEEE SIGHT is an organization of young professionals and student branches from across the country volunteer in schools to engage the new generation to follow a STEM career. IEEE SIGHT’s goal is to foster a culture of volunteering among their peers in order to increase the impact in underserved areas.

Our structure for the teams will be evolving as we seek your feedback and guidance for achieving the outcomes of improving lives, and improving the socio technical architecture for effective teamwork.


The Tunisian Pioneer Project Team is reaching out to ensure that a broad range of stakeholders are actively involved. The team is focused on defining the kinds of data-driven outcomes needed to ensure the success of their connectivity initiatives. By mid-summer, we intend to be well along the path in supporting Tunisia’s long-range planning and short-term execution efforts – and to begin the planning process with other countries as well.

We encourage IEEE members who wish to be involved in this project to notify your local IEEE-SIGHT directors, and let us know what areas you wish to be involved in. We will have a pipeline of Pioneer countries, and we especially encourage those who are migrants from other countries, to notify us if you want to contribute by working with people from your homeland. If you have visited or have connections with other countries, let us know which countries you are particularly interested in.

IEEE’s Global Humanitarian Technology to the Fisheries Sector

By J.Vincent Jain, Chief Executive, Association of Deep Sea Going Artisanal Fishermen, Member IEEE Madras Section.

  1. Introduction


The fishery is one of the most vulnerable sectors and fishing is an occupation which is ranked as one of the dangerous occupations in the world. Over 24,000 fishermen die every year. More than 50% of the world’s population lives within 60km of the coastline. Billions of people are depending on the scarce marine resources, they are depending on the fishermen and the fish that they bring home. A lost vessel and a lost fisherman have a vital impact on the coastal community[1]. Marine fisheries are contributing to the food security of the country by providing cheap and accessible protein to the mass. Due to the poor infrastructure facilities in fish landing centres, fishing harbours and fish markets, the world is facing heavy post harvest losses in this sector. Post-harvest fish losses are a major concern and occur in most fish distribution chains throughout the world. Not only do losses constitute lost income to fishers, processors and traders but they also contribute to food insecurity – a loss of fish means less fish available for the consumer[2].Having said that the issues raised above are also applicable in the Indian context and hence the need for a comprehensive package for reaching out for concrete and practical solutions is imminent and necessary.

2. Indian Scenario


There are about 4 million fisher folk populations comprising in 864,550 families living in 3,288 marine fishing villages with a coastline of 8,129 km. The total fleet size of 1,94,490 crafts comprising 72,559 (37.3%), mechanized crafts, 71,313 (36.7%t) motorized crafts and 50,618 (26%) non-mechanized crafts[3]. It indicates that 1,43,872 (74%) of the fishing crafts depend on fossil fuel either on diesel, kerosene, petrol and related lubricants. There is no effective communication system for the fisher people to communicate when they are in distress. There is no safety for their life at sea. Boats with boat, boat with ship collisions are very common. The recent example is the ship Enrica Lexie[4] with St.Antony boat and the ship OEL Freedom[5]  with St.Mary boat. There are so many complex acts, rules, regulations; formalities which are cumbersome and not fully known to the fishermen and which often attract trouble. Though there are fishing harbours, fish landing centres and fish markets many are still wanting for the basic necessary renovation and modernization. The pre-harvest and post harvest facilities are not on par with international standards at all. This factors like spoilage and unhealthy practices adversely affects the income pattern of the fisherfolk. The available transporting system for fish is also not sufficient and the road facilities are not adequate and motorable in many areas.


3. EEE and ICT

As of today the role of EEE in fisheries is very minimal in India, but the scope of the application and usage of EEE are very vast and  could turn out to be the solutions for many present day issues of fishermen like emergency rescue, safety of the fishing boats, identification of fishing grounds, e-fisheries etc. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) also can play a pivotal role in the transformation of the fishing communities into a knowledge-based society – it is the most cost-effective tool for connecting people and businesses, and it may be the best platform from which access to primary services to improve the quality of life of fishermen.

4. Some of the Identified area for intervention

  • System for a ‘Fish Marketing Intelligence System’ (F-MIS)
  • System for management of Fishery Information System (M-FIS)
  • Safety of Fishermen at Sea
  • Mechanism to deal with disaster risks
  • System for creating and monitoring on-board Electronic logbook of Fishing crafts
  • System for maintaining Electronic Register, Electronic Receipt and payment
  • System for maintenance of Field-based fishing Craft Registration system
  • Creating a permanent mechanism for Monitoring of fishing boats voyage
  • Developing a wearable “Man overboard” alert mechanism
  • Fishing ground/resource mapping and dissemination
  • Information collection of waste at sea, documentation on best and fishing practices
  • Solar power for the auxiliary functions for vessels and other shore based activities
  • Solar battery Bank
  • Solar power operated fishing boat, fish transport 3 wheeler, refrigeration system
  • Creating Smart Fisherman Entrepreneurship-(E)

5. Conclusion


Understanding the importance of the sector and based on the development of Science and Technology, intervention of IEEE is very much relevant and the need of the times for the sector and the fishing communities. There is ample scope for the various Scientific Research Institutions, Corporate Companies, Government, National and International agencies and groups, Community Based Organizations and other stake holders in the sector for the intervention of ICT and Fisheries Educational Centers on one hand and the provision of infrastructures for responsible fisheries towards livelihood protection on the other hand.

[1] http://www.safety-for-fishermen.org

[2] http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/i2241e/i2241e.pdf

[3] CMFRI, National Marine Fisheries Census, 2010

[4] http://www.ndtv.com/article/south/fishermen-killing-italian-ship-enrica-lexie-sails-off-kerala-waters-206810

[5] http://www.deccanchronicle.com/131025/news-current-affairs/article/owners-singapore-vessel-oel-freedom-move-high-court

Pioneering the Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC)

Husky2Robotics & Automation (R&A) Technologies have the potential to transform and improve the lives of people around the globe by addressing world’s toughest challenges. The IEEE Robotics & Automation Society – Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS–SIGHT) is engaging the academic and non-academic community to propose viable solutions in R&A to address relevant world problems through the Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC). HRATC is an unprecedented opportunity for IEEE members from around the world to collaborate using their skills and education to benefit humanity. The problems (challenges) are framed with the environmental, cultural, structural, political, socio-economic and resource constraints so that solutions can be developed, deployed, and sustained. RAS–SIGHT is the first and only IEEE Society to have a SIGHT. The mission of RAS-SIGHT is the application of robotics and automation technologies for promoting humanitarian causes around the globe and to leverage existing and emerging technologies for the benefit of humanity and towards increasing the quality of life in underserved, underdeveloped areas in collaboration with existing global communities and organizations.


According to the UN Mine Action Service, landmines kill 15,000-20,000 people every year (mostly children) and maim countless more across 78 countries. Demining efforts cost $300-1000 per mine, and, for every 5000 mines cleared, one person is killed and two are injured. Thus, clearing post-combat regions of landmines has proven to be a difficult, risky, dangerous and expensive task with enormous social implications for civilians. Motivated by these considerations, the first HRATC edition took place at the 2014 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA’14) in Hong Kong (and Coimbra, Portugal, remotely), and focused on promoting the development of new strategies for autonomous landmine detection using a mobile (ground) robot. HRATC’14 Organizers were Raj Madhavan (Chair, RAS-SIGHT, USA), Lino Marques (University of Coimbra, Portugal), Edson Prestes (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul , Brazil), and Prtihviraj Dasgupta (University of Nebraska-Omaha, USA). For more information on the Challenge and scope, see http://www.isr.uc.pt/HRATC2014/. 14 teams submitted their entries and were progressively eliminated based on the stages of the Challenge.

HRATC’14 had three stages: simulation, testing, and Finals. For the simulation stage, a software framework that runs on Linux-based Operating System and uses ROS for communicating with both Gazebo simulator and real robot was developed. Using this framework, the teams were classified according to the performance of their strategy in a simulation scenario. The scoring metric was computed using several performance measures that included number of detected mines, number of exploded unknown mines, covered area, and coverage time. The best-ranked teams were then allowed to advance to the testing phase. In the testing phase, the teams ran their detection and classification strategies on a Clearpath Husky A200 robot in an outdoor arena covered by low grass, with few trees, ditches and surrogate mines. This robot was equipped with several sensors that include GigE cameras, SICK laser range finder, and three-coil pulse induction metal detector. Each team had three trials to evaluate and adjust their strategies. After three trials, four teams participated in the Finals at ICRA (on the same robot in Portugal) and were evaluated according to the scoring metric. Team ORION of the University of Texas at Arlington, USA was declared as the grand winner. The second and third place finishers were Team Geeks of the Square Table (University of Bremen, Germany) and Team USMiners (University of Southern Mississippi, USA). Thanks to IEEE SIGHT sponsorship, the three best-ranked teams received a cash prize ($1000, $500, $250, respectively) together with a certificate and a plaque.


In the next HRATC edition that will take place at ICRA 2015 in Seattle, we will continue to refine the development of new strategies for autonomous landmine detection. Besides, RAS-SIGHT is currently investigating new challenges for the robotics and automation community. Additional information regarding challenges, deadline, and subscription for the next edition will be available from http://www.ieee-ras.org/educational-resources-outreach/humanitarian-efforts.

The Challenge organizers thank Clearpath Robotics, Inc., the FP7-TIRAMISU project, RAS Competitions Committee, and RAS-SIGHT for their support and partnership in organizing HRATC’14. Special thanks are reserved for the tireless efforts of the Testing and Simulation Team members at the University of Coimbra and at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul: Gonçalo Cabrita, David Portugal, Bruno Gouveia, Vitor Jorge, Guilherme Franco, Renan Maffei, and Jose Baca Garcia from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Humanitarian designs a big hit in Toronto 

On Sunday May 4th, Dr. Sawsan Abdul-Majid and her SIGHT team from IEEE Region 7 (Canada) hosted the final event of a student design competition. Dr. Abdul-Majid is an dynamic SIGHT volunteer at both the Region 7 level, and in Ottawa where she is a research associate at the university of Ottawa and a founding member of the Ottawa SIGHT.

This year marks the third time a student humanitarian competition has been held in conjunction with the Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering (CCECE). As a part of CCECE 2014, both graduate and undergraduate student projects were invited to present their design and research on an engineering project that will help humanity.

Of the 9 student and 3 young professional papers accepted to the conference, 5 were able to attend the CCECE conference to present. The judging panel declared Ryerson University’s paper on “Assistive Technology for Powered Wheelchair Users” the winner; they will be sponsored through a grant obtained from the SIGHT Fellowship program to attend the the International Humanitarian Technology Conference in Montreal.

By promoting Humanitarian Technology principles to students, the Region 7 SIGHT leadership aims to increase the general awareness on the relevance of this research in their academic pursuits; it also provides an invaluable source of new ideas that can be used by SIGHTs globally in their activities.

This effort reflects the commitment of volunteers in Region 7 to the success of the SIGHT program, as it was reported in a recent article in the IEEE Canadian Review:
Most regions have ad hoc humanitarian activities. “IEEE Canada is unique in the sense that from the beginning we decided to create a standing committee for a humanitarian program at the regional level,” […] “We believe IEEE is a strong potential task force of volunteers for solving community problems.” “The program aims to inspire, enable and connect IEEE members, especially those who want to use their engineering skills to give back to the community, but don’t know how to get involved,” […] IEEE Canada had an early start in its humanitarian efforts. Dr. Ferial El-Hawary, chair of the IEEE Canada Humanitarian Initiatives Committee, was president when the Region created both its ad hoc and standing committees, the latter being unique to the IEEE as a whole.