To continue revolutionizing and be at the forefront of technological development, ECE must also change and continue to be at the heart of technological development in the world. Indeed students and researchers within ECE have a history and desire for wanting to “make a difference”. Today the world’s concerns are with the environment, health and poverty for example. Our impact on the ecology of the world, living in harmony with it and creating a sustainable future are now becoming critical mainstream issues. Health and biology and are now seen as being integrally related to the environment and also an avenue for innovation and a key contributor to society, industry and commerce. To be at the heart of these new concerns, ECE must reinvent itself and continue to deliver world-class research and scholarly excellence so as to be the enabling solution and technology in these new challenges and opportunities. A major theme and challenge in these new technologies is their multidisciplinary nature.
Given our expertise and current research programs, five new major themes that meet the needs of the future with synergy within our department are identified as the key focus areas which we should develop. These five themes are:
Systems that operate with high degree of autonomy are desirable in many fields such as space exploration, automated industries, unmanned vehicles and UAVs. Within the theme of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), ECE will play a major role in the future by conducting leading edge research in system integration, sensing, control and decision making in autonomously operating control systems.
In terms of functionality, sensors continue to improve significantly. Future smart devices will incorporate new sensor types, such as biometric, pressure, and environmental sensors. With increased portability comes the need for more power-efficient and flexible displays. Power-efficient, flexible, and foldable display technology will soon reach “retina resolution”. Within the theme of Display and Sensors Everywhere (DSE) both of these areas will be combined into a coherent approach to human interface hardware.
With the spectacular development of new sensors technologies and the emergence of sensor networks, Big Data Systems (BDS) are becoming a very important research stream involving analysis of huge amounts of audio, spoken, text, visual and location data, modeling of user intentions and sentiments, modeling of user relations and interactions, as well as predictive analytics for recommendation engines; statistical modeling and robust inference in the area of financial engineering, biomedical informatics. Big Data hardware provides physical platforms and infrastructure for effectively gathering, processing, storing, sharing and utilizing complex large data set anytime anywhere. In short the BDS theme is more than just analytics, but a comprehensive approach involving data acquisition, high performance computing and analytics involving key applications.
A key part to the state of the environment is the production of energy. Ecotronics and Green ICT (EGI) – Solid State Energy Systems will be a major contributor in the form of solar energy, efficient lighting and power management all relying on a strong nano-electronic program.
Bio-systems and Bio-information Technology (BBT) will play a key role in health and biology by leveraging technologies developed in nano-electronics for drug delivery, monitoring, imaging and processing.
These five themes constitute an integral core part of our research strength and will open up new opportunities for faculty to work together and also for the department as a whole to collaborate with other departments within the University.
The following diagram illustrates our desire to build on our current strength in core enabling pillar technologies and moving forward to multi-disciplinary themes and application thrusts.
A critical key advantage of this approach is that our faculty become more multidisciplinary in nature because they expand from existing areas to themes and will become key figures in linking mature technologies and faculty with new challenges and technologies. The whole spirit of this initiative is to pull faculty together and encourage them to work together on greater issues and globally connected problems. The idea will also get researchers from different pillar groups to work together and even encourage ECE faculty to work with other colleagues from other departments. The five themes as cross-pillars and cross-department application thrusts are illustrated in the following table. It shows the correlation between themes and pillars as well as possible collaborative effort across departments for each of the five themes.