IEEE Region 10 Humanitarian Technology Conference 2018
Sustainable Technologies for Humanity


Sustainable Development and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Speaker: Paul M. Cunningham, Director, IST-Africa Institute; Chair, IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee

Just as technological innovation is critical to driving socio-economic growth, it can also play a critical role in supporting successful implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This keynote will discuss how to maximize the potential benefits of leveraging the potential offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (with a particular focus on technology, innovation and standards) while taking account of ethical considerations (including informed consent) and the potential impact on local socio-cultural norms.


The Robotics Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges in Humanitarian Applications

Speaker: Gamini Dissanayake, Professor, University of Technology, Sydney

The futuristic vision of intelligent devices that interact with and help humans in their everyday life is becoming a reality, particularly due to the recent advances in computing, sensing, control, machine learning and miniaturization. Our ability to build intelligent devices that can coexist and cooperate with humans as well as manipulate the human environment has opened up an enormous number of applications ranging from self-driving cars, drones for food delivery, to exoskeletons for strength augmentation. First half of this talk will focus on the key competencies that underpin robots operating in complex and unstructured environments: perception, learning and control.

Despite recent technological advances, the humanity is facing enormous challenges. UNHCR recently reported that 65.6 million people were uprooted from their homes by conflict. More than a billion people live in extreme poverty. A string of recent natural disasters has led to human suffering at an unprecedented scale. The second half of this talk will explore opportunities and challenges in using intelligent robots for humanitarian causes ranging from demining, damage assessment, resource delivery, to sustainable food production.


Humanitarian Robotics Technologies & Technology-Policy Considerations for Societal Good

Speaker: Raj Madhavan, Founder & CEO, Humanitarian Robotics Technologies, LLC

Robotics & Automation (R&A) technologies have the potential to transform and positively impact the lives of several people around the globe by addressing some of the most pressing and unsolved needs of humanity, thereby elevating their quality of lives. Many of the existing R&A technologies are at a sufficient level of maturity and are widely accepted by the academic (and to a lesser extent by the industrial) community after having undergone the scientific rigor and peer reviews that accompany such works. Yet, several of these frameworks, when subjected to the demands of deployment in practical situations, reveal their brittleness and lack of robustness (for instance, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster). Recent developments in robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence technologies have fueled the confusion and concerns surrounding their societal impacts (e.g., self-driving cars, drones, and robots equated to job losses). While making the discussions imbalanced and skewed, the speculation of their negative effects has had an adverse effect on widespread societal acceptance.

My research efforts at two US govt. agencies and at two universities have focused on mobile robotics navigation in unstructured outdoor environments and on performance evaluation, benchmarking and standardization of robotic systems, in urban search and rescue and manufacturing domains, to name a few. In the last few years, my focus has been on the applied use of R&A technologies for the benefit of under-served and under-developed communities. In such resource-constrained domains, cost-effectiveness, reliability, and sustainability are crucial factors. Socio-economic, environmental, cultural, structural, and political factors also need to be carefully considered in close collaboration with the beneficiaries. In this keynote talk, I will share my thoughts and efforts in bringing together industry, academia, local governments, and various entities, NGOs, and NPOs across the globe towards the realization of socially acceptable robotics solutions. I will discuss a demining challenge that I founded in 2014 with the intent of producing an open-source solution for detecting and classifying buried unexploded ordnance. Finally, I will outline some of my recent work in the context of ethical, legal, and societal issues with emphasis on technology-policy and governance.


Robotic Technology to Assist Human Activities of Daily Living

Speaker: Kazuo Kiguchi, Professor, Kyushu University, Japan

Recently, robots are expected to play an important role to make  human life better with the advance of robotic technology. Power-assist robotic exoskeletons and robotic limbs are expamples of robots expected to help the motion of physically weak persons. In this keynote speech, the latest robotic technology to assist human activities of daily living is introduced. The robotic technology for power-assist robotic exoskeletons and robotic limbs to help motion of physically weak persons is introduced at first. Human motion intention is estimated based on biological signals such as EMG or EEG by the robots and then the estimated motion is generated by the assist of these robots. Then, the robotic technology for perception-assist which is used to avoid the possiblity of unexpected accident is explained next. A method to modify human motion using mechanical vibration is also introduced. In the end, the future direction of robotic technology for human assist is discussed.


Resilient Complex Electronic Telecommunications Systems

Speaker: Alan Purvis , Emeritus Professor, Department of Engineering, Durham University, United Kingdom

This keynote talk will describe the EPSRC UK Government funded grand engineering challenge project called ENCORE: Engineering Complexity Resilience Network ( This keynote theme is about the importance of resilience in that fragile humanitarian systems should not be compounded by electronics that might due to stress also fail.

Electronics systems research at Durham provides input and direction to the electronics side of complex systems. I describe how this works by summarizing progress to date and by reviewing two recent publications from Durham:

  • R. McWilliam, D. Jones and A. Purvis, “Resilient self-configuring systems modelled on convergent cellular automata,” Conference on Complex Systems (CCS 2018), Thessaloniki , Greece, Sept. 2018.
  • A. A. Bisu, A. Gallant, H. Sun, K. Brigham and A. Purvis, “Telemedicine via Satellite: Improving Access to Healthcare for Remote Rural Communities in Africa,” IEEE R10 Humanitarian Technology Conference (HTC 2018), Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The talk looks at approaches to resilience based upon self-healing networks with the first section looking at circuit design and second at telecommunications systems. The work has been inspired by a major £5m award just completed called Through life engineering services the project developed approaches to resilience that can be exploited in safety critical complex humanitarian disasters which place great stress on electronic system hardware and communications. Latency and its minimization runs as a key theme in designing resilient systems.