Future Tech in Focus

How will technology impact Climate Change, SmartAgrofood Systems, and Public Safety? What challenges does this create? Are there solutions? IEEE Future Directions is generating dialogues in these areas through the IEEE Future Tech Forum (FTF) – and they want your participation.

“Our ambition is to bring global experts from industry, academia and government, discussing leading technology, frontline issues and crucial challenges. We aim to inspire participation and dialogue from a broad sector: women in engineering, young professionals, entrepreneurs, researchers and ethicists, to list a few,” says Christine Miyachi, Chair, IEEE Future Directions Committee (FDC).

One of FTF’s goals is to strengthen relations with industry members, in addition to their partnership with IEEE Industry Engagement Committee. “Research translates into industry because industry is the application of that research. Research can change an industry,” says Kathy Grise, Future Directions Senior Program Director. “A great example of this is how the internet started as a research project, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). The internet launched a new industrial revolution.”

“We would like to realize an increase in the participation of industry as well as a young generation of engineers. We want to encourage and attract future innovators. Technology affects us all and we need all these interests represented at our events!” says Miyachi.

“FTF is starting with smaller events that build new partnerships and expose innovative technologies. This enables us to better understand our audience and their interests. Our approach is to build one-day or half-day sessions/roundtables on future topics with global speakers and gain broader visibility. We want to foster partnerships, collocate with industry events, and finally launch a signature stand-alone event,” says Samina Husain, co-chair FTF Ad Hoc and FDC Member-at-Large.

Currently, the roundtable topics include Climate Change, Smart Agrofood Systems, Digital Transformation, and Public Safety Technology.

Climate Change Roundtable

FTF’s first event, the Climate Change Roundtable, was held in April and had attendees from every IEEE Region. The event keynote speakers and panelists:

  • commented on climate change and associated threats,
  • discussed potential ideas for resolutions, and
  • highlighted developments/initiatives that contribute to combating climate change.

Topics discussed included: 6G technology and architecture to foster global sustainability impact, climate change and telecommunications, and the Information and Communication Technology sector as an enabler for a more sustainable world.

“The event was a virtual and interactive session, and the presentations generated a number of probing questions from the audience. In addition to the positive feedback we received, the event ran over time, an indication of strong interest and success,” says Miyachi.

The Climate Change Roundtable discussed answers to these questions and more:

  • What is the alternative to nuclear energy?
  • Can there be an optimal clean energy mix without nuclear?
  • What are the impacts of lithium mining on climate change?

Listen to the Climate Change Roundtable.

Impassioned, Energized Audience

FTF grew out of other successful Future Directions events. FDC ran Technology Time Machine (TTM), which showcased panel discussions and keynote presentations with respect to future technologies’ benefits, challenges, and societal impacts. After that, FDC organized a TedX-like event called IEEE EnLightening. The inspirational event featured short, diverse talks leaving the audience impassioned and energized about the future of technology.

“Thanuka Wickramarathne’s inspirational path to his interest in multi-sensor data fusion and Jeewika Ranaweera’s motivational journey to Silicon Valley and high-speed microprocessors were the highlights of the event,” says Husain.

Drawing on these engaging events and their positive outcomes, FTF was born. Objectives are to have a sustainable conference, which attracts global speakers and participation, and has strong partnerships with industry, academia, and government.

FDC purposely launched FTF with smaller, online events focused on a specific topic because technologies constantly evolve. Having shorter dialogues every few months allows for a greater impact and more opportunities to engage the community. FDC works to see that the events are not just well attended but also drive future discussions, future forums, and long-term activities in IEEE.

“We want to influence future trends as a result of FTF discussions,” says Grise.

“Our final goal is to be a flagship conference on future technology directions. A similar concept to the World Economic Forum but with a focus on technology. We envision this becoming the leading global event that brings engineers, innovators, policymakers, and humanitarians from all over the world to discuss how technology can serve humanity – a mission of the IEEE. We are thinking big – world leaders in government, research, and industry will want to attend – a space for everyone to join together, present ideas, and find solutions,” says Miyachi.

Shape Our Future

“Participation in FTF events can be highly effective at advancing a wide range of professional objectives, building and extending professional contacts, finding mentors and collaborators, and advancing attendees’ subject matter expertise. The variety of session formats used in FTF offer unique experiences and learning opportunities where attendees can sample a range of presentation approaches and styles. Anyone who cares about technology’s benefits, impacts, and solutions should participate,” says Jeewika Ranaweera, co-chair FTF Ad Hoc and FDC Member-at-Large.

Keep track of upcoming FTF events.


  • Comment Title: “Include in FTF the Nonfunctional Elderly Members of IEEE.”
    …..The IEEE FTF approach leaves a lot of people out or outside the activity proposed or ongoing, because they are not able to take part in group activity and so are left with only one option, one-on-one social interactions. Factors which contribute to this change from multi-nary to binary interactions in older or disabled members of IEEE include the human aging process, legacy computer systems, relatively poor income levels and health, inability to keep up with mobile device technology, and ethical and moral concerns about virtual group interaction IT such as Zoom, WebEx or AI. Thus, chat rooms, telecons, e-mail exchanges between two individuals, personal USPS letter correspondence, leave-a-reply comments (like this one that does not require a Google or other account for a log-in), and proactive, one-on-one meetings such as at lunch at a local cafe need to be included in the mix. The focus may be on the young, with all their passion, energy, and futures to change the world, but they need the wisdom of the older members of IEEE, even the elderly who now are home-bound or in a nursing home, to help craft the path forward so that the technology solutions that come up will be humane, will work to everyone’s benefit, to the common good, even on a cost-effective basis and without leaving anyone behind. Thanks for listening to a 79-year-old Life Senior member of IEEE who is severely disabled and isolated but who still matters.

  • Dear Dr. Frost, thank you very much for your powerful comment on limited access by some of our IEEE members to participate in the virtually held Future Tech Forum offerings.

    You bring up some relevant points where the Future Tech Forum committee will discuss at its next meeting.

    Perhaps, a Future Tech Forum could be organized around the theme of leveraging technology to enable greater access and participation.

    Please reach out to me, [email protected], if you would like to discuss further your valuable input. Thank you.

  • Perhaps we can figure out how to have the Climate Change Roundtable make a significant contribution to combating climate change by promoting the following very-under-promoted personal-carbon-footprint-reduction call-to-action.

    Sea levels were 78 feet higher and temperatures were 5°F warmer, when, 3.6 million years ago, CO2 concentration last reached our current level of 420 ppm. We need to promptly reduce our CO2 emissions to the sustainable level of 3 tons/person/year (current emissions: global 4.5, USA 17.5). Tenaciously spread the Less Now, More Later message. Now, embrace a Less lifestyle – less heating and cooling (GreenBetween 55°F to 85°F, https://greenbetween.home.blog/), less driving, less flying, less meat-eating, less procreation (2 children max). Later, we can embrace a More lifestyle made carbon-free by implementation of green technology and infrastructure. In addition to your share of the common footprint, what’s in your carbon footprint? 7 tons for heating your home above 55°F? 4 tons for driving 12,000 miles at 29 miles per gallon? 2 tons for flying 10,000 miles? 1 ton for eating one serving of beef each day?…

  • Dear Don, thank you for sharing these data points and observations. Yes, climate change is a global effect. I will be sure to bring your points back to both the leads of the Climate Change roundtable and to the Future Tech Forum members.

    Given the interest and attendance from the roundtable held 30 April, we have discussed the possibility of holding a follow-on roundtable on climate change.

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