Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12 - (Page 4)
PRESIDENT’S VIEW | SHIRLEY ANN JACKSON, PH.D.
ters. For example, Rensselaer researchers have explored the use of GPS and sensors to reduce the risks of catastrophic levee failure. Investments in smart technology are transforming There are also devices that regour world ulate power (a focus of the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer) and light more obviously, reductions in cost uch is made about the (a focus of our Smart Lighting and size. But this still begs the quescoming world of “smart” Engineering Research Center at tion of why we would want to make everything. The idea of Rensselaer). These provide the these devices ubiquitous. adding microprocessors and elecmeans to change the shape and First, let us expand our undertronic tags to virtually everything, flexibility of materials and, perhaps standing of what smart actually is. and then linking them together at some point, make repairs. There It is more than just a proliferation seems to be inevitable. But why? are devices that bring humans into of tiny computing devices that are What is the point in having the mix by alerting experts, or proable to communicate with each everything connected? Why viding real-time polling. There are should we integrate microeven devices that change processors into our infrainto other devices according Ultimately, when we are talking about smart structure, our lighting, or to needs. environments, we are talking about new capamedical devices, and even Think of smartphones, for bilities for optimization and new possibilities traditional white goods, like instance. Not only do they for selection. As the world gets smarter, we will washing machines? For provide a variety of different have a better chance to anticipate problems. many of these familiar services (perhaps, we should objects, we seem to have stop calling them phones gotten on just fine without since verbal communication other. Yes, many of the devices do their being “smart.” is an ever smaller portion of their supply data and crunch numbers. One important, but not suffiactivity), but these devices also But there are also network devices cient, explanation is that we can. respond to their environment: that sense the environment. They The elements of a smart environWhen you do use a smartphone as supply information on temperament are coordinated by new stana phone, its proximity to your ear ture, location, environments, stress, dards (for instance, the expansion will cause the screen to go blank, and many other physical parameof available IP addresses), as well as, saving battery power.
So, ultimately, when we are talking about smart environments, we are talking about new capabilities for optimization and new possibilities for selection. As the world gets smarter, we will have a better chance to anticipate problems. We will be able to understand where goods are and where the potential for accessing resources is—in other words, we can improve logistics and efficiency. Once the world becomes smarter, our roles will change as well. Most intimately, this will be the case as medical devices become better at letting people know that they are in increasing danger, or by automatically making adjustments in, say, the amount of insulin that is in the bloodstream of diabetics. But beyond the ameliorative applications of smart technology, we also will have the possibility of augmenting our perceptions, through providing access to data about the environment around us, as well as augmentation in a physical sense, through exoskeletons and robotics. This emerging smart environment will provide opportunities for social improvement as well. The use of smart technologies (including robotics) is fundamental to President Obama’s Initiative on Advanced Manufacturing. Such technologies open the door to making United States manufacturing more competitive, increasing the availability of high-quality jobs that can contribute to both personal and national prosperity. We already can see how investments in smart technology will begin to transform our world and help us to meet many of the challenges we face. By taking our cue and enabling “smart” innovation at Rensselaer, we are seizing an opportunity for leadership.
4 RENSSELAER/WINTER 2011-12
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2012
Taking Care of Business
One Last Thing
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12