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tasks they can perform. Certainly, the
accomplishments of the Mars rovers
Spirit and Opportunity publicized in the
general press indicate that robotics gets
more glamorous chores than automation,
as well as more media attention and, perhaps because of this exposure, the lion's
share of research funds.
Automation research, in contrast, tackles predetermined tasks, devising systems
that repeat a process over and over. Principal concerns are not with the unknown
but with speed, precision, efficiency, reliability, quality, and cost-effectiveness.
Yes, automation may be incorporated into
robotic systems, "but when it works well,
you don't see it," Luh says. "That very
invisibility hampers research, because
automation 'gets no respect,' to quote
comedian Rodney Dangerfield, and it's
hard to attract the best minds here." This
is so "even though many fundamental scientific and practical questions about automation are still unanswered," he adds.
To lift automation out of the shadow
of robotics and address its unique
issues-especially the need to set fundamental automation theory on a sounder
footing-the IEEE's Robotics and Automation Society launched its new journal
in June 2004. Actually, the RAS split its
journal, IEEE Transactions on Robotics
and Automation (T-RA), into two publications: T-ASE and IEEE Transactions on
Robotics (T-RO).
Attracting attention "Our goal was
to establish T-ASE as the most-cited journal devoted to automation by publishing
original, significant, and visionary papers
describing new theory and applications,"
says Luh, the journal's editor in chief.
Preliminar y numbers of IEEE
Xplore's digital library downloads per
paper already indicate that research
reported in T-ASE is as sought after as
that of other IEEE journals in Xplore that
were also launched around 2004. (When
this article went to press in February, relevant citation figures were not available.
The index used by academic journals to
ascertain their importance in a field, tallying what papers from 2004 and 2005
were cited in papers published in 2006-
Journal Citation Reports, published annually by Thomson Scientific-had not yet
been published for 2006.)
T-ASE is also trying to attract attention
from the news media. In November, IEEE
Fellow Kenneth Y. Goldberg, who chairs
the journal's advisory board, did a radio
and podcast interview called "Automating
the World" on the CBS News Radio Network. Goldberg, a professor of industrial
engineering at the University of Califor	

The Institute | March 2007

nia at Berkeley, discussed the challenges
the field faces and some of the advances
that the journal has covered.
"When an IEEE journal is founded, it
tends to legitimize a field and crystallize a
new research area," Goldberg says. That's
exactly what happened with robotics two
decades earlier with the founding of
T-RA. He says he hopes the same will
happen with T-ASE, especially for encouraging research on the fundamental theories and principles behind automation.
MAJOR CHALLENGE One example of a
major unsolved fundamental challenge
in automation is parts feeding. If an
automated assembly machine is fed a
box of randomly oriented parts-brackets, for example-how can it consistently
insert each piece into an assembly coming down a production line? Parts feeding is also an issue in the pharmaceutical
industry, where one concern is how to
funnel millions of pills into hundreds of
thousands of tiny bottles without damaging the tablets.
Most factories now solve the partsfeeding problem with custom-built
machines. "There's a whole cottage industry of gurus who devise custom solutions
for specific parts," Goldberg says.
More useful, however, would be a general algorithm that takes a digital model of
the part and, without human intervention,
develops the specifications for an interface
that would orient and feed the parts to
the assembly machine. But that requires
uncovering mathematical principles for
analyzing the geometry, friction, and
kinematics of parts of any shape and then
figuring out how to get them all to fall in
just one orientation. That is the type of fundamental challenge the T-ASE editors are
encouraging journal authors to address.
Luh, Goldberg, and other leaders of the
Robotics and Automation Society is to do
away with the perception that automation is used only in factories. Automation is also fundamental to monitoring
systems (for home and office security
and environmental safety), speech recognition (think of directory assistance for
telephone numbers), and the task of running hundreds of standard but complex
chemical tests to discover new pharmaceutical products. In short, "automation
is everywhere," Goldberg points out.
To home in on these diverse applications, articles in T-ASE have explored
new fields. Automating the cultivation
of biological cells and the analysis of
human DNA was covered in a special
issue in April 2006, "Automation for

the Life Sciences." The July 2006 special issue, "Nanoscale Automation and
Assembly," addressed pressing questions
about manipulating nanoscale materials
by various means, including developing
nano-size servo-motors and sensors.

Special issues slated for this year and
next include one on systems for auto-
mating the home and another dedicated
to drug delivery-that is, automating
the processes by which medication is
released into the body.

For More information about Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
(T-ASE) and the upcoming Conference on Automation Science and Engineering from
22 to 25 September, visit
Goldberg developed an algorithm for rotating any two-dimensional shape into a
consistent orientation. Give it a try using an interactive Java applet he has put at


2006 will also prove to be a good year,
according to Senior Member Joseph
Lillie, the 2005 and 2006 IEEE treasurer. He points out that at the end of
2005, the IEEE had net assets, including its land and buildings, of approximately $168.7 million.
"The IEEE is in excellent shape financially in contrast to five years ago, when
the investment market impacted performance," Lillie told The Institute. "Back
then, we were investing significantly in
our business and counting on investment gains to cover the costs; the money
we had in reserve was dwindling.
"A lot has changed since then,"
he adds. "The investment market
improved, and the IEEE made changes
to its business practices. Now we are
growing operationally, and accordingly,
the reserves are growing. We adjusted
to the conditions, and we are now positioned financially for the long term to
ensure that we can offset any investment market downturn." The complete
annual report can be found in the About
Us section at	 *
-Kathy Kowalenko


IEEE Senior Member Robert Herrick
recently wrote to The Institute to ask about
the IEEE's income and expenses. A good
question, we thought, and something
that all members should know about.
According to the 2005 IEEE Annual
Report, the most recent report available, the IEEE had revenue that year of
US $297.1 million and expenses of almost
$267.0 million. A breakdown of revenues
and expenses by the IEEE's primary lines
of operations is shown below.
The IEEE had a strong year financially
in 2005, with a surplus of $30.1 million;

2005 Revenue
Membership (and programs that support the IEEE's mission)	
Periodical sales (including related advertising)	
Conferences (fees and sales of conference proceedings)	
Investment income
Other income
Total Revenue


$ 59 069 700
101 815 700
106 580 100
16 092 800
12 490 500
1 062 100
$ 297 110 900

2005 Expenses
Program Services
Membership (support and related programs)
Total Program Services
General and administrative
Total expenses


Change in Net Assets (Surplus) 	



$60 250 400
91 906 600
92 831 400
13 185 200
$ 258 173 600
8 801 600
$266 975 200
$ 30 135 700

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