NTU hosts global ICT conference highlighting innovations that advance open inclusive development

Asia-Pacific, May 18 2015

An assistive smart technology that helps seniors cope with degenerative changes and independent living by simply pointing a device or smartphone camera at an object to send a text message or activate a phone call.

A haze analytics tool that provides users with the latest health advisories during haze episodes, and that can be integrated with wearable devices such as smart watches and smart bands to objectively measure a user’s heart rate and other health parameters.

ICTD 2015 logoThese are some of the innovative information and communications technologies (ICTs) being developed by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) professors that will potentially enhance communication and productivity, improve healthcare and give people more options for managing their daily lives.

These innovations are just some of the many new ICT ideas being presented at ICTD 2015, the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development from today until 18 May 2015. A key thrust of the conference is “Open Development”, which emphasises how promising ICT innovations may transform societies and fuel global economic growth.

The conference is hosted by NTU’s Singapore Internet Research Centre (SiRC), a centre under the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI). NTU is at the forefront of this increasingly significant research area, combining its strengths in engineering and technology with communication and information, and other disciplines.

The international conference will see the latest research advances in ICTs in education, health, e-government and politics, disability and infrastructure, mobile communication and agriculture.  About 250 researchers, practitioners and policy-makers from over 30 countries are attending the event.

Associate Professor Arul Chib, director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre and chairman of this year’s ICTD conference organising committee said, “The conference will bring together an extremely diverse community of experts, practitioners and academics, to discuss new ideas in ICT and ICT-based systems that may lead to a whole chain of innovations that can spur socio-economic development around the world. The emphasis is on how ICT can empower people to advance social change in participatory and socially just ways.

“Singapore is a good example for many developing countries because of its effective use of ICTs and quality research in this field. Many of the critical issues discussed at the conference are also connected to Singapore’s aspirations to become a ‘Smart Nation’ and a global data and information hub. Many of the faculty and students from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information will be participating in the conference to put Singapore research in the global spotlight.”

To help participants better understand the future trends and challenges in ICTs, the organisers have invited Som Mittal, former Chairman and President of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), India’s leading trade body for the information technology and business process management industry, to deliver the keynote address at the conference.

With over 70 publications and 27 demos presented by leading academics across the globe, there is an incredibly diverse set of findings and cutting-edge research showcased at ICTD 2015.

Among the projects on display is UbiCuts, which is short for “Ubiquitous Shortcuts for easy communication”. The UbiCuts system, developed by NTU researchers, includes a mobile app and a wearable image-capturing device that provides an elegant and simple solution for seniors to communicate and engage with others by simply pointing the device or their smartphone camera at an object. Point-and-click cameras capture the images that are automatically recognised and the app then sends signals to their caregivers and loved ones. These commands can include sending an SMS, activating a phone call, or posting on Twitter.

Lead researcher Assistant Professor Natalie Pang from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, said, “The image-capturing system makes it easier for the elderly to deliver information and communicate directly with their loved ones. Such assistive smart technology will also help seniors to cope with any degenerative changes and continue living independently. The system is still in development and feedback has been encouraging, so far.”

Another new ICT idea being developed at NTU is the Haze Analytics ToolS (HATS), a potential solution to reduce negative health effects brought about by poor air quality during haze episodes. The HATS mobile app provides users with precise health advisories, based on the latest pollution standards index (PSI) readings.

Professor Theng Yin Leng, director for the Centre of HEalthy and Sustainability CitieS (CHESS) at WKWSCI, said, “HATS is being developed to advise users on appropriate activities based on current PSI readings and an individual’s existing health and medical conditions, such as age and heart condition. You can also integrate HATS with your smart watch or smart band, and it will keep track of health-related measurements. It is hoped the app will empower people to know their health conditions and make informed decisions, for example during times of severe air pollution.”

Three new books will also be launched at the conference. The Impact of Information Society Research in the Global South edited by Arul Chib, Julian May and Roxana Barantes, investigates the impact of information society initiatives on populations in Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia. The book addresses how the impact of research on ICTs in the region plays a role in creating an information society, and also looks at the evidence for the impact of ICTs on society and socio-economic development.

Another book, Participatory Archives in a World of Ubiquitous Media by Natalie Pang, Liew Kai Khiun and Brenda Chan discusses the development and adoption of ubiquitous mobile devices, and the strengthening of connectivity enabled by advances in ICT infrastructure and social media platforms.

Kentaro Toyama’s Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology looks at people-centric view of social change. After a decade designing technologies meant to address education, health, and global poverty, the award-winning computer scientist Toyama came to a difficult conclusion: even in an age of amazing technology, social progress depends on human changes that some gadgets just cannot deliver.

The ICTD 2015 is the seventh of an ongoing series of conferences occurring every one-and-a-half years; previous conferences have taken place at: Berkeley, California (USA); Bangalore (India); Doha (Qatar); London (United Kingdom); Atlanta, Georgia (USA) and Cape Town (South Africa).

This year’s conference marks a milestone for the Singapore Internet Research Centre, as it demonstrates the research centre’s positioning for global excellence. SiRC has expanded its scope from aiming to be a research institute focusing solely on Internet issues across Asia, to investigating a host of emergent information and communication technologies from a global perspective.

For more information, visit the ICTD 2015 conference website at: ictd2015.org

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