Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University (PMU) hosted an international conference in computing, mobility, and manufacturing (CMM 2020) which took place virtually from Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia from December 8th through December 10th.
PMU President, Dr. Issa Al-Ansari, opened the conference with forward-looking statements regarding not just the recent and ongoing advancements of technology during what we now call the fourth industrial revolution—Industry 4.0, also referred to as intelligence industry —but also called for a revolution of higher education and learning to accompany it.
“We cannot face an industrial revolution by conventional educational methodologies,” Al-Ansari said. “Universities today should focus more than ever on human sciences as means to balance the technical outcomes of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”
The conference presented these ideas and visions for the future while also furthering the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region’s participation in the ongoing technological advancements of our era.
This new industrial revolution, and the proposed complimentary educational revolution, were preceded by three revolutions prior. The first industrial revolution began with the invention of the steam engine, was then followed by an age of science and mass production in the boom of electric power, and finally gave way to the digital era of electronics and information technology.
Now, the Industry 4.0’s movement toward data analytics, machine learning and smart automation in industrial technologies are the cornerstone of the CMM 2020 conference. A significant component of this revolution involves artificial intelligence, so a complementary AI workshop took place on December 7th just before the official beginning of the CMM 2020.
AI research can range broadly from artificial neural networks and image processing, to time series analysis, pattern recognition, and virtual and augmented reality, all of which were touched upon during the workshops sessions.
“PMU aims to fulfil its strategic research in applied AI, Computing, Mobility, and Manufacturing to serve the needs for society at local and national levels,” said the Director of the A.I Center. The workshop served as a stepping stone to “break new grounds of scientific importance in an international arena.”
More than 380 people attended the virtual conference from all around the globe, with the convenience of the Saudi Arabian time-zone providing greater accessibility especially for those in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
One exception to time-zone benefits was Prof. Patrick S.P. Wang from Northeastern University. A Fellow with the International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR) and the International Summer Institute for Business Management (ISIBM), as well as an International Engineering and Technology Institute Distinguished Fellow, Wang gave the first keynote lecture from Boston, Massachusetts at 1:00 am local time. Despite this, Al-Ansari says Wang “was quite happy to interact in real-time with enthusiastic participants during a very active Q&A session after his talk,” which focused on intelligent pattern recognition and its applications to e-forensics and Smart Cities.
Wang was followed by Prof. Vincenzo Piuri from the Department of Computer Science at the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy, who spoke about the environmental and industrial applications of artificial intelligence.
The second day of keynote addresses consisted of an address on the stability of complex networks and how this relates to power grid applications from Dr. Jürgen Kurths from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Humboldt University Berlin’s Institute of Physics. Finally, Dr. Hong Yan from the Department of Electrical Engineering at City University of Hong Kong closed out the keynote speeches with a talk about human face tracking and the recognition of facial expressions.
Attendees listened and interacted with the speakers via Zoom and webinar integration. Conference organizers worked within the digital platforms to facilitate participation and engagement among attendees, both with one another and with the presenters, with great success.
“PMU, like many other institutions around the globe, needs to ensure that the pandemic does not affect the networking within our academic communities and does not halt our internationalization efforts,” Al-Ansari said.
Events like the AI workshop and the proceedings of the CMM 2020 can spur new research and the exchange of ideas among academics, students, researchers and industry professionals alike, which is why the University chose to take a leadership role in hosting.
The Saudi Arabia Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Saudi Arabia Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), both professional associations, were technical co-sponsors of the conference. These partnerships, and the expansion of PMU’s offerings in education and global leadership in the MENA region with events like the CMM 2020 conference and AI workshop, are just some of its contributions to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.
“PMU has always invested its capabilities into preparing students for complex and challenging futures, ” said Al-Ansari. “This approach is an inherent part of our educational philosophy that focuses on building graduate’s character and competencies for a better future.”