The search is on!


The search is on!

Volume 7 Issue 11 News & Resources | November 2014

    1. Where am I?

Even a robot needs to know his position in this world, i.e. location in relation to others. Knowing one’s position will be crucial in the ensuing course of action. With this pertinent information, a robot will be able to navigate its way according to the embedded instructions and ensures the intended mission will be fulfilled. Although, we are fully aware that a robot does not “know” or “aware” of its position in relation to its surrounding to what would be felt by a human being. A robot needs to be supplied of this crucial data (re: position or location), as opposed to a human being who can instinctively implied his or her position from previous experiences, available clues or even a simple act of asking the guy next to him. Localizing one’s position in the world seems to be a very simple and straight-forward activity for us, though, the same situation would not be applicable to a mechanized system, no matter how advanced the so-called “Intelligent System” which we have designed and developed. The process of deciphering natural cues for localization into quantifiable parameters and making sense of them to the robot need more than a casual glance of the problem. It is much stickier than it looks. In the meantime, the robot will just have to make do with whatever information about the world it already has and move forward. The robot cannot solve this problem unless we lend a hand. This is the crux of the matter.

    1. So, what are the problems?

The most important cues for position determination are the natural and man-made objects in the surrounding environments. Some of the cues are static and some are dynamic in nature. Some cues are global, while most are immediate or local. There are also various data form or mode of sensed cues. The level of data complexities are also varied which then led to the reliability of the processed information. A clear example is the quality of cues in ocean localization problem compared to terrestrial data. Ocean localization usually will utilize acoustic information whereas the land-based localization will make use of satellite information via GPS system. Obviously, GPS-based information is more encompassing and accurate compared to those acoustic-type. The primitive parameters in the overall localization determination eco-system will be critical to the accuracy of the final outcome. The margin of error is small. Hence, the reliability of the front end or the sensing side is not less important to the back-end or the processing module. The data fusion and integration of the acquired data will then need to be embedded to the already available map or model of the world. In a way, the acquired data will need to be referenced to the accepted world reference point or axes. At this point, the accepted fact is a consistent enhancement of a reference-map with continuously improved resolution as more data are acquired. More data is certainly good as long as it does not hinder an autonomous system from real-time utilization. And, the localization problems being faced are directly proportional to the level of accuracy needed.

    1. Localization for the ocean

The main difficulty of having a reliable localization system for ocean applications is related to the mode of position detection. The use of sound or acoustic wave led to the difficulties in signal transmission, detection, analysis and display. Acoustic signal, as mechanical wave, is very prone to noise and disturbance. The attenuated acoustic signals at the detection point are also laced with stray signal picked-up along the transmission and/or reflected paths. The actual data is sometimes overwhelmed by the noise portions. The sensor modules configurations play an important role in triangulating the actual position of the sound source. There are three common configurations: Long Base Line (LBL), Short Base Line (SBL) and Ultra Short Base Line (USBL). Depending on the type of applications, sea conditions and access to actual physical localization modules, the appropriate configuration is selected. The major limitation of utilizing the three acoustic-based localization systems is the cost. There are very expensive and typically not suited for small-scaled utilization. Hence, localization becomes a very expensive investment to anyone desiring position information in ocean environment. Localization is a challenge because any visual identification from the surface will not possible for more than 5 meters of water depth. And, typical underwater applications can go down even to 2500m of water depth. Some can go much deeper. Acoustic transponder attached on an AUV becomes the beacon for localization and navigation. The relative location will then be mapped to a Global Positioning System (GPS)-like information, complete with the longitude and latitude. All in all, the localization process in an underwater environment has never been easy and the problems related to it are still yearning to be solved.

    1. Who are you?

Having to locate the position of a single robotic system in an unknown environment is relatively difficult. The task may be prone to multiple complexities due to system’s dynamic, unknown environmental disturbance, and even the more obvious system’s malfunction. What if we are trying to detect multiple robotic systems in that same environment? Surely, the algorithms and processes for localization for such requirement will be far more complex. Then, what if we are trying to locate the locations or positions of different type of robotic systems utilizing different modes of communications? The more pertinent question will not just be “Where am I?” but must be preceded with the question “Who are you?” In reality, this sequence of questions is more relevant and mirrors the real-world applications. The solution of the localization problem will be critical in ensuring the success of the whole application or mission. Of course, an application which involve multiple robotic systems and utilizing multiple communication domains, will give rise to the problem of controller selection and implementation options, and one will have to choose whether a centralized or de-centralized approach. In a nutshell, the issue of identification will need to be settled first.

    1. Epilogue

All system that we built will need some sort of identification(ID) or tag. The tag or ID will be useful for system’s identification in the already crowded real-world environment.  The novel controller and navigation algorithms will only be realizable when supplied with the location or position information, absolute or relative. For the time being, the localization problem will continue to be researched on and investigated. Good luck in your search!

“What we find changes who we become.”  Peter Morville



Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Researcher: Invincible or Invisible?


Researcher: Invincible or Invisible?

Volume 7 Issue 9 News & Resources | September 2014

    1. Changing roles

In mid-August 2014 I was invited as an external examiner to one of our local Malaysian universities. Personally, I am thankful to be invited and be given a chance to be heard. It is a symbol of peers’ recognition and the value that others are giving to one’s point of view. Honestly, this type of visit was not a first, but certainly it has enabled me to acquire new experiences and make new friends. There is a deep chasm between visiting a place as a regular tourist and visiting to examine or evaluate. The role is tangentially different. Hence, the emotion and mode of thinking are also significantly influenced. Well, I am still a tourist at heart but added with some tasks which need doing. Mixing work and play requires tact and robust thinking. One would want to complete the tasks given and enjoy the experiences at the same time. Lucky for me, I do enjoy working as an academic buff and is trying to contribute, as much as possible to nation-building. Well, how much more patriotic one can be? Building future generation is one of the best investments. Roles are changing. One needs to adapt and adopt viable strategies to ensure things will be fine and the comfort zones would be preserved.

  • The invisible cloak

Admittedly we are living in our own small world which will shape our views of others. We tend to see the world the way we want, and normally not as it should be seen. This imaginary world is our comfort zones. Disruption to our comfort zones (or life bubble) is not welcome. The bubble is growing, and we are living in it. The rules of living that we have adopted have proven its worth time after time. It seems nothing can go wrong. Well, they did not call it a bubble for nothing. A simple change in the basic supporting structures will turn everything topsy-turvy. This is so true for us – academicians. The bubbles will one day burst. Our bubble is our protected living biosphere. Academicians like us are directly contributing to the development of future talents for the nations. Responsibilities to train the nation’s youths in skills and higher education have indirectly protect the academicians from typical risks of employment such as loss of jobs due to industry meltdown or uncertain nation-wide inflation rates. It is very comfortable to live in this bubble. It serves as an invisible cloak or unseen sheath of protection. This invisible cloak will one day be at threat. That fateful day is fast approaching. Academicians need to break-out of the bubble before it they cave in or create a more realistic view of the world.

  • Learning the ropes

During the visit, I was asked by my generous host on what will be the title of my maiden talk. Honestly, I did not know at that time as what to be most suitable topic to talk about. But, I have seen the strength of the faculty, and I realized that there are many young and fresh academic staffs around. Hence, my talk will be about “How to do research?” Yes, this is the most important skill in academia. One must know how to do research. The output of research will be instrumental in ensuring promotion and moving up the career ladders. Although the bread and butter will still be about teaching, the barter for promotion will persistently be about; “How many ISI journal papers have you published?” or the slightly more vicious one is; “How many patents have you got?” and the worst of it is; “How many of your products have been commercialized?” These are ludicrous questions to be thrown at the junior academic staffs as they, most probably, are already at lost at the more basic question on “Where do I start to develop my career?” Well, I have gone through those periods of uncertainties. All of us must ‘learn the ropes’ – as they say. We must organically develop our expertise and maturity in envisioning, planning, implementing and assessing the output. We must learn to do it the hard way. Be streetwise and persistent. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds – both need attention and commitment.

  • Carpe Diem

We must seize the day. Be sure of the prime and supporting goals that we would like to accomplish in life. How can one progress or measure it if one does not have clear goals? We certainly have no option but to be very focus and clear on what needs to be done in order to fulfill our dreams. Carpe Diem! Yes, by realizing the opportunities abound and having the courage and humility to learn from others, especially those seemingly ‘unproductive’ seniors. Be humble! Those seniors may no longer have proper grasps on the latest trends or things, but they have got the experiences that can be shared and benefitted from. One cannot buy experiences in life. Instead, one either go through it oneself or learn from those who have gone through beforehand. One should seek a mentor@guru@teacher. It is a very humbling experience to know and experience what others have gone through to reach the peak of successes or failures. Although one must always seize the opportunities which are passing by, we must ensure our efforts are always guided; by others’ and one’s life lessons.

  • Final analysis

In the final analysis, the younger academic staffs must take charge of their destinies, i.e. within boundaries set by GOD, and those agreed upon. Confident and responsible behaviors will bring much needed strength to the research fraternity and its members. The habit of needing to refer to the rules and regulations should be the last option when faced with issues that can jeopardize the research progress. The efforts to reach excellence must also be a common effort and not purely an individual struggle. There are enough places at the top, for everyone. We should collaborate and cooperate more. Everyone can win, and nobody needs to be a loser. We must strive to be invincible!

“An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men” Thomas Fuller

Invincible: too powerful to be defeated or overcome (Adj)
Invisible: cannot be seen or unseen (Adj)



Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


As I ponder upon it…


As I ponder upon it…

Volume 7 Issue 8 News & Resources | August 2014

    1. Getting the first step right

The first step in doing research is to ensure a clear and solid research problem, i.e. problem statements. Conducting research and development efforts without a clear appreciation of the problem being addressed is a sure way to failure. In fact, it is nearly impossible to produce a plausible solution to an uncertain problem, although there is actually such a research area which focuses on trying to make the “uncertain” certain. A real example of this is the research efforts into the type 2 fuzzy controllers. In essence, the problem statements should be focus and specific as possible. The clarity in terms of the problem being considered will assist significantly in ensuring the feasibility of the research work and that it can be executed and investigated properly. All researchers must always start by asking the right questions in relation to the specific scope of research problem that we are interested in. The first step is always to formulate the right questions. Asking the right questions is partially solving the problem in hand. Get the first step right. Be clear on your research problems!

  • Danger of cognitive bias

Cognitive bias is the common tendency to acquire and process information by filtering it through one's own likes, dislikes, and experiences. Human beings have the tendency to trust their gut feeling sometimes over proven proofs. This internal feel on things has developed for years from the myriad of life experiences thrown at us daily. We tend to develop a first instinct or impression on new experience in life, especially those we have never experienced before. This may or may not be the correct stand or view, but we normally obliged to take it as the proper ground to bank on. This is an example of cognitive bias. It is bias because our decisions or views are made without proper evaluation or examination on the facts of the matter. We trust our instinct more than our rational judgment which may also already bias to a certain skewed frame of thinking. Examples of cognitive biases are confirmation bias and overconfidence bias. Confirmation bias is a situation in which we tend to fit the experiences that we got into a preconceive model of reality or behavior. We actively looked for confirming proofs, sometimes at the expense of actual truth. We see what we want to see. On the other hand, overconfidence bias is a situation in which we have overestimated what we think we know with the actual reality. We make judgment without really considering the basis of the verdict. This is overconfidence bias. We are all bias in one way or another. The thing is to know that we are sometimes biased, and it is really important to always have a second look on all our decisions. Thinking that one is not affected by any cognitive bias is actually a confirmation that one is already biased.

  • Preparing the ground-work

I always believe that one needs to prepare the “soil” first before one can embark on any intellectual journey, especially in conducting R&D work in the field of science and technology. The “soil” is basically preparing one’s mind, spirit and physique with the appropriate amount of knowledge and know-how relevant to the research scope and considered constraints. The readiness scale of a budding researcher will be further enhanced by having a solid understanding (read: knowledge) and cool temperament in executing those challenging research tasks. Having a knife is not sufficient without the knowledge of how to use a knife. The same goes to completing those R&D tasks, i.e. having a solid academic background will be of no use if one does not know how to utilize it for executing the research tasks. In research work, we must always ask the bigger questions, and not hindered by the uniqueness of the research problem. A bigger question which is asked will ensure that the R&D work will automatically take into account the real-world problems’ limitations and the practicality of the proposed solutions. The probability of success can be projected from this starting block. A shaky and ill-prepared “soil” is a clear warning of upcoming “disaster”. One cannot and should not directly jump into the research fray without having all the necessary pre-requisites. Deciding to address a research problem is not a joking matter. With all due respect, the R&D tasks must be treated seriously and professionally.

  • Embarking on the enjoyable

Getting oneself into the research fraternity must be done voluntarily. The R&D efforts can be strenuous and very boring at times. The researchers must like it, or the research efforts will suffer unintentionally. The vocation of a researcher should be an enjoyable phase of one’s life. The researcher must embark on the enjoyable. The long and arduous research road must be threaded with a feeling of determination and conscious acceptance. The final goal is too important to be discarded. A researcher must always be aware of his contributions in the bigger scheme of things. Although he or she may be doing something which is very focus and narrow, the larger audience is certainly in need of his/her findings. The researcher must make it enjoyable to the extent that having to endure it alone for years is nothing considering the value that it can bring about, and the impact that it can contribute to society at large. Certainly getting rewarded financially and garnering universal recognition to all the research work are welcome by any researcher. Who would not want to be rich and popular? Who would not want to be recognized with gifts and awards? Nobody! Alas, the ultimate satisfaction is to know that many have benefitted from the outcome of the work which we have done. Knowing that we have done good things is an enjoyment par excellence in itself.

  • Pondering is good; not daydreaming

Researchers must always take time to ponder upon those actions and decisions which have been taken. Consciously thinking about our current and past actions are important and certainly not a waste. As we prod along the path of discovery, we must not forget to enjoy the experiences that crop-up along the way. Researchers must utilize thinking wisely and regularly. A paradox indeed! Sometimes we need to be reminded. It is just too easy to do things without realizing the reasons of doing it. Let us ponder more often, hoping by this we will not stray too far into oblivion. Pondering is certainly good!

“If you give people nothingness, they can ponder what can be achieved from that nothingness”
Tadao Ando



Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Lessons for humanity


Lessons for humanity.

Volume 7 Issue 7 News & Resources | July 2014


    1. Month of Fasting

July was the month of Ramadhan. In this month, muslims in every nooks and corners of the world have fasted from dawn to dusk. The ritual of fasting is an act of worship as instructed by God in verse 183 of Surah Al-Baqarah as stated in the holy book of Al-Quran. The main aim was to increase the level of piety and one becoming a better person. The act of fasting encompasses the physical, spiritual and intellectual aspects. By fasting according to the way prescribed and exemplified by the prophet Muhammad SAW, one would gain the maximum benefits for all three aspects. Ramadhan has always brought with it goodness to individual and communities at large, directly or indirectly. The history of Islam during Ramadhan is a testimony of the string of successful campaigns and ventures. Although having to abstain from taking food or liquid seems to be a clear formula for failure, the muslims have proven it wrong. The act of fasting is no longer look upon as a hindrance, but instead an avenue to nurture self-restraint and conscious control of one’s will. The reward of fasting is indeed too many to mention, and history has proven that Ramadhan alleviates rather than degrades.

    1. Linking R&D to Ramadhan

So, what can researchers gain from the month fasting? For one, it was a month of reflections – lots of it. We had tremendous opportunities for self-reflection, as the regular distractions are at a minimum. Similar mode of reflections should be instilled for our daily R&D activities. There is a need to re-evaluate the initial aim or motivation for conducting any research efforts. An honest and truthful analysis will permit a sober and realistic view of the status quo, hence leading to a more realistic realization. Regular and conscious efforts into evaluating our past and immediate actions can hold the key to real progress in R&D activities. Short-term successes can easily blind-us to real progress. A reflective and critical behavior will be a good trait to be nurtured for any researcher. Other than preventing compounding mistakes and ill-guided efforts, these reflective sessions will bring a stop to an otherwise dull and boring routine. The other advantage of fasting is to make do and be creative with whatever resources that we have. As much as we would like to complete tasks in the shortest time, we must ensure it does not evolve into an automatic and a knee-jerk type of reactions.

    1. War in Ramadhan

This month has seen the attack by an illegitimate regime of Israel towards the oppressed people of Gaza in Palestine. This is a repeat of previous attacks on the innocent people of Gaza few years back. The military might of the most equipped regime in the Middle East, tacitly endorsed by major allies in the western world, against an oppressed people of about 1.8 million living on a land strip with the size of 7km wide x 41km long. It is called strip because that is exactly what it is. The Gaza strip has also been under blockade for past seven years, with high concrete walls on the northern, southern and eastern borders and the sea at the western side. Traveling into and out of the strip has been difficult and uncertain. The current military campaign has made more than 500,000 Palestinians refugees in their own land. This is sad reality which was witnessed by the world. More than 1800 are killed with missiles coming from tanks and fighter jets with more than 40% are children and elderly people among the casualties. Humanity has been lost and the genocide in Gaza is a living proofs. Meanwhile in Syria, similar killings of innocent human beings are being carried out by the ruling elites. This Ramadhan we have seen it all. Humanities need to recover her values and dignities. Researchers who developed technologies have played their parts in all these mess. We need to assist in the healing and not on escalating. Alas, the world is no longer watching silently. The regimes will fall, and real justice and fairness will prevail.

    1. Messing up the world

The arrays of technology developed in the last few decades have changed the way human being led their life and their modes of dealing with fellow human beings. The advent of rapid communication mediums among distant places, ideally, would have made people (and communities) closer and more appreciate of others. Via greater understanding, better cooperation and appreciation would prevail, leading to a more peaceful existence or co-existence. In theory this is true. But, technologies have always been exploited for the wrong purpose. An example is the predominant bias perspective of the western media towards the plight of the Palestinians, i.e. where the role of the oppressors and victims were substituted nonchalantly. Technologies have also been used to affect the cognitive judgments of viewing falsehood as the truth and vice versa. The social media tools and platforms have aggravated these scenarios which led to further blurriness and uncertainties. Albeit, the reverse is also true. In essence, the social media tools have also been utilized to correct the myopic and skewed construct of presented truths (or news). Technologies have messed up the world. With the availability of social media tools we have become very caring and empathic in the virtual realm, but evolving into a reclusive in the real world. A paradox indeed!

    1. What are our roles?

We are the agent of change. As much as we want to bring change, we must become the change. Researchers dealing with state-of-the-art technology development carry heavier burdens. If we work and cultivate more responsible culture of innovation and its related applications, we would be able to contribute significantly to the world. The onus is on the researchers who on working on various critical problems in improving the well-being of the human civilizations. It is hope after graduating from the month of Ramadhan, we have become a better human being and more emphatic towards others. We live a meaningful life not by taking, but by giving.

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”
[Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings]



Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


As we have discussed earlier…


As we have discussed earlier…

Volume 7 Issue 6 News & Resources | June 2014


Researchers are prone to focus on to very specific issues at hand. They would do to themselves some good by pondering on the following points;

    1. Market gap analysis:

Any researcher will search and study the gap in knowledge. From the findings, the researcher will make efforts to innovate and fill the gaps. The assumption is by filling this gap a better understanding would be gained. By right, instead of this sort of gap searching, researchers would do a better and worthwhile job in looking for the marker gap or commercial-related gaps in available technologies, i.e. the ones serving the market. This new perspective on gap analysis will, logically, lead to a much real and beneficial interaction between technology developers and the real world (read: end users). A conscious effort in looking solutions to problems that exist in the commercial world will certainly lead to a seamless transfer of new knowledge and breakthroughs.

    1. Appreciation of market’s eco-system:

One needs to know and appreciate the norms in products development cycle of commercial products i.e. the business eco-system. There are a number of established steps and processes in order to transform an idea into real and marketable products. These understandings will enable proper and appropriate exchange of ideas towards the developing a commercially-ready product, and ensure the evolution of workable solutions from the initial idea until a functional industry-tested products. The current lax attitude towards the importance of industry-led perspective in new knowledge creation has resulted into solutions which are half-baked or not really ready for market penetration. The amount extra investment in terms of capital becomes unpredictable and may even is a total lost, since the developed product not necessarily will turn into a market success.

    1. Researcher for global market:

Any output generated from outstanding research efforts must be aimed towards the global market, i.e. playing fields and not constraint by the local needs. A clear global aim and internationally benchmarked outcome will guide all the relevant inputs to the research endeavors. This aspiration requires a big leap in terms of the research mind-set and overall approach to research planning and associated implementations. For one, the researchers need to network well within the targeted discipline and do not allow their nation’s borders to limit the breath and length of the networking. One needs to be at par, knowledge wise, with the international research peers in order to ensure correct research directions and final goals. A global research and product development targets will push the team into a more competitive environment and ensure the team do not lose track of the overall aim of the endeavor.

    1. Three core ingredients:

For any venture into the commercial market, the research team working on the project must have three important ingredients; ideas, team and finance. These are very logical statements. Ideas will be the thing that will spur and trigger all the subsequent and follow-up actions. The value of the efforts will also revolve on the real values of the ideas proposed. Everything is certainly worth the sacrifice if the ideas are noble and contain real potentials. Of course, the reverse scenario is a total waste of time and all. The roles of dependable and reliable team members are crucial and would be the main enablers. Sometimes even with limited equipment and lab instruments, a world class R&D output can be generated from those creative, hardworking and industrious teams. But, of course, realistically, there is a minimum level of standard which must be fulfilled, in order for the results to be readily accepted. And, finally the availability of sufficient funding would be pertinent in greasing the progress of the research work. The pace of progress will stutter without proper finance. Purchasing will be delayed, deployment and testing have to be reviewed and incentives most probably will be scraped, i.e. all these will normally crop-up when the budget is limited. All three ingredients are important and will be the basic requirements for success. None is more important than the rest.

    1. Model of success:

The routes to successes have been minted by so many innovators and high-achievers are living models of success. Their experiences can certainly be emulated by budding innovators and researchers which aspire to develop new technologies for the masses. The efforts to adopt and adapt their experiences in addressing today’s challenges are critical and would be a great reservoir of proven ideas. The models of problem-solving approaches and practical engagement tools must be studied and evaluated in relation to the new and previously unknown constraints. Of course, there is a real possibility that the same team of innovators adopting the same methods may not succeed in today’s challenges. But then, at least they are banking on something which has proven to be effective. Emulating the proven paths is nothing new. Human beings have adopted and adapted this approach from time immemorial. We take the good pointers and take note of the missteps. We must learn to avoid repeating the mistakes of others and ensure our decision making capacity is properly guided.

The five pointers discussed above were gathered from a discussion I had with a friend of mine in London some time ago. I had the opportunity to visit London and met him after attending a training course in Bath – a place not far from London. This friend of mine has been in the business of transferring innovations created in the academia to the real world. He has seen so many failures and mistakes which individuals and companies have done in trying to do so. One more thing that I got from his sharing is the fact that opportunities are in abundance. One must always be on guard and be ready to capitalize on them. There are many opportunists abound that will not to hesitate to take advantage on our gains. Be ready to move into a more challenging environment and take up the challenge.

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all” - Dale Carnegie



Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.