Miracle solutions: Anyone??

Miracle solutions: Anyone??

Volume 2 Issue 8 News & Resources | August 2009

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad


Editor
School of Electrical & Electronic Eng
Universiti Sains Malaysia
email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Obstacles and problems are inherent in any form of human endeavors. No doubt, they are part and parcel of any strivings or efforts. Naturally, there is an innate urge for human beings to explore new frontiers, in order to make life more bearable and livable. We certainly want comfort and abhor any forms of difficulties in our daily activities. Hence, it forces each of us to look for solutions, i.e. for short term and also long term.

Since the earliest of civilizations, mankind is always on the look-out for ‘miracle solution’ to their multitude of problems. The so called ‘miracle solution’ has guided, and also has misled so many people. In the desire to contribute or to capitalize on the obvious opportunities, so many hopes have been dashed and hence so many dreams have evaporated into thin air.

In every dimension or strata of living, we face problems which are intra- and inter-dependence to so many parameters. Hence, the solutions cannot be too rigid and simplified. The collateral impacts must be anticipated, what more if the proposed solutions are prone to mishap and misadventure. What nobody wants is the efforts needed to rectify damages which seemed very logical and obvious, retrospectively.

In monitoring and managing, via proper measurements, of our marine resources, surely we will face so many obstacles and challenges. Solutions are needed. What more if anybody can propose a ‘miracle solution’. But, as the name suggests, miracle does not normally happened, especially thru the efforts of the fallible and mortal humans. Nevertheless, ‘miracle solution’ of slightly more human-like is certainly possible.

This pseudo ‘miracle solution’ will only be realizable with good and solid pool of relevant knowledge and experiences. In relation to underwater applications of technology, more can be done. With the existing limitations of available technology and expertise, even the pseudo ‘miracle solution’ is out of our reach. What is there left for us then?

One of the most enduring traits of mankind is the ability to dream and having hope for the future. This is exactly the starting point of our journey. We must be clear of the dreams that we want, and why we want them. The reality today is the dream that our forefathers had before. So, the future generation is banking on us to set their reality. Big responsibility, no doubt!

So, what is the so-called ‘miracle solution’ for the problems related to underwater applications of existing modern technology? I do not know, and am quite sure nobody else knows them as yet. This situation is certainly an opportunity for all budding and engaging researchers. In every crisis, there is opportunity, so they say. Especially in Malaysia and the surrounding countries, the related problems which exist certainly outnumbered the possible working solutions.

“Simple operations and minimum maintenance” may be a simple guide to the so-called ‘miracle solution’. I know as researchers, this may be a tough item to fulfill, but we must try. This is because any proposed solutions cannot be too complex and even transient in nature. Instead, they must be robust and sustainable. And, if the solutions are sustainable, yet very simple and robust, it can then qualify the term ‘miracle’ that we put to the solution perfectly.

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What are your assumptions?

What are your assumptions?

Volume 2 Issue 7 News & Resources | July 2009

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad


Editor
School of Electrical & Electronic Eng
Universiti Sains Malaysia
email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The major challenge of doing application-based research has always been on how to ensure that the problem being considered is an acceptable approximation of the real world. Often, we tend to oversimplify the model of systems or processes that we are analyzing, in order to suit our own limited understanding and capabilities. In our efforts to ensure that the work at hand will translate into useful outcome, we sometimes tend to ‘see’ what we expect to ‘see’, rather readily accepting whatever outcome that we got.

The main issue here concerns modeling of the real world. When we talk about modeling, we will ultimately need to adopt a number of assumptions. Assumptions are necessary, if not fundamental. Certainly no model will be possible without making assumptions. And, surely we also understand that no matter how good any model is, there will be some degree of error. We make assumption due to the lack of understanding and/or knowledge. But, human beings are not perfect, so we are always inclined to accept any deficiency which exists in any of our model and/or assumptions.

Modeling of any systems or processes will be useful for a number of reasons. One of them is the proper appreciation of how any one system or process operates. In certain critical applications, no room for trial and error is permissible. But, of course, trial and error approach, sometimes, rules the day. Model helps in understanding the effect of varied parameters to a particular system or process. Hence, the more perfect is our model, the less mistakes and errors we will make, hopefully.

In underwater-related system and technology development, proper modeling plays a very pertinent role. The model of any system being developed, and how the model interacts with the dynamic underwater environment can pose a serious challenge to any researcher. The presence of significant external disturbances, such as strong underwater current flow and the increase of water pressure towards the system being tested must always be considered. Underwater-based applications system development are unique because any presumed model will ultimately be dependent on how accurate is the sensing data for the multiple underwater environmental parameters.

In the design and development of underwater-based robotics platforms, such as the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and Underwater Glider System, reliable mathematical models for the platforms, control and navigation are crucial. The success or failure of the developed platforms most of the time is tied to the reliability of the models. No amount of field trials (or testing) will be useful to the researcher if their actions are not guided by proper models of the modules. Reliable models are a must.

Recently, some of our researcher went for their first sea-trials. The trip is a clear wake-up call to all of us. Parameters in our model that we consider to be true must now be re-evaluated/re-examined. We have seriously underestimated the dynamics of the oceans. Certainly, the expedition has taught us one thing, i.e. no system model is perfect. We must always re-examine the assumptions that we choose. We must seek to understand. And this effort must never cease. As someone used to say; “It's not the mistake that matters, it's how you interpret the lesson.”

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Breaking the Operational Envelope and Capability Barrier

Breaking the Operational Envelope and Capability Barrier

Volume 2 Issue 6 News & Resources | June 2009

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad


Editor
School of Electrical & Electronic Eng
Universiti Sains Malaysia
email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In any human-related activities, we are always being bounded with the existing in-house capabilities and surrounding supports and/or obstacles. The initial objectives almost always began with the ideal shape and outlook. These objectives, also almost always, will be normalized, or rather, made more realistic, for the proper execution and implementations, with the hope that the outlined objectives can be achieved.

Any project planning and implementation cycles follow four standard steps, i.e. project planning which raises a lot of questions, via the use of various tools. The questions will lead us to answers, or information, which then lead to the realization of the required capabilities for the proper execution of the outlined strategies. These steps can never be skipped, unless we prefer to flirt with disaster, rather than real success.

Two things must now be tackled in order for us to progress further, i.e. the operational envelope and capability barrier.

The operational envelope will always be around. The envelope may be in the form of limited infrastructures, ill-equipped personnel, un-cooperative bureaucracy and the changing market dynamics. The aforementioned envelope is certainly very fast-changing in reality, such that our adaptation rate must also be as immediate. Every success stories have indicated that the ability to be adaptive and pragmatic is very pertinent. It is a matter of survivable. No doubt!

The capability barrier is another aspect that must be considered seriously. Obviously, the extent and impacts of our project activities are limited by our current capabilities and skills. The barrier is certainly invisible, but not so for the impact. This is why the barrier is very deceiving to most of us. We make mistakes in our assumptions concerning the barriers. In most cases, we have underestimated or misjudged our capability barriers, resulting in failure and inability to complete even obvious and simple objectives.

Now, how do we then break through these operational envelope and capability barriers?

What about using a project framework? What about a framework in managing and guiding all of our activities? The framework may even be used for personal and institutional objectives. This is one avenue in order to break the current operational envelope or working space and capability barriers. Framework is becoming more and more crucial because any project can now be monitored and evaluated properly. These can be done right from the first step in project proposals. But, where can we find such robust framework?

Robust framework can certainly be extracted from the success stories of past and current companies in the industries. These have been done by others, and we just need to learn and take stock of the experiences of others. Not to repeat their mistakes but to adopt significant success-related actions. Path to success may not be replicated exactly, but lessons are there to be learned.

Road less travelled is always more challenging and exciting. Road less travelled also promises interesting discoveries and opportunities to success. A framework will be useful for us to traverse this unchartered territory. In order to create new success and achievement, we have no option but to move confidently. Let us believe that operational envelope can be broken, and capability barriers are certainly very fragile!

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Be Part of the Solutions!

Be Part of the Solutions!

Volume 2 Issue 5 News & Resources | May 2009

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad


Editor
School of Electrical & Electronic Eng
Universiti Sains Malaysia
email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The challenges facing us today are not going to get smaller, but its getting bigger by the day. Actions are needed now, and to procrastinate is certainly suicidal. Whether we are looking from the micro or macro point of view, we are doomed to destruction if no recovery actions are taken immediately. I am talking about problems coming from so many fronts. Be it economic, social, technology or politics. Coming from the technology or scientific community, I believe there are so many things can we can do in order to mend things. Technology must now become part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Technology must now become tools for survivable, and not the direct opposite. With technology we will salvage this world. And, with technology also life can be made more livable.

The exploitation of our oceans must also be in the same spirit. In the current world scenario, oceans exploitation is unavoidable. But, the question is; how can we ensure that this exploitation is sustainable? How do we ensure that our oceans resources will be protected? How can be sure that everybody will abide by the same rules and ethics? How can we make sure that the benefits will be shared and not squandered? How and how? So many questions are left unattended. Whatever the responses to these questions, we must never loose the heart. Questions must be asked. Great discovery or solutions will only come from great questions!

The irony of globalization is that at the time human being can reap tremendous benefits from it, globalization also meant destruction to some quarters. Transmigration of alien species, changes in ocean circulation, the alkalization of the seas, the warming of temperature and cold regions are in fact a direct and indirect results of globalization. With technology, man (i.e. every person) can now build (or buy) machines that can amplifies efforts which use to take months to complete. With technology also, man can overcome obstacles posed by the elements. Areas of the oceans can now be explored without fear. Hence, there is an urgency for some control and regulation.

In this modern world of ours, everyone must learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of humans and the world. One minor disruptions to the elements in the cycle of life may turn out to be very major event to us. Do we appreciate the effect of increasing temperature of sea water? Do we understand what will happen if icebergs in the north and south poles continue to melt? Do we know the roles of plants and insects in this world? We may know all the answers to all these things, but if we do not consider them in determining our way forward, we will surely head into the abyss, in which there is no way out.

Underwater systems and technology have a big role to play. As an enabler, these systems and technology can be utilized to further enhance the well-being of every living being on the face of the earth, be it on land or in the waters. Knowledge about this world must always be updated and strengthen, especially about our marine resources. The world is not static. It is a living and changing being. So does our understanding and appreciation of the optimum systems and technology to be implemented. Our selection of system and technology must suit this dynamism.

Therefore, our efforts today must be very realistic and can be related to the actual concerns. By being part of the solutions, we are now on the right path. Globalization must be mustered towards continuous benefits to all, and, finally, we must never cease to ask questions.

I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. 
Mark Twain

It is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people; to focus your energies on answers - not excuses. 
William Arthur Ward

 

 

Lack of vision and urgency

Lack of Vision and Urgency

Volume 2 Issue 4 News & Resources | April 2009

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad


Editor
School of Electrical & Electronic Eng
Universiti Sains Malaysia
email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lack of vision and urgency?

In developing any new technology and systems for a myriad of applications in the world, there must be a clear sense of direction and purpose. Novel technology and system must be envisioned in a complete cycle of conscious decisions. The impact and implications of any new approaches must be understood and appreciated to our utmost abilities.

The oceans and fresh water resources are our valuable resources. In order to properly exploit them, we must ensure that the repercussions are manageable. We must also ensure that the technologies and systems being utilized will not expose the resources to any negative collateral impact. This is akin to the introduction to a new fishing netting technique which will catch more fish, but at the same time damage the bottom coral colonies. This is not what we want. We want sustainable approaches.

Appreciation of the importance of vision and goals in any development of whatever kind of technology is crucial. We come-out with ideas in order to solve a need. A need can only arise when we are clear of what we want in life. A need for solution comes, naturally, from the inability to perform certain needs due to some problems in our path. These problems are in abundance for any sort of underwater applications. There are rooms for everyone.

The vision that we have will certainly guide our efforts. Consciously or otherwise. There is a need to have a re-look at our directions. Looking around, there are cues everywhere. If we take the time to observe and ponder, surely, we will see the real issues at hand, and feel the urgency to tackle them. A vision is always open to recalibration and realignment. There is nothing sacred about them.

Any vision at hand also will only be useful iff (if and only if) there is an urgency to act on them. Urgency vs. complacency. The urge to �do it now� as compared to �can be done later�. The main malaise of the modern world is certainly the act of complacency. This is where great ideas and vision gets to rot and perish. This is the main obstacle in any path for progress. We can see the problem, and we can even envisage the solutions, but nothing materialized, as everyone/everybody is so complacent. There is always another day.

Visionary people is in excess. We have too much of them. What we urgently need now are real and tangible actions. Real and tangible implementations. In relation to underwater technologies and systems, we need real project and R & D efforts. The potential customers are waiting for us. Theories need to be translated into real applications. The problems and (actually) solutions are out there. Be visionary, and take actions.

Vision matters! & so does a sense of urgency!

He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses. Horace!

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