8 December 2021

TUT’s Research Chair in Enabled Environment and Assistive Living Seminar surpasses all expectations

The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) South African Research Chair (SARChi) in Enabled Environment and Assistive Living held its first Research & Innovation Seminar, where new trends and latest developments in the areas of Ambient Intelligence, Advanced Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) were deliberated. The event took place at the Pretoria Campus from 25 to 26 November 2021.

Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka.

The Research Chair in Enabled Environment and Assistive Living is hosted in the French South African Institute of Technology (F'SATI) and is a reconnaissance of the research work that has been developed for many years by the F'SATI team of Professors and students in the niche area in enabled environment and assistance to persons with disabilities. It is multidisciplinary in nature and focuses on providing innovative technologies and systems to assist persons with disabilities and elderly persons based on their immediate needs. From a societal point of view, the notion of assistance technology for persons with disabilities is an important world challenge that concerns all of society. Providing assistive technologies to persons with disabilities is in alignment with the principles endorsed by South African government.

In her welcoming address at the event, Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka, DVC: Research, Innovation and Engagement acknowledged the rich bilateral collaborations between South Africa and France. Our students have received great support from DSI/NRF and also enjoyed a true international experience through this chair. Our vision is to be a people’s university that makes knowledge work and this Chair we are celebrating today has demonstrated exactly that. We are making knowledge work, not only for us as a University but the greater society. I will quote an African Proverb that says “if you want to run fast, run alone and if you want to run far- run together”. Through this Chair, we have witnessed our science and practice being enriched by collaborations and partnerships of this nature. Today, we confidently say that we are indeed the ones we have been waiting for. We are proud as a University and we look forward to more exceptional work from the Chair. Halala TUT Halala,” said Dr Papu-Zamxaka.

Prof Karim Djouani.

Prof Karim Djouani, who spearheads the SARChi Chair said that the focus of the research work conducted in the Chair is related to the development of devices integrating sensors and actuators to help persons with disabilities. The research work considers how the evaluation of deficiencies, the aid to the re-education, and the compensation using technical means for mobility can be achieved through the aid of appropriate technologies.

“By integrating people with disabilities into society and the commercial and industrial sectors, the proposed chair also aligns itself with Science and Technology for poverty alleviation and local/regional innovation including sustainable rural development, since such individuals who would have traditionally had limitations in accessing the workspace would be ‘enabled’ to gain access. By aligning to these themes, the Chair contributes to technology development, innovation, and commercialisation of assistive technologies in the enabled environment while solving critical issues for people living with disabilities,” said Prof Djouani.

He added that the other focus for the research chair is on the development of innovative mechatronic systems comprising of electromechanical systems with embedded computing and communication capabilities dedicated to assist people in their daily lives. Complex mechatronic systems are distributed in the enabled environment or smart spaces and make use of current and emerging wireless and mobile communication technologies. 

The French Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Aurélien Lechevallier.

The French Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Aurélien Lechevallier said: “We are proud to be surrounded by incisive philosophers in Ambient Intelligence and we thank the University for organising an international event of such calibre. This SARChi chair is already a success. Through this seminar, many communities will benefit from the knowledge shared and collaborations that will come fourth. We also take note of the great milestones the Chair has achieved thus far, such as having more than 40 post-graduate students involved in the Chair, the 100 papers published in index journals, 6 Patents and 10 Prototypes already attained,” he said.

His Excellency further committed his support to the SARChi Chair and the University. “We are all here to celebrate the great work emanating from this chair,” he said. 

The two days’ event was attended by astute local and international researchers, government officials, including the Head of Policy and Research at the Presidency, scientists, research agencies and industry partners who shared their research, knowledge and experiences in the field of Enabled Environments and Assistive living. Scientists also made presentations in the field of Artificial Intelligence: New trends in Machine learning and Data Science, Robotics: Modelling and control with human in the loop, Internet of Things and Cloud computing: New Trends in Massive IoT and Critical Communications for Assistive Living. 

Speakers who made presentation at the event included Dr Freddie Kgongwana, Acting DDG: Hospital Services from the Department of Health;; Dr. Gansen Pillay, Deputy Chief Executive, RISA, NRF, Prof Bernard Yannou, Director of Valorisation and Innovation:  Graduate School of Engineering, University Paris Saclay; Dr Nick Bradshaw, CEO AI Media Africa; Dr Holger Schwenk, Research Scientist, Facebook AI Research Laboratory, Stefan Steffen, Executive of Data Science, Telkom Group; Tim Nicholas, Customer CTO, Customer Experience Strategy and Technology; Nokia Nokia SA; Dr. Emmanuel Kalunga, Head of Datascience & Business Intelligence: Orderln; Dr. Kaoutar Sghiouer, Head of Datascience Atos, France; Dr HKM Abdelkawy, Toyota Motors Europe, Armand du Plessis, Presales Solution Consultant at Siemens; Prof. Julien Calderaro, Henri Mondor Hospital; Dr Roxana Ojeda, CTO COMSIS SAS France to name a few.

Please click here to watch the recording of the SARChI Chair Seminar in Enabled Environment and Assistive Living.


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