Rice to host visionary Kavli meetings on future of sensing

Halas, Smalley-Curl Institute will organize ‘Grand Challenges’ meetings

The Kavli Foundation has agreed to sponsor a trio of visionary, cross-disciplinary meetings at Rice University that will focus on the future of sensing technology. The meetings will bring together scientists and engineers from academia, government and industry to identify the grand challenges that could potentially be met by next-generation sensing technologies, and the fundamental scientific capabilities that will be needed to address those challenges.

The interdisciplinary workshops, which will begin later this year, will be sponsored by the Kavli Foundation’s scientific meetings program, a decadelong effort to spur scientific dialogue and uncover research trends, challenges and opportunities that has produced notable successes, including the White House’s 2013 BRAIN Initiative.

Abstract image of Internet of ThingsSensors are devices that gather information about changes in their environment, and the explosion in sensing technology over the past decade has helped usher in the era of big data. For example, since the introduction 10 years ago of Nintendo’s Wii game console and Apple’s iPhone, the number of sensors — accelerometers, cameras, gyroscopes, etc. — in consumer electronics has grown from 10 million per year to more than 10 billion per year. Data from scientific sensing has also increased dramatically in the past decade. Many experts predict Earth will pass the threshold of 1 trillion Internet-connected sensors within five years, and the resulting influx of sensing data can reveal everything from the birth of distant stars to the health details of entire ecosystems and individual people.

“This is a golden age for sensing science and technology and the perfect time to gather thought leaders from across the scientific, engineering and biomedical spectrum to identify the currently unmet potential that next-generation sensing technologies can deliver with thoughtful research investment,” said Smalley-Curl Institute Director Naomi Halas, who, together with a multidisciplinary steering committee, will plan and organize the meetings.

Halas, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, professor of chemistry, of physics and astronomy, of bioengineering and of materials science and nanoengineering, said each of the meetings will bring together about 20 experts from academia, government and industry. The first, a one-day workshop, will identify scientific challenges and future needs, and the second will focus on the fundamental scientific capabilities needed to meet those challenges. The final gathering, a three-day, international conference, will feature wide-ranging discussions to determine how next-generation sensing technology can best be developed to improve lives.

The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, Calif., is dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work. Its mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships and symposia in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics as well as prizes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.