Roberto Saracco passed away in early December 2023. As a long-time volunteer, Roberto had been a visionary for the IEEE Communications Society, for IEEE and for industry. His visions of future technology later came to pass in reality. For many years his daily blog reported news on innovations, technology, challenges and impact drawing a significant readership. Along these lines he has produced over 20 ebooks on technology evolution and impact that are available through IEEE. His presentations on technology trends were always extremely popular. As a ComSoc leader, he greatly extended the Society's reach to sister societies around the world.
He had an even broader presence and impact going beyond ComSoc, offering innovative perspectives that inspired and set direction for the practical application of emerging technologies that met societal and business needs. Roberto was able to extract insights from his industrial colleagues, organize information, correlate it and effectively deliver it. He had a lot of patience to obtain knowledge from industry (almost always in the last moment and after repeated requests, but always productively and efficiently). On the receiving end, his presentations were always based on facts, insightful and impactful. These reports motivated attendees towards forming new initiatives and helped evaluate existing ones and overall justify the directions of the IEEE Future Directions Committee and IEEE New Initiatives Committee. More deeply, these reports purely exemplified IEEE’s tagline, “Advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.”
Roberto was always a reliable and insightful contributor, basing his predictions on science, rather than the otherwise speculative process of predicting. On a personal, note, Roberto was always great to work with. He was mild mannered, nice, but firm and persistent in his requests and pursuits, Roberto was always able to get the best out of the people he worked with.
He constantly worked to convert foresights into concrete actions by launching initiatives in the areas of data leverage, digital twins, augmented/virtual reality, autonomous systems, and digital transformation. In all of these initiatives, he brought together insights and participation from both industry and academia. Roberto deepened IEEE’s understanding of current technological trends and their relative merits. His collaborations helped the users of technology adapt to and benefit from its innovations. An example is Digital Transformation, for which he gave many seminars and workshops to evolve this costly transformation into a new ecosystem.
Roberto was a recognized promoter of Future Directions and many activities in ComSoc, TAB and across IEEE. He had chaired the IEEE New Initiatives Committee (NIC), served on the IEEE President’s AdHoc’s on the 2050 and Data-based Strategies, and was a member of the Emerging Technology Foresight group of the Computer Society. He had chaired the IEEE Future Directions committee where he personally initiated the Smart Cities initiative; under his leadership the pool of Smart Cities grew to 30 worldwide. He had also chaired FDC’s Industry Advisory Board where he expanded IEEE’s reach into industry’s leadership, and he had regularly provided feedback to the Future Directions Committee (FDC) about industry trends and needs. He also championed and led the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems and the Digital Reality Initiatives. He was a key driver of ComSoc’s presence online, stimulated and chaired the Committee on Network Operations and Management (CNOM) the Enterprise Networking committee (EntNet), and grew ComSoc’s Sister Societies membership from 10 to 26. A major contribution was the visionary “ComSoc 2020” book that he and his team authored in 2010. Ten years later, its predictions proved true.
His many positions in ComSoc and IEEE included:
- CNOM Chair – 1994-1996
- Enterprise Networking Chair – 1996-1998
- Technical Affair and Recertification Committee Secretary – 1998-2000
- Marketing Director COMSOC - 2000-2001
- VP Membership Services COMSOC - 2002-2003
- Director Sister & Related Societies - 2007-2011
- Future Directions Committee Chair - 2013 -2016
- Industry Activities Board (IAB) Chair – 2017-2021
- Smart Cities Initiative Chair - 2012-2014
- Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Chair – 2017-2019
- Digital Reality Initiative Co-Chair - 2018 – 2023
- Chair NIC – 2022
- Member, IEEE Ad Hoc’s on 2050 and Data-based Strategy - 2022
He had been recognized for his significant contributions through the following:
- Recipient of the Exemplary Global Service Award 2010
- Recipient of the McLellan Meritorious Service Award 2007
- Induction into the TAB Hall of Honor
Besides his contributions across IEEE, Roberto had been involved with technical industrial and academic activities. He was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital until 2018 and led the EIT Digital Italian node until 2017. He had also been Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice and led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He taught a Master’s degree course on Technology Forecasting and Market Impact at the University of Trento and has over 100 published papers in journals and magazines and 14 books (two of his books are currently available on Amazon).
He will be sorely missed by friends and colleagues around the world.
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