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From IEEE Communications Magazine October 2018

Industry Outreach Bird's-Eye View

Khaled B. Letaief
Khaled B. Letaief
Ashutosh Dutta
Ashutosh Dutta

This month we present details about ComSoc’s efforts in the area of industry outreach. The Society’s efforts in this area are led by Ashutosh Dutta, ComSoc’s Director of the Industry Outreach Board.

Ashutosh is currently Senior Wireless Communication Systems Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Labs (JHU/ APL), Maryland, USA. Most recently he served as Principal Member of Technical Staff at AT&T Labs in Middletown, New Jersey. His career, spanning more than 30 years, includes Director of Technology Security and Lead Member of Technical Staff at AT&T, CTO of Wireless at a Cybersecurity company NIKSUN, Inc., Senior Scientist in Telcordia Research, Director of the Central Research Facility at Columbia University, adjunct faculty at NJIT, and Computer Engineer with TATA Motors. He has more than 90 conference and journal publications, three book chapters, and 30 issued patents. Ashutosh is co-author of the book “Mobility Protocols and Handover Optimization: Design, Evaluation and Application,” published by IEEE and John & Wiley, and which has recently been translated into Chinese. Ashutosh served as the chair for IEEE Princeton/Central Jersey Section, Industry Relation Chair for Region 1 and MGA, Pre-University Coordinator for IEEE MGA and vice chair of the Education Society Chapter of PCJS. He co-founded the IEEE STEM conference (ISEC) and helped to implement EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) projects in several high schools. Ashutosh is the founding co-chair of the IEEE 5G initiative. He also serves as an IEEE Communications Society Distinguished Lecturer for 2017–2018. Ashutosh served as the general co-chair for the premier IEEE 5G World Forum. He was a recipient of the prestigious 2009 IEEE MGA Leadership award and the 2010 IEEE-USA professional leadership award. Ashutosh obtained his B.S. in electrical engineering from NIT Rourkela, India, an M.S. in computer science from NJIT, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Columbia University under the supervision of Prof. Henning Schulzrinne.

I have had the pleasure of serving as Director of the Industry Outreach Board within ComSoc’s Board of Governors under the leadership of three VPs, namely Stefano Bregni, Rob Fish, and current VP Stefano Galli. I am thankful to Khaled Letaief, current IEEE ComSoc president, for giving me an opportunity to write an article on industry outreach activities within ComSoc and how we are embracing industry’s interest around the world. Currently, the Industry Outreach Board (IOB) is one of the four boards under the Industry Standards Activities Council currently chaired by Stefano Galli, namely the Standards Development Board, the Standardization Programs Development Board, the Industry Outreach Board, and the Industry Communities Board. IOB collaborates with the other three boards in promoting industry outreach. Currently, IOB has 11 voting members and five non-voting members. The IOB has several sub-committees to look after chapter engagement, summit management, webinars, startup engagement, speaker engagement, marketing, communication, and metrics. More details and activities about IOB can be found at http://iob.boards.comsoc.org/. During these past five years as Industry Outreach Director, I have utilized some of my past experience as IEEE Region 1 and MGA Industry Relation Coordinator and have worked with my fellow volunteers and ComSoc staff to do industry outreach worldwide. IEEE ComSoc has worked with other societies (e.g., MTT, VTS, APS, Future Networks Initiative) and organizational units (e.g., TIA, PTC) to expand its industry outreach. In this article, I provide some of the industry outreach activities that IOB has accomplished so far and some of the strategic activities that IOB plans to implement in the coming years.

Since its inception in 1884, IEEE has catered to the needs of industry, academia, government, and regulators all around the world. Many of the technological innovations, standards, and contributions to humanity were made possible by the industry community at large in collaboration with the academic community. Despite the active role played by the industry community for various technology advancements in the past, we have seen a steady decline in industry membership within IEEE over the years. A recent survey conducted by MGA shows that industry membership has declined from 52 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2016. Realizing the decline in members from industry, several IEEE Organizational Units have been working to develop ways to come up with strategic plans to engage industry. The IEEE Regional Activities Board (RAB) did setup industry activities that were revived in 2008 with the introduction of an Industry Liaison within IEEE Region 1 and subsequently MGA. I had the pleasure of serving as Industry Liaison for both IEEE Region 1 and MGA from 2008 to 2012 under the leadership of Howard Michel and Barry Shoop. During those four years, we organized Industry Days around the world, with the first one organized at Telcordia Applied Research in Piscataway in February 2009 coinciding with the 125th anniversary of IEEE. Soon after that event there were many more Industry Days organized in various other parts of the world. IEEE MGA collaborated with the IEEE Communications Society to hold the first of its kind Industry Day in Bangalore on March 9–10, 2011 that attracted more than 700 participants from around the country. Many related materials from these industry events can be found at www.ieee-industry.org. Realizing the importance of industry engagement, John Day from MGA and I organized a few panels and seminars focused on IEEE’s roles and responsibilities for industry engagement during the IEEE section congress in San Francisco in 2011. At the same time many individual societies within IEEE were trying to organize events to encourage industry participation by encouraging industry related tracks, industry summits, etc. The IEEE Communications Society recognized this need of the hour and quickly started to take advantage of industry interaction in various ways. As a first step, ComSoc introduced Industry Forum programs at its flagship conferences, namely ICC and Globecom, in 2003. The Society has continued to hold this forum since then. As a result of this initiative, we were able to see more industry participation by way of panels, keynote talks, industry demos and exhibitions, etc. Most recently, IEEE has formed a new committee called the Industry Engagement Committee (IEC) in order to engage with industry at large. More details about IEC can be found at the following link: https://www.ieee.org/about/industry/introduction.html. Similarly, since 2015 IEEE has reached out to the entrepreneur community by way of a series of N3XT events (https://entrepreneurship.ieee.org/about-n3xt/). The IEEE Communications Society collaborated with N3XT in November 2015 in Toronto.

Before ComSoc ventured into the industry outreach initiative, the IOB did re-assess industry engagement. Re-assessing industry engagement includes considering the following key points.

  • How does collaboration with IEEE and ComSoc advance the mission, goals, and values of industry?
  • How do we use an industry perspective in packaging engagement opportunities with IEEE and ComSoc?
  • How would industry measure success?

In order to embrace industry’s interests and objectives, one needs to look into where industry’s interests and objectives intersect with that of IEEE. For example, industry is always interested in employee development by: recruiting and retaining skilled employees; increasing technical proficiency; and improving ‘soft’ and leadership skills. Industry is interested in market development by way of recruiting and retaining skilled employees, increasing technical proficiency and making a profit. Last but not the least, industries always look for public goodwill, by way of supporting the local community, assisting government initiatives and contributing to philanthropic causes. If we need to integrate IEEE and ComSoc’s objectives with industry’s objectives, then we could find some common ground here, such as member development, market development, and volunteer development. Market development includes: increasing technical proficiency; improving ‘soft’ and leadership skills; providing professional recognition; and encouraging service to the public. Market development includes expanding IEEE brand awareness in technical fields of interest and recruiting and retaining members. Volunteer development includes recruiting and retaining talented individuals to lead IEEE and fulfilling IEEE’s mission to the public.

SWOT Analysis for Industry Outreach

In order to find out the best current practices for industry engagement, here is a SWOT analysis that was discussed during IEEE section congress in San Francisco during 2011.

Strength of IEEE: Here are the strengths of IEEE that will help us to accelerate industry outreach:

  • Accessible and affordable to engineers.
  • Digital library is a valuable technical resource.
  • More relevant to research engineers than to commercial industry.
  • It is global.
  • Creator and owner of international standards.
  • Opportunity to co-operate with other standards bodies to create products.
  • Forum and global initiator of discussion and debate on relevant issues.
  • Professional community to excite, motivate and energize action.
  • U.S. centricity provides access and awareness of U.S. technology development.

Perceived Weaknesses: Here are the perceived weaknesses that may act as hurdles to achieve the objective.

  • How to track down industry related content/journals.
  • Insufficient industry relevant publications, particularly extracts.
  • Too much academic dominance.
  • Irrelevant to industry; must rebalance toward industry.
  • Must increase industrial content in conferences (e.g., product development, analyses results).
  • IEEE Copyright requirement is draconian and not acceptable to industry, who will not relinquish to IEEE IPR.
  • U.S. centric.

Opportunities: Here are the opportunities presented before us that we can take advantage of while strengthening industry outreach.

  • To create professional and vocational qualification and recognition.
  • Opportunities for individuals and companies to gain international recognition.
  • To provide industry relevant reviews of articles.
  • To identify problems and issues to be tackled.
  • To provide/facilitate industry experience for students.
  • To encourage young people into engineering.
  • Create IEEE STEM clubs to involve school children.
  • Create IEEE mentoring for professional development.
  • IEEE sponsored industry lectures and visits to schools and universities.
  • To help develop engineers to compete with global competition threats.
  • Provide six-month free subscription.
  • To get inputs of “why” and “why not” from IEEE newcomers to the industry.
  • Actively recruit for IEEE at industry sites.
  • Create global job opportunities.
  • Demonstrate that IEEE is special and desirable to join.

Threats: Here are a few threats that act as hindrances and need to be dealt with to counter the threats.

  • Industry people are too busy.
  • Industry people have to be at their workplace and not at conferences.
  • Industry requires immediate and short-term returns.
  • IEEE could become irrelevant to industry.

Implementation Plan

Based on this SWOT analysis, IEEE ComSoc has developed an implementation plan to strengthen its industry outreach. The overall implementation plan can primarily be categorized into three areas: tools and resources; peer-to-peer collaboration; and reporting/evaluation. Tools and resources would include an industry-relations volunteer support portal, manual, developing industry-focused messaging and promotional fliers and brochures. Peer-to-peer collaboration will include items such as creating a committee charter, dedicated e-mail alias such as an “industry relations alert-all,” assembling the industry relations volunteer team worldwide, establishing virtual collaboration tools, and scheduling periodic webcasts. Finally, as part of reporting and evaluation, it is important to develop a strategy and operations progress report and disseminate it periodically to the entire industry-relations team worldwide. Understanding the importance of industry engagement, the IEEE Communications Society’s Industry Standards Council has started industry outreach initiative to engage more industry members in various ways. These activities can be categorized into short-term, mid-term and long-term plans.

As part of short-term plans for industry outreach activities, ComSoc has recently developed a strategic framework based on the principles that embrace industry’s interests and priorities while integrating IEEE’s and ComSoc’s objectives. In order to engage industry members with high value and innovative technologies, ComSoc has been holding a series of high impact one-day summits in emerging technology areas (e.g., SDN/ NFV, 5G, IoT, Big Data, and Cybersecurity) around the world. The first 5G summit took place on May 26, 2015 at Princeton University with about 350 attendees. IEEE.TV did the recording of all the talks. Since then, ComSoc has organized 42 5G summits around the world as of September 2018, that have attracted more than 5000 attendees, including both onsite and live-streaming attendees. These summits have hosted more than 400 industry speakers, panelists, and experts from all over the world. These summits have been made possible thanks to many volunteer communities around the world and wonderful help from ComSoc staff. Details of these summits including links to presentation materials and recordings are available at www.5gsummit.org. IEEE.TV has also archived the recordings. ComSoc strongly believes in “global means doing locally everywhere.” By having these industry summits locally, it helps to attract the local industry community who otherwise cannot attend global events due to cost and other distance logistics. These summits have also provided a platform where industry practitioners, the academic community, government, regulators and the student community can come together for potential collaboration opportunities. During the IEEE Section congress in 2017 at Sydney, ComSoc presented an Ignite Talk on 5G Summits and its industry outreach activity to involve local chapters in industry engagement.

As a follow-up to the 5G summits, in 2016 ComSoc took the initiative to form a multi-society sponsored initiative called the IEEE 5G Initiative (www.5g.ieee.org) to help promote 5G evolution around the world in a very neutral and open environment. Since 5G involves multiple technology areas and takes a multi-layer approach, this initiative formed a steering committee by including volunteers and experts from many relevant societies within IEEE. The main charter of this initiative is to discuss various issues, a roadmap, challenges, and deployment related to 5G, develop working groups in various areas such as mmWave, security, mobile edge cloud, Tactile Internet, resilience, end-to-end latency, mobility optimization, applications, network architecture, MIMO, satellite, testbed, gigabit service enablement, and sensing, that are crucial to 5G. Each of these working groups was tasked with deliverables such as publications, education, training, conferences, testbeds, and standards that will help accelerate 5G development. This unique initiative will be all inclusive and will provide an opportunity to work with industry leaders and experts from all over the world to help IEEE in its efforts toward 5G and beyond evolution. Specifically, as part of the 5G initiative, ComSoc has started a multi-faceted approach in order to bring industry professionals, researchers, practitioners and academicians onto the same platform. This initiative has recently been renamed the IEEE Future Networks Initiative (www.futurenetworks.org) to focus on network technologies beyond 5G.

Following the successful 5G Summits in order to engage industry from various other verticals and address membership growth, ComSoc’s Industry Outreach Board has developed a new summit framework. In order to make it easier and more flexible for local volunteers to organize these summits locally, IOB has come up with the following three models for organizing summits locally around the world. IOB is also in the process of reaching out to all 220 ComSoc chapters and has been appointing Industry Representatives for ComSoc chapters who can help promote industry outreach in the local areas. Brief descriptions of these three models are given below. Any specific ComSoc chapter, local organization, or other professional organizations can pick one of the models to collaborate and organize summits. More details about chapter responsibilities and industry responsibilities are available at the website.

Summit Model A: Model A is based on financial co-sponsorship, and requires a commitment from a chapter to hold no fewer than three summits in a 12-month period. For this model, the chapter agrees that any non-member attendee of two consecutive summits will be required to join ComSoc in order to attend subsequent summits or be denied the ability to register for the third summit or will be allowed to register for part of the summit program. Chapters also agree to have ComSoc be a financial co-sponsor for the summit with a net-revenue split. No less than 50 percent of net revenue goes to ComSoc, and any loss is borne at the same percentage share as a net-revenue split would be. Prices are set according to market rates and are typically much lower for ComSoc members to encourage membership. The Industry and Standards Activities Council subsidizes the difference between the discounted ComSoc member admission and market rate via a grant to the chapter, and the Industry Outreach Board selects chapters to participate in this model. The local chapter and ComSoc IOB work closely to make these summits as success.

Summit Model B: Model B covers single summits organized by chapters that wish to charge below-market rates to all attendees, or charge no admission. In this model expenses are covered from local chapter funding, university funding or local sponsorship. ComSoc becomes a technical co-sponsor of the event. In some cases, the Industry Standards Council may still offer some funding to reduce the registration cost of ComSoc members, but would expect membership engagement efforts from the concerned chapters. In this model, ComSoc helps with the marketing of the event.

Summit Model C: Model C covers single summits organized by ComSoc and non-chapter partners, such as the 5G Summit at Connectivity Jam (with the Telecommunications Industry Association), the 5G Summit at IMS (with MTT), the Connected and Automated Vehicle Summit (with VTS), and the Dresden Summit (with TU Dresden) or any other University. In this model, ComSoc commits staff and volunteer time and effort in exchange for a percentage of net revenue. ComSoc also shares the financial risk with partners under this model, with details spelled out in an MoU or Commercial Services Agreement. In all these events, IOB will work with the organizing committee of the summits and set the timeline leading to the event. While our current focus is to develop a new summit framework model and implement it to promote industry engagement and membership engagement, ComSoc has developed a plan for long-term industry outreach. I have outlined a few of these long term goals below.

Long Term Strategic Industry Outreach Plans

While our current focus is to develop a new summit framework model and implement it to promote industry engagement and membership engagement, ComSoc has developed a plan for long-term industry outreach. I have outlined a few of these long term goals below.

Future Skillset Workshops: Industry continues to need a trained workforce with new types of technology skills who can help them. These include emerging technologies such as SDN/ NFV, 5G, Big Data, cyber security, etc. The Industry Outreach Board plans to have Future Skills Set seminars at universities and will invite the CEOs of local industry. During this full-day event, the faculty, students and researchers of the university will get a chance to speak one-on-one with industry leaders to understand their needs and will highlight the university’s resources. This will help the academic institutions to structure their course curriculum accordingly so that the students, upon graduation, are ready to join the workforce without any training. IEEE ComSoc can act as a facilitator for both the industry community and academic community.

Industry Startup Engagement: ComSoc can play a significant role to help entrepreneurs by getting them involved in some of the emerging technology areas where ComSoc has taken a lead such as SDN, NFV, 5G, IOT, and cybersecurity. In that respect, ComSoc did partner with IEEE Young Professionals for the N3XT 40 5G summits, ComSoc has also tried to include speakers from many start-ups. The start-up community can utilize IEEE/Com- Soc’s vast resources. ComSoc plans to have focused panels and sessions for the start-ups in every conference and summit. We did a similar thing at the IEEE 5G World Forum by embedding the Startup Forum as part of the conference. In order to bolster engagement with the start-up community, ComSoc would like to follow a model similar to N3XT (https://entrepreneurship.ieee.org/archive/).

Distinguished Lecture (DL) Engagement for Industry Outreach: IOB has reached out to the ComSoc DL coordinator and the ComSoc DLs to serve as ambassadors and do industry outreach as the DLs continue with their DL tours. With the help of ComSoc IEEE-SA staff, we have developed a set of slides and tools for industry professionals that can be used by DLs. At the same time, the ComSoc IOB is planning to engage the Distinguished Lecturers for various industry summits that are being planned based on the summit framework. This will be a win-win situation for both ComSoc and industry as industry can gain access to some of the best technical resources easily.

Connecting with Industry Leaders and Executives: IOB is in the process of reaching out to C level executives of different industry verticals to introduce IEEE’s industry initiatives and advantages to engage with industry members. As part of this initiative, IOB plans to hold ‘Lunch N Learn’ lessons at this industry location to propagate. IOB’s Chapter Engagement Sub-Committee continues to develop Industry tools as Best Current Practice and has planned webinars with the chapter chairs and section chairs.

Communications Standards Publications: During Rob Fish’s tenure, IEEE Communications Magazine developed a new standards supplement meant for industry professionals. The supplement was eventually spun off into a new stand-alone magazine, IEEE Communications Standards Magazine. This new magazine provides a venue of global reach for high quality communications and networking standards-related content. It represents the culmination of a multiyear effort to create a publication dedicated to the needs of standards professionals and those for whom communications and networking standards are a vital concern. IOB can use this standards magazine as a resource to reach out to the industry at large and to counter the perceived belief that IEEE publications are meant for academic only.

Collaboration with Other OUs’ Industry Organizations: Com- Soc has been signing MOUs with other industry organizations such as PTC, TIA, AFCEA to hold collaborative events for the benefit of the industry. As an example, in 2017 ComSoc organized a 5G summit during TIA’s Connectivity JAM. Similarly, ComSoc has collaborated with the VTS and MTT societies and the IEEE Future Networks Initiative to organize successful 5G summits at various flagship conferences. IOB will continue to collaborate with sister societies and other industry organizations to extend its reach with the industry community.

Marketing: Marketing is very important to reach out to the industry community to make them aware of different activities and resources. IOB has been collaborating with the marketing committee within ComSoc to enhance pre- and post-event marketing techniques and use that to engage the industry further. These include several techniques such as web page enhancement, reaching out to industry before the event, e-mail (say thank you, include membership message, share links to photos/ videos, provide surveys to get feedback and gather testimonials for future events); social (event recap with video links if applicable), website (event recap with video links if applicable; determine how many members were gained as result of summit registration (via reg codes, on-site notations); gather and report survey results (NLT 30 days after); can assist in shaping future summits; collect receipts; determine P&L (NLT six weeks after); and volunteer recruitment/engagement metrics.

Metrics of Success for Industry Engagement: While ComSoc has been taking many measures to engage industry, it is important to have metrics of success to determine how effective this industry engagement has been and improve it further based on the feedback. Following are some of the key metrics that can be thought of as success factors.

  • Industry Participation: This metric is measurable and shows the number of industries that participate in the event, and is largely dependent on the marketing database, access to industry members and industry outreach by the local organizing committee.
  • Industry Engagement: This metric shows how many more industries participate in the subsequent events organized by the chapters. To a large extent this is dependent on the effort of the local chapter for industry outreach. While ComSoc IOB helps the local chapters organize the industry events, local chapters play a critical role in engaging with local industry. The industry representatives from various chapters can act as liaisons between these local chapters and ComSoc HQ.
  • Membership Drive: Membership growth is an important metric for industry outreach. The new summit framework will provide incentive to ComSoc members such as reduced registration fees or free registration for multiple summits in the same region, thereby promoting ComSoc membership. This is measurable by figuring out how many non-member attendees become members when they come to subsequent meetings. However, this depends on a good membership database that can be searched easily, and local chapter representatives to a large extent. IOB will work with ComSoc IT and Marketing staff to enhance this effort.
  • Community Engagement: It is important to measure the types of industry verticals IOB can connect with as part of industry outreach. Hence, it is important to have these summits focus on various industry verticals such as telecom, health, IOT, security, financial, connected cars, smart grids, intelligent transportation systems, etc.
  • Financial Benefit: While money is not the only metric to measure success, it is helpful. ComSoc will make a tradeoff between registration fees, member incentives, and member discounts to engage more industry members and increase membership growth. This is a strategic approach to reduce fees and not go after financial benefit only, but have a tradeoff to increase membership and industry engagement instead.
  • Chapter and Volunteer Engagement: IEEE thrives on volunteer engagement and volunteer growth. Volunteers are our resources. Hence, it would be a good way to measure how successfully ComSoc can involve the chapters through industry outreach and gain new volunteers from the industry community.

The Industry Outreach Board within ComSoc will continue to engage the industry and startup communities throughout the world and will continue to implement the short-term, mid-term and long-term plans with the help from its volunteer community and staff. We hope that through these industry engagement efforts, ComSoc can help strengthen the bridge between IEEE and the industry community, which will eventually help serve the objectives of the industry at large, ComSoc, and IEEE as a whole.

If you are interested in getting involved with ComSoc’s industry outreach efforts, please get in touch with Ashutosh Dutta, the Industry Outreach Director, at ashutosh.dutta@ieee.org