Engineering for Humanity

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Leah Jamieson, 2007 President, IEEEEngineering and humanity? Some might say that the two words don’t belong in the same sentence. Many outside the engineering profession do not think of engineering as a “caring” profession dedicated to creating positive effect for society and the global environment. What’s happening between the IEEE and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is showing how the commitment of engineers can be directed toward improving our lives and those of our children and future generations. IEEE members around the globe are using their skills to support GEO’s development of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS. In doing so, they are tying engineering to basic needs of humankind – food, water, shelter, and security.

IEEE’s involvement in such an end-to-end effort as GEOSS should not come as a surprise. Engineering and world progress are intimately connected, reaching back to the times of Greece and before. Whether it is the water in the Roman aqueducts or the cables and radio links that bring the internet and its communications to any point on the globe, engineers use their talents to address key issues and advancements for society.

The core purpose of IEEE is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. Implied in this benefit is the recognition of the importance to maintain healthy symbiotic relationship with Earth’s species and environment. For these reasons, volunteers from IEEE are making vital contributions to GEOSS. GEOSS is an information source, and supporting its implementation and operation is a key example of how our engineers are devoted to addressing some of the world’s great problems.

IEEE involvement in the GEO process has already shown important results. Our members constitute one of the core groups within GEO fostering development of interoperability among GEOSS components. For GEOSS, interoperability means the ability to translate among system languages and ultimately to a natural language that everyone can understand – it could be called creating an Earth information “Rosetta Stone.” The result is giving those who are not necessarily technically trained the tools for informed decision making. IEEE is an ideal participant for this activity, based on its world-renowned reputation as a standards organization, its transnational character and its broad range of engineering skills, especially in the area of information technology.

Our organization is committed to support GEO and its goal to develop this important global information base for both decision makers and individuals. But our commitment stems from an element more important than any organizational decision: it is the result of our passion for connecting engineering with Society’s well being. This is an interest in all things constructive, and an important means of finding one’s balance in life. It’s engineering for humanity.

Leah Jamieson, 2007 President, IEEE