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Duke Energy on Analytics and the Internet of Things

It’s been a long time since 2003 when the concept of the Internet of Things was first proposed by U. of Cambridge Auto-ID Laboratory.  At the time, Dr. Amro M. Farid, now head of the Laboratory for Intelligent Integrated Networks of Engineering Systems, was a doctoral student investigating how RFID technology enabled intelligent products within reconfigurable manufacturing systems.  The Internet of Things was being applied primarily in the manufacturing and supply chain domain.

Since then, the Internet of Things concept has taken hold not just in manufacturing systems and supply chains but nearly every industrial system domain including energy.    Every “thing” or “device” has the potential to be connected via an intelligent sensor so as to make decisions — be they centralized within an operations control center — or distributed amongst artificially intelligent multi-agent systems.   The Internet of Things concept has the potential to fundamentally transform industrial systems.

Have a look at Duke Energy’s take on the Internet of Things:

The LIINES is proud to have been working in this area since its inception and continue to do so.  More information on our research can be found on the LIINES website.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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ESM 616: Techno-Economic Analyses in Power System Operations

To start off the new semester, we have just developed a page for the ESM 616 Techno-Economic Analyses in Power System Operations class.  The subject seeks to prepare students for the new world of “smart grid” operations.  It specifically seeks to contrast conventional paradigms of power system operations and control with those that will appear in the coming decades.   Emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary, holistic approaches founded upon industrial application and mathematical rigor.  See the LIINES Blog Keywords:  ADWEA — Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority, CIGRE, Control Systems Engineering, DEWA — Dubai Water & Electricity Authority, Dynamic Systems Modeling, Enterprise Control, Graph Theory, IEEE, IEEE CSS, Large Complex Systems, Model-Based Systems Engineering, Operations Research, Power System Economics

Good luck to all as we kick off the Spring Semester.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Dr. Amro M. Farid contributes to Published 2015 UAE State of Energy Report

Following on the heals of the 2015 UAE State of the Green Economy Report,  we, at the LIINES, are happy to announce the release of the 2015 UAE State of Energy Report.  It is the premier benchmark publication for the nation’s energy sector.  This annual report is published by the UAE Ministry of Energy, and is created in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Dubai Carbon. The work opens with states from his highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan President of the United Arab Emirates, his highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, his excellency Ban Ki-Moon Secretary-General of the United Nations, his excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar, his excellency Dr. Rashid Ahmad bin Fahad Minister of Environment and Water, his excellency Saeed Mohammed al Tayer Vice Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, his excellency Dr. Matar Hamed Al Neyadi Undersecretary of the UAE Ministry of Energy. Also in the report, Dr. Amro M. Farid has authored  “Key Technical Challenges to Electric Vehicle Adoption in the UAE”.  It summarizes many of the conclusions from our transportation electrification research and mentioned in our previous post. The report also includes the work of LIINES alumna Reshma Francy.  She has co-authored two articles. “What are GHG Emission Estimation Methodologies?”  and “Energy Planning, Analysis and Policy Making around GHG Emissions”. For further information on how the LIINES continues to produce energy research relevant to the UAE landscape can be found on the LIINES publication page:   http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu WhiteLogo2 LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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ESM 501 Systems Architecture

To start off the new semester, we have just developed a page for the ESM 501 System Architecture class.  The subject addresses one of the first stages of system design, analysis and engineering.  Emphasis is placed on engineering systems which include technical, economic and social aspects.  This blog does often discuss subjects related to systems architecture.  See the LIINES Blog Keywords:  Axiomatic Design, Axiomatic Design for Large Flexible Systems, Design Methodologies, Enterprise Control, Graph Theory, Life Cycle Properties, Model-Based Systems Engineering, Socio-Techno-Economic Systems, and SysML.

Additionally, a new page has been added to overview our other taught courses.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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LIINES Research Opportunities

As the Fall 2014 academic semester begins, graduate students begin to shop for classes and thesis research topics.  To help guide junior researchers to the research opportunities at the LIINES, we have posted a new research opportunities page.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Mendeley @ the LIINES

Reference management is a key competence in any research group or laboratory.   Think of a research workflow.

  1. Get papers
  2. Get paper reference information
  3. Read them from anywhere in the world.  Take notes.
  4. Share them with colleagues
  5. Do the research – referring to papers as required.
  6. Cite the papers easily in any document preparation system.
  7. Build the reference list easily and accurately.
  8. Be ready to change the reference list in subsequent revisions.
Reference management supports all steps of the research flow and can save dozens of hours for any given paper.  This compounds with the numbers of papers that are produced every year and the number of researchers and collaborators with whom you work.  Despite the associated controversies  journal editors and academic departments will continue to increasingly use bibliometric analysis in key decisions.  Therefore, systematic approaches to reference management is even more necessary.
At the LIINES, we use Mendeley in 2011 after a migration from EndNote.  While EndNote had been the default reference management software for many years, it did have several key disadvantages which others have also noted.
  1. Cost:  Endnote required a license for every LIINES researcher at a relatively hefty price tag.  Sharing with collaborators was an every harder proposition.  Furthermore, yearly upgrade licenses was an even tougher pill to swallow.
  2. PDF Organization:  Managing the filesystem associated with PDF files of all the references is a big challenge.  EndNote did not provide a headache-free solution to this.  Even worse, an EndNote database could lose links to PDF files making it quite difficult to find again.
  3. Collaboration & Sharing:  The above challenges were compounded when it came to share Endnote Libraries across the LIINES.  Endnote sharing through Dropbox across multiple operating systems can get quite hairy!
  4. Proprietary Platform & Database:  When reference databases get large, one increasingly becomes interested in automating tasks for its management.   While EndNote does provide plenty of built in automated functionality, the power user ultimately does need to manage records automatically.
Of course, when migrating from one reference management system to another, it is important to make an educated well-researched decision.  The folks at PhdOnTrack.net have provided an excellent introduction.  The University of Rhode Island library has made a comparison of leading options, while Wikipedia provide a comprehensive comparison
Ultimately, Mendeley did come out on top @ the LIINES for a number of reasons.
  1. Cost:  The Mendeley desktop application is free!  This meant that every LIINES researcher could work individually without paying a penny.  That said, the associated cost was in the cloud-based monthly data storage plan.   While this was a recurring cost, Mendeley’s “Solar System”, “Milky Way”, and “Big Bang” subscription plans were very much priced reasonably.   Since Elsevier’s purchase of Mendeley, the cost of new plans has risen; perhaps out of reach for many.  Fortunately, with a little computer savvy one could also use other cloud-based storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive to easily store and share reference libraries.  Alternatively, many institutions including MIT have recognized the need to provide a uniform platform for their researchers and so have purchased Mendeley Institutional Edition.
  2. PDF Organization:  Probably one of Mendeley’s strongest features is its ability to automatically name and organize PDF files based upon key reference information such as Author Name, Year, and Title.  This became a headache free solution.
  3. Collaboration & Sharing:  Another real strength of Mendeley’s is its recognition of Web 2.0 and social media.   Mendeley databases are easily shared and synchronized between multiple computers, operating systems, tablets, smart phones, and users in a seamless way.   For the LIINES, this meant native support for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android for dozens of researchers across the world.
  4. Standard Database:  Finally, Mendeley’s database is written in SQL.  This meant that for the advanced database programmer, Mendeley offers the potential to develop automated scripts to manage reference data.  This particular strength overcomes some of the feature limitations within the Mendeley desktop application itself.
And yet, the migration to Mendeley was not without its disadvantages.
  1. Integration with LatTeX/BibTex:  Mendeley is able to create and maintain an automatically synced BibTeX database file.  However, it provides no user control to the highly important Citation Key!  In the course of regular use, Mendeley can change these citation keys which will then cause LaTeX citation links to break in your document.  Make sure to keep backups of your BibTeX database unless you want to redo all the links!
  2. PDF File Import:  The jury is still out on this one. Mendeley can directly import PDF files.  It will scan the PDF for reference information and insert it into the database.  For many files of standard format (e.g. IEEE, Elsevier journals), it does this accurately.  However, for many others, it creates lots of errors; forcing the researcher to manually correct the information.  At the LIINES, we recommend going to established online reference databases (IEEE XploreScienceDirectCompendex & Google Scholar  to download the associated .ris or .bib files instead.
  3. Batched PDF Import:  Many researchers new to reference management have troves of organized pdf files.  Others are migrating to Mendeley.  Beware that a batch PDF import can create lots of duplicates in the Mendeley database!
  4. Duplicates Management:  Mendeley desktop does provide a “Check for Duplicates” feature but in then requires manual deletion of these duplicates.  For large databases, this can be very time consuming.
  5. Association with Elsevier:  Finally, some academics have chosen to boycott Elsevier’s service on ethical grounds.  Others distinguish Mendeley from its parent company, and then there is official Mendeley perspective from William Gunn   While the LIINES does not participate in this boycott, we recognize its existence out of academic respect and encourage awareness amongst our readership.  Ultimately, one must recognize that Mendeley is now a fully commercial product and service.  For those that maintain reservations, many highly functional, free and open-source reference management solutions continue to exist.
We hope to return to some of these weakness in coming blog posts.
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IEEE Statement on Appropriate use of Bibliometric Indicators

The use of bibliometric analysis has become an increasing part of scientific publishing today.   While bibliometric analysis has brought about a degree of quantified objectivity, many have raised concerns about the potential pitfalls of their usage.   We refer our LIINES readership to the recent IEEE Statement on the Appropriate use of Bibliometric Indicators.   The associated video can be found below.

 

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Engineering systems as the continued evolution of engineering to real world problems

In a recent blog post entitled:  “Systems Engineering is just plain old Engineering — not more and certainly not less“, the author questions and discusses systems engineering, engineering systems as part of engineering.

Deeper insight is gained by looking at the definition of engineering itself.  One good definition of engineering is:  “Engineering is the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to benefit man.”  In the same book, we find: “Engineering is an art requiring the judgement necessary to adapt knowledge to practical purposes, the imagination to conceive original solutions to problems, and the ability to predict performance and cost of new devices or processes.”  (D. W. Oliver, T. P. Kelliher, and J. G. Keegan, Engineering complex systems with models and objects. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997, pp. 25.)

The real question is whether engineering — as it stands today — does indeed meet these definitions.  Any discipline when analyzed traditionally is two things:  a core of methodological activities and a set of typical applications.   So the question becomes whether these methodological activities are sufficient for the applications; the practical problems that when solved would benefit man.

One challenge of modern engineering is its division into multiple disciplines.  Mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical are but a common few.  Each of these comes with their own core of methodologies and typical applications.   Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult even within engineering itself to apply methodologies from one engineering discipline into another.  It is equally difficult to apply core methodologies in atypical applications.

Coming back to the definition of engineering, some practical problems are simply so big that they require methodological activities from multiple engineering disciplines and in of themselves are the union of multiple typical domains of application.  Here, it is important to recognize the common adage:  “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts“.

And so traditional systems engineering was born shortly after World War II.  Defense applications like jet fighters and satellites clearly draw from mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering.   Astronautical and Aeronautical engineering departments naturally recognize the need for cross-disciplinary activity and have often included the Systems Engineering Handbook within their curricula. Similar trends emerged in nuclear power plants and even highly automated production facilities.

The four research themes at the Laboratory for Intelligent Integrated Networks of Engineering Systems are further examples of this continuing trend.  The energy-water nexus draws heavily from electric power engineering and water resources management.  The electrification of transportation draws heavily from transportation engineering, electric power engineering, and the mechanical engineering of cars and trains.  Smart (power) grids — as cyber-physical systems — recognize that electric power engineering must expand to include new developments from control systems, optimization, signal processing, communications and information technology.  Similarly, reconfigurable manufacturing systems are cyber-physical and integrate similar subjects.

While integrating knowledge from multiple engineering disciplines is helpful, it is insufficient to meet the original definition of engineering as above.  What if the engineering application requires natural resources that are deemed too large by society?  Till today, people ask this of the Big Dig project in Boston.  Another question.  Does the engineering application truly benefit mankind?  We ask this today in the context of nuclear disarmament.  These questions draw heavily from economics, management, political science and ethics.  And they are relatively subjective as compared to the typical methodological activities found in the engineering disciplines.  And yet, it is naive to think that their solution does not require engaged participation of engineers and their disciplines.

These types of questions dominate 21st century problems as compared to those of the 20th century.  In the 20th century, traditional engineering disciplines began from a set of requirements and ended with some product or service as a solution.  These requirements represented the economics, regulations, policies and ethics as an operating box for engineers.   This role, however, is changing.  In the 21st century, engineers no longer take these “requirements” as given but instead have an expanding role of influence. Chief technology officers have increasingly important roles in the innovative success of modern companies.  Government regulators often seek engineers within their ranks.  And many nations are finding engineers within their legislative and executive branches of government.  We’ve moved from a decomposed top-down world to one that is innovative and bottom-up.

It is from this lens that the field of engineering systems finds itself.  It’s still the same engineering definition but the nature of the problem has changed.  This is a good sign.  Engineers are increasingly bringing pervasive solutions to benefit mankind.  As they do, they will increasingly interface with the disciplines devoted to people and society:  the humanities and social sciences.  As that happens, adhering to the definition of engineering will require engineers to converse with these disciplines.  Common definitions and methods are likely to develop as all of these disciplines collectively work to solve mankind’s techno-economic-social problems.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Using Axiomatic Design for the Temporary Housing of Refugees

As we mentioned in a previous blogpost, being a university professor at Masdar Institute sometimes presents opportunities to work on really interesting problems.  One such opportunity arose out of the ESM 501 System Architecture class in which students are encouraged to use Axiomatic Design towards final projects about their ongoing research.  Naturally, when Lindsey Gilbert presented to Prof. Farid the idea of using Axiomatic Design to help house refugees, he became quite interested.

We see many humanitarian crises around the world that sadly generate refugee populations.  Syria, Darfur, Pakistan and the Philippines are but a few trying examples.  The humanitarian challenge of meeting the basic needs of these refugee populations ultimately translates to a design challenge as well.  How can these refugees be quickly sheltered in adequate housing?   Refugee housing — by nature — is temporary.  It must be easily erected in response to the dynamic conditions but also just as easily dismantled to avoid the creation of ghettos long after the news cycle has shifted its spotlight to some other purpose.  But the temporary nature of this housing can not diminish the need for durability.  While the often depicted footage of refugee tents give some protection from the elements, rarely can these “first-responding” structures last for more than week or two.  For refugees, the road to normalcy begins with more solid structures that provide a sense of physical and emotional security — a place from which to literally rebuild.

Lindsey Gilbert’s work used Axiomatic Design to propose temporary housing built up of reconfigurable modules arranged into a product platform.  It also recognized that a good design would have to avoid the “one-size-fits-all” pitfalls of many “first-responding” structures.  At the heart of the concept was a “studio” module serving all of a person’s basic needs.   More advanced modules such as a bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms could be attached with standard interfaces to respond to the customized needs of couples and larger refugee families.  The work was ultimately published in the 2013 International Conference on Axiomatic Design and received an honorable mention for best paper.  The full text can be found through the LIINES website publication page.

Interestingly, Lindsey Gilbert’s work represented one of the first times that Axiomatic Design had been applied to a civil engineering application domain.   Present in the room were the organizers of the 2nd International Workshop on Design in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  Lindsey’s work drew sufficient attention that he was ultimately invited to write a second paper on the application of axiomatic design to civil engineering applications.

As part of his master’s research, Lindsey continues to develop the design of his temporary housing concept and hopes that it will ultimately lead to practical benefits for future migrant populations.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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GAMS Developement @ the LIINES — Practical Implementation Advice on Mac OS X, Linux and Windows

One major disciplinary expertise at the Laboratory for the Intelligent Integrated Networks for Engineering Systems is operations management and research.  Naturally, using optimization techniques in the form of mathematical programming is an essential aspect of this competence.  One really useful software package to allow the straightforward numerical optimization is the General Algebraic Modeling System (GAMS) and it has been used extensively in the smart power grid application domain.  Many researchers in the field also link Matlab to GAMS using the former for data processing and results visualization and the latter as a solver.

The implementations at the LIINES, however, have some challenging implementation demands.  For example, model predictive control problems require the solution of a numerical optimization at every discrete time step simulation evolution.  When Matlab calls GAMS — on the Windows platform — it spawns a new graphical user interface integrated development environment (GUI-IDE) window (and all associated dynamic link libraries).  This slows down simulation tremendously.  Even worse, the Windows OS may not be able to reliably handle these repeated calls leading to a crash of the simulation.  Trust us, when you are many hours into a fully automatic simulation, that’s hardly what you are looking for.

Fortunately, the GAMS version of Linux and Mac OS X does not have a GUI-IDE and runs purely from the command line.  We have found this to be not just faster for simulation but also much more stable when tied to MATLAB.  We highly suggest this approach.

Now some will say, that they need the GAMS GUI-IDE for development.  We agree that this can be useful!  Fortunately, you can have the best of both worlds.  Use the command line native Linux/Mac OS X version for reliable simulation.  In the meantime, a Windows version installed over WINE can be used purely for development.  The GAMS support page provides very clear installation instructions here.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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