Internet of Things welcomes a new Research Chair

Professor Thinus Booysen is the Faculty’s newly appointed Research Chair of the Internet of Things (IoT) – a joint position within the Electrical & Electronic Engineering and Industrial Engineering departments. The Internet of Things encompasses how digital technology and connectivity observe, link, and affect the world around us. It is about connecting many things that previously operated individually. “These connections, which include monitoring and control, open opportunities for a plethora of improvements in the way we use and manage the many things around us. For example, with the advent of IoT, we can monitor the energy efficiency of every electric vehicle on the road. But where it gets really interesting is when we add remote control to the remote metering. This enables us to optimise the energy usage of electric vehicle charging for a household, neighbourhood, city, or the whole country,” explains Prof Booysen.

The Faculty’s use of IoT applies to many areas, focusing on industry partnerships and research with significant social or commercial impact. As the Research Chair, Prof Booysen will spearhead these efforts – facilitating collaborations between research groups at Stellenbosch University that use connected technologies to solve real-world problems.

Prof Booysen has been with Stellenbosch University since 2009. His research involves the Internet of Things, focusing on smart water and electricity metering and intelligent transport systems. Aside from his work as an academic, Prof Booysen is also the Founding Director of BridgIoT and GreenX Engineering, a partner in the Stellenbosch Smart Mobility Lab, Director of the MTN Mobile Intelligence Lab and a Senior Member of the IEEE and Institution of Engineering Technology (MIET). Additionally, Prof Booysen has over ten years of international experience in the aerospace and automotive industries, working with leading companies such as SunSpace, Rolls-Royce, Boeing, BMW, and Jaguar Land Rover.

Prof Booysen’s various involvements give him a unique set of transferrable skills and multi-disciplinary knowledge, perfectly aligned with the nature of IoT. “The net cast by the Internet of Things is perfectly wide to capture my very narrow attention span and abundantly wide field of interest. Moreover, as a control freak and slave to efficiency, frugality, and environmental protection, overseeing so many things that affect all of these matches my pathology well,” says Prof Booysen.

Since welcoming Prof Booysen as Research Chair, the IoT has introduced several new projects. One such exciting project involves smart greenhouse tunnels, done in conjunction with the Faculty of Agri-Sciences. “We are developing a generic and modular hardware and software platform to support their experiments and industrial applications. This includes automation, scheduling, high-resolution telemetry and digital twins,” shares Prof Booysen. Other current undertakings include working on a digital twin for schools that monitors air quality, light quality, energy usage, and air conditioners’ impact. Lastly, the team is also working on equipping an electric minibus taxi with smart sensing, cashless payment, and driver behaviour monitoring.

Sharing his enjoyment of the new position, Prof Booysen highlights that working with a broad spectrum of incredibly gifted academics is wildly exhilarating. “Not a day goes by in which I do not learn something. There is something very special about learning so many things from many disciplines. I also enjoy being able to transfer some of the existing solutions into new fields, making the lives of our collaborators a bit simpler and more efficient,” says Prof Booysen.

Furthering inter-disciplinary research is a key objective for the Faculty, and the IoT plays a vital role in this regard. It holds tremendous potential for both the industry and research support.

Photograph: Professor Thinus Booysen

Invitation: Prof Thinus Booysen is delivering his Professorial Inaugural Lecture on 10 May 2022 @ 17:30.
                 Topic: Engineering for Africa: Our Internet of Things
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