This year’s International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) world congress, which will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from August 24 to 28, will have as its theme ways in which control and automation can serve humankind, says the IFAC organising committee.
The congress aims to promote dialogue and debate in the automatic control profession, while promoting the development of the profession in the wider engineering community as well as other relevant communities.
This is the first time that the congress, which is held every three years, will be held in Africa, although several IFAC workshops and symposia have been held on the continent. The first congress was held in Moscow, Russia, in 1960, and the most recent one was hosted in Milan, Italy, in 2011.
Organising committee cochairperson Professor Edward Boje tells Engineering News that more than 2 000 presentations, spanning about 25 parallel sessions, have been scheduled.
“There will be a strong focus on the control of the generation and distribution of electrical power, including the integration of renewable-energy sources and the idea of the smart grid. Swiss power and automation technology group ABB corporate research division global programme manager for grid automation Dr Ernst Scholtz will deliver a plenary lecture on this,” he explains.
A smart grid is a modernised electricity grid that uses digital information and communication technology – such as computer-based remote control and automation – to gather and act on information.
IFAC president Professor Ian Craig adds that attendees, who are mostly academics representing universities worldwide, as well as industry representatives and other users and vendors of automatic control technology, will discuss and present, including exhibits, on the ways in which the sector has advanced over the years.
“Automatic control can play and is playing a significant role in providing technologies that assist humankind in living [more comfortable] lives on the planet. It is significant . . . that the technical area with the most contributions at the Cape Town congress is power and energy systems,” he explains.
Craig highlights that challenges facing the automation sector and its contribution to human development will also be considered at the conference.
“For instance, automatic feedback control is often referred to as a hidden technology as it is not easily visible to the layperson. It is, therefore, not well understood by the general public and, hence, does not always get the attention and credit it deserves. The fact is that the natural and engineering world cannot function without feedback.
“For example, in the engineering world, we have autopilots and cruise controllers, while in the natural world, we have homeostasis – the control of body temperature and blood glucose levels in living organisms. “This congress will, among other aspects, discuss how complex feedback mechanisms in nature and in the engineering world can be modelled, and how important variables in such systems can be manipulated to achieve a [specific] goal,” Craig.