Issue 54 : March, 2016
2015 IEEE International Conference on Systems,
Man and Cybernetics Conference Report

The 2015 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics (SMC 2015) was held
at City University of Hong Kong from 9 October to 12 October.  Hong Kong, the Pearl of the East, is
Asia’s premier world city, and its culture represents a fusion of East and West.  The main
conference venue was the recently completed Academic 3 building at the University. With its
modern appearance that evokes the image of a ship sailing smoothly in the air, and its spacious
interior design which includes a 600-seat lecture theater with state-of-the-art facilities, the new
academic building provided an ideal environment for the SMC 2015 attendees to participate in the
various conference activities, and to interact with their academic peers.

Being the flagship conference of the IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society (SMCS), SMC
is a premier forum featuring an extraordinarily wide coverage of many themes.  These themes are
related to theories and technologies for integrating human intelligence with machine intelligence to
accomplish complex information processing tasks typically present in large and highly automated
systems. The theme chosen for the 2015 conference, “Big Data Analytics for Human-Centric
Systems”, highlights this focus and also echoes the increasing interest in this area in the general
society. As we see ubiquitous presence of sensors making large volumes of data continuously
available, we also see the limitations of known methods to extract actionable insights from such
data in a manner that is timely and tolerant to system imperfections. The conference successfully
engaged the SMC community to address these issues, and to craft new discoveries and
applications that will shape how society views and uses big data.

Technical Program

The presentations in the conference were divided into three main technical tracks focusing on
Systems Science and Engineering, Human-Machine Systems, and Cybernetics respectively.
Within each track there are also many special sessions dedicated to selected topics. The program
was developed from 407 papers selected for oral presentations and 141 for poster presentations.
In terms of the number of papers per track, we had 254 from Cybernetics, 147 from Human-
Machine Systems, and 147 from Systems Science and Engineering.  A total of 582 participants
from 35 countries attended the conference. The technical program was the result of many months
of dedicated work of 949 program committee members and 772 reviewers together with the
Program Co-Chairs.

The program also featured three invited keynote speakers: Jack L. Gallant of UC Berkeley, Piotr
Mirowski of Google DeepMind, Xizhao Wang of the Big Data Institute, Shenzhen University and the
2014 Norbert Wiener Award recipient, Fei-Yue Wang of the National University of Defense
Technology.  Jack Gallant summarized ongoing work in his laboratory that uses a data-driven
system identification approach to reverse-engineer the human brain, which might enable us to
design artificial systems with the same capabilities. He described how remarkable improvements
in the quality of the models and the quality of brain decoding may soon make it possible to create
powerful brain-based computer interfaces based on measurements of covert, internal thought.
Piotr Mirowski spoke on an area of intense research in big data analysis - understanding human
language in the presence of web-scale text corpora and sensory data.  Natural language provides a
key link between human and machine that can bring human-machine interaction to the next level.
Exciting new products with these capabilities are just beginning to emerge in the market place.
Xizhao Wang discussed some key and timely issues of learning from big data with uncertainty,
focusing on the impact of handling uncertainty on model simplification. He elaborated on various
ways in which representing, processing and interpretation of uncertainty impact the performance of
learning from big data.  Fei-Yue Wang, the recipient of the 2014 Norbert Wiener Award, shared his
personal journey of parallel cybernetics in the three worlds of cyber-social-physical systems under
the philosophical influence of Norbert Wiener and Karl Popper.

The three tutorials focused on topics of timely interest, including the applications of brain-machine
interfaces, the design and evaluation of shared control systems, and the introduction of the
adversarial machine learning framework.  Two webinars, with one focusing on resilient
interconnected micro energy grids and the other on cyber-physical cloud systems, were also
presented. In addition, a Workshop on Brain Machine Interface (BMI) Systems was organized, and
its theme this year was “The Human-in-the-Loop: BMI, Haptics, Big Data, and Shared Control”. 
The workshop featured two lectures and three panel discussions. José del R. Millán of Ecole
Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne spoke about the importance of incorporating perceptual
feedback in designing a control strategy for motor neuroprosthetics, and Jack Gallant, our keynote
speaker, discussed how to apply a Bayesian framework to decode brain activity, such that
subjective mental states can be effectively inferred.  The panel discussions focus on important
topics in brain-machine interface, which include how to transfer research results into real-world
applications, how to develop robust and high-performance BMI systems, and how to foster
collaboration among BMI researchers. 

The main SMCS committee meetings, including the technical committee chairs meeting,
publications committee meeting, and the associate editors’ meeting, were held during the
conference.  In addition, a pre-conference Board of Governors meeting was conducted for the first
time through VoIP.  Lunch events were also organized for the technical committee chairs, chapter
chairs, associate editors, and the main SMCS committees.

Social Events

The welcome reception was held at the City Top Restaurant on the evening of 9 October.  The
restaurant commands a superb view of the CityU campus, and the event serves as a great prelude
to the conference.  The attendees enjoyed a wide selection of Chinese and Western food while
they interacted with their peers.

The conference banquet was held on the evening of 11 October at Jade Garden, a famous
restaurant in Hong Kong. To reflect the Eastern tradition of Hong Kong, the banquet started with a
lion dance, and the attendees enjoyed a Chinese music performance by the CityU Chinese
Orchestra during the dinner. The highlight of the event was the award presentation ceremony.  The
awards recognize outstanding contributions to a broad range of SMCS activities, including service
to the Society, local chapter organization, technical committee activity co-ordination, and editorship
service to the Society’s publications.  During the ceremony, the Norbert Wiener Award, which is
the primary research award of SMCS, was presented to Mengchu Zhou, for his fundamental
contributions to the area of Petri net theory and applications to discrete event systems.  This was
followed by the announcement and presentation of the best conference paper award and best
conference student paper award. The complete list of award recipients can be found at the SMCS
Awards web page ( 

The post-conference tour on the afternoon of 12 October featured a visit to the Tian Tan Buddha
and Po Lin Monastery on the Lantau Island.  Sitting at the top of a hill and measuring 34 meters in
height, the Tian Tan Buddha is an impressive sight and attracted a large number of visitors every
year.  Attendees enthusiastically climbed the 268 steps to reach the statue.  They also enjoyed a
walk along the nearby Wisdom Path, which is lined with a series of wooden monuments featuring
Chinese verses, and a visit to the Ngong Ping Village.  The tour concluded the four-day conference
on a high note.

We would like to express our gratitude to all volunteers and participants in making the event a great

Prof. Sam Kwong,
City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, IEEE SMC 2015 General Chair

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