Keynote Speakers

There will be the usual exciting and thought-provoking keynotes. Those that have been finalized include, in no particular order:

Dr Jan-Hendrik Hofmeyr
Distinguished Professor of Biocomplexity and Biochemistry, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, STIAS, University of Stellenbosch

The Complexity of Life
What distinguishes living from non-living entities? This most basic of biological questions has led to a revolution in way we think about systems and complexity. The fundamental property that distinguishes the quick from the dead is the ability to autonomously synthesise all molecular machinery from nutrients obtained from its environment: a living organism is a molecular factory that can fabricate itself. The story of how this answer to our question was developed is a strand within the more general story of systems science—the key players were Nicholas Rashevsky, Robert Rosen, John von Neuman, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. In the hands of Robert Rosen it culminated in a new way of thinking about relations, causality and complexity. Using concepts from the mathematical field of category theory and the old Aristotelean categories of causation, he constructed a formal image of a functional component of any system in terms of a mapping that shows how efficient and formal cause act on material cause (input) to give final cause (output). The functional organisation of any system can be described as a network of such mappings. So doing, Rosen gave us not only a language to talk about the relational structure of any system, but also a way to distinguish simple, complicated and complex systems.

Jan-Hendrik (Jannie) Hofmeyr has been a member of the Biochemistry Department since 1975. His research of the past 35 years has been in the field of computational systems biology where his main focus has been the understanding of regulatory design of metabolism. A recent interest is to seek a way of expressing formally the functional organisation of the cell in terms of a theory of molecular fabrication, which could form a theoretical foundation for both systems biology and nanotechnology. This interest has led him to a broader study of complex systems, which he pursued with the late philosopher of complexity Paul Cilliers.

David Long
Founder and President of Vitech Corporation

Evolving MBSE to Enable the Digital Future
While systems engineering continues to emphasize model-based systems engineering (MBSE), the greater community is shifting its focus to bigger issues—from model-based engineering to digital thread and now to digital engineering. We want to believe that these pieces will naturally come together to create a digital future for engineering, but that is not the case. We can continue to digitize for our own systems engineering purposes failing to consider the greater context and community, creating our own “digital divide” and largely ensuring the irrelevance of systems engineering. Or we can embrace the greater context and leverage digitization of systems engineering as an opportunity to connect disciplines and enable digital engineering—in the process advancing systems engineering as a discipline and delivering true value. It’s the choice of context and purpose, a choice that either furthers a disconnect or embraces the systems perspective to enable the digital future.

For over 25 years, David has focused on helping organizations increase their systems engineering proficiency while simultaneously working to advance the state of the art. David is the founder and president of Vitech where he leads the team in delivering innovative, industry-leading methods and software (CORE™ and GENESYS™) to help organizations engineer next-generation systems. He co-authored A Primer for Model-Based Systems Engineering and frequently delivers keynotes and tutorials at industry events around the world. A committed member of the systems community and Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP), David was the 2014/2015 president of INCOSE.

Dr Pierre Durand
Head: Evolution of Complexity Laboratory, University of Witwatersrand

Evolutionary Transitions and the Search for LUCA
One of the properties of living systems is the tendency, on a macroevolutionary scale, to evolve increasing complexity. For example, a eukaryotic cell emerged from cooperating prokaryote cells. Single eukaryotic cells cooperated to evolve multicellular forms, which in turn can live in social groups such as bees and ants. These increases in biological complexity are called evolutionary transitions (sometimes, evolutionary transitions in individuality) because of the transition from one kind of biological level of complexity to another. We will explore the general mechanisms by which these transitions occur and how the new level of complexity is selected for. One of the evolutionary transitions was the origin of life itself. We will also summarize our current understanding of how life arose. It is now possible to sketch out a general framework, that is supported empirically and by genomic data, of how life arose from abiotic molecules. More specifically, how the very first biologically relevant molecules cooperated to form a primitive genome. This framework gives rise to fundamental questions. What is life and how should it be defined? How will we know when a putative form of life is discovered outside of our own biosphere, that it is actually a living system? By trying to understand the nature of LUCA (the last universal common ancestor) on earth, we can attempt to answer some of these questions. 

Pierre Durand is an evolutionary biologist at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He holds degrees from Wits University and Kings College, London and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Arizona. His research focus is a curiosity-driven exploration of the evolution of biological complexity. The origin and evolution of primitive molecular networks, programmed death in unicellular organisms and multicellular life are themes in his research laboratory.

Dr Jeandrew Brink

Noble Queries Regarding the Nature of Space-time

Gravitational Wave (GW) event GW150914 heralded the beginning of the era of observational GW astronomy. The first ever direct detection of a GW celebrated the collaborative effort of hundreds of Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) scientists and engineers. It was made possible by detailed calculation, sustained funding and systematic technological innovation, envisioned and initiated some 45 years ago. The 2017 Nobel prize in Physics was awarded to Rai Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne for their decisive contribution to the LIGO detector and observation of GWs. I explore the scientific legacy left by the route to GW detection and some of the lessons learned regarding the nature of gravitation and black hole mergers in the GW events observed so far. One recent GW event in particular stands out—GW170817 was the first ever coincident GW and electromagnetic observation of the merger of what we believe to be two neutron stars. Observed by more telescopes and astronomers around the world than any other event in recorded history, GW170817 gave us a rare glimpse of what occurs when two objects of extreme densities collide in a great fireball. I review some of the highlights of the ever-increasing slew of observations associated with this catastrophic event. A future where GWs can be used to test the theory of General Relativity and possibly resolve some of the fundamental inconsistencies this theory has with Quantum Mechanics beckons like an elusive but tangible mirage on the horizon. I explore some of the approaches to the problem and discuss the role MeerKAT and space-based GW detectors can play in solving one of the greatest fundamental physics puzzles of this century.

Dr Brink obtain a PhD in theoretical physics from Cornell University exploring the pulsation modes of neutron stars. For this work she won the Sherman Fairchild Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology and spent five years working on numerical relativity, testing Einstein's general theory of relativity and LIGO source modelling in Kip Thorne’s research group. She return to South Africa in 2010 and continues to pursue her interest in testing General Relativity using pulsar timing, earth and space-based gravitational wave detectors. She currently serves on the International Pulsar Timing Array Steering Committee and is eager to facilitate SA research involvement in pulsar timing and gravitational wave physics. 

Dr Neil Croft
Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria

Distributed Ledgers and Blockchain Technology
Keynote confirmed, but details not yet available

Prof John Butler-Adam
Editor-in-Chief, The South African Journal of Science, Academy of Science of South Africa
There will be a special one-day tutorial on Wednesday 3 October 2018 on The Life and Use of Engineering Information chaired by Sarel Lotz. The presenters for that tutorial will be:

Prof Aurona Gerber
Department of Informatics, UP

Data Models, Database Implementation, Data Warehousing and the Future

The dawn of the big data era has impacted the way we think about and interact with data. The question is: Do we even need data models, physical databases and costly data warehouses? This session will briefly introduce the traditional school of thought with regards to data-related structures followed by a discussion of what the future holds for these approaches.

Prof Aurona Gerber is an Associate Professor in the Department of Informatics and Information Systems in the EBIT faculty at the University of Pretoria. After obtaining her electronic engineering degree (Bing) at the University of Pretoria (1987), she worked as a bursar at CSIR (the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) developing firmware for speech encoding/decoding devices. Her MIng at WITS (1992) investigated developing switching algorithms and programs for MC2, a massively parallel computer with 64 (up to 128 / 246) TMS32020 processors. From 1991 she worked in industry in companies such as Dimension Data and an own company (Tech Control), primarily developing software for various systems such as radar control and multiplexer switches. As consultant and later again employee of CSIR, she was involved in the development of one of the first internet database applications (in an initiative that grew into MWeb) and continued to do mainly technical project development and management of database and internet applications. She joined Unisa as senior lecturer in 2001 and completed a PhD in Computer Science on Semantic Web technologies (2007). She joined CSIR in 2007 as principal researcher in ontology engineering and enterprise architecture responsible for assisting in the development of a research group in Artificial Intelligence, and this group developed into the Center for AI Research (CAIR). Her work experience includes 15+ years of software system and architecture design, development and technical management, as well as more than 10 years research and teaching experience.  She published more than 40 accredited publications and supervised more than 10 postgraduate masters and doctoral students to completion of their degrees.

Her primary interest is research in the development and use of advanced models within all aspects of Information Systems, including enterprise architecture & engineering, as well as disruptive innovation given complex operating environments and disruptive technologies such as Big Data. She also investigates how the technological advances in ICT will impact society and organisations. 

Dr Siebert Benadé
Graduate School of Technology and Management, UP

Life Cycle Management of Engineering Data

What Engineering Data should be Captured and Stored? Why? For How Long? Who is Going to do What with it?

Siebert Benadé holds a PhD in Engineering Management. He participated in and managed a wide variety of projects for 37 years in government, parastatal, academic and private sector  environments. He worked in system development, manufacturing, procurement, logistics and information management. He was involved in business consulting focusing on enterprise architecture, process and system design and modelling. He was INCOSE SA President in 2009. He is responsible for the Master’s Programmes in Engineering, Project as well as Technology Management at the Graduate School of Technology Management (GSTM), University of Pretoria as Programme Director. He teaches System Engineering at Masters level and runs different company-specific continuing education programmes.

Dr Heinrich Kleinschmidt

Challenges in Engineering Data Exchange between Various Software Tools

Throughout the lifecycle of systems, various different data elements need to be managed, by normally very different software systems—trying to simulate the real-life situation of the real-life assets. These software systems should ideally be fully integrated to reflect the different aspects of the same real-life system as a holistic picture. Various factors cause very practical challenges to achieve this ideal. Some of these challenges, as well as some solutions, will be addressed.

Heinrich is a registered professional mechanical and industrial engineer and has more than 30 years’ experience in the development and architecting of some very complex solutions. The golden thread running through his life is integration. His PhD on Computer Assisted Integration of Complex Processes also refelects integration. His first 10 years was spent in the military environment in the peak embargo days doing systems engineering on the acquisition of fighter aircraft. The next twenty years were spent in the architecting, development and integration of very complex software systems, mostly using an in-house developed integration technology named PiGo. These included integration with Oracle ERP and SAP, utilizing complex radio signals to track prisoners, tracking serial numbers in the cellphone industry, doing paper-to-electronic record conversions of South Africa's fingerprints, amongst others. Heinrich part-time lectured systems engineering to industrial engineering at a post-graduate level.

Thinus Greyling

The Use of Engineering Data during Project Execution

Manage information; regulatory requirements in the nuclear, aircraft and mining industries; configuration management as opposed to document control; extent of condition, collaborative, product lifecycle management.

Marthinus started his career at Eskom, where he did an apprenticeship in fitting and turning, and obtained a diploma in mechanical engineering at Pretoria Technikon.  Whilst at LEW he completed a degree in mechanical engineering, sparking his interest in the creative world of design. He became a component design engineer for a generation 4 nuclear plant at the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, where he soon progressed to the plant interface manager, manager of plant layout, computer aided design, constructability and systems engineering. After the project’s unfortunate closure, he joined Shaw International, where he mastered building Westinghouse advanced generation 3 AP1000 nuclear plants in China. After a short time in the construction of platinum mines, he now works at the South African subsidiary of a small nuclear design company developing micro modular nuclear reactors for the mining market in Canada. He oversees constructability and modularization enabling successful and cost-effective construction and manufacturing of system and components required to operate in extreme arctic conditions.

Dr Ricky Swanepoel

Using Engineering Tools and Systems Thinking for Business Improvement

What are some critical success factors when using engineering software systems and tools and the systems engineering approach to introduce business improvement in a process plant? Which options exist? Lessons learnt will be discussed, as well as the fundamentals of what data and information has to be in these systems to enable business improvement. Debate the challenges of data quality management and the impact it has on business decision making

Ricky Swanepoel completed a Masters Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at the VUT, and holds a Diploma in Engineering Management from the University of Warwick. In 2017 she obtained a PhD in Development and Management Engineering at NWU, by introducing a new business improvement framework and implementation approach for process plants. This resulted in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop Engineering Knowledge Management guidelines for nuclear facilities. She recently completed her second PhD in Mechanical Engineering on advanced analytics and simulation in the area of vibration condition monitoring. Ricky is a Chief Technologist in Eskom Group Technology Engineering Division, with a career spanning 28 years in various engineering and managerial roles across the power generation value chain.
She is considered a role model for empowering women in the field of engineering, receiving the WiEBE Award for Best Female Engineer at Engineering Sector level in 2012, the International Bentley BE Award for Innovation in Power Generation (2013) and the MTN Women in ICT Lifetime achiever award in 2017 acknowledging the work she has done in the ICT, Innovation and Engineering Knowledge Management space.

David Long

Future Trends in Engineering Data Management

We are in the midst of the digital transformation which permeates our culture, our products, and our engineering systems. But the digital transformation is far more than simply digitization.

For David’s background, please see Keynoters.