IEEE ComSoc Austin Chapter: Winner of the 2020 Chapter Achievement Award (CAA) and Chapter of the Year (CoY) Award

By Fawzi Behmann - Chair of the IEEE ComSoc, Signal Processing and Consumer Technology Joint Chapter, USA

As the chapter chair for Austin, I am pleased that we received the CAA and CoY awards. This is the third time we have received both awards. The previous times were in 2015 and 2017.

This is a reflection to the dedication of the officers and support by local members and encouragement from the community. The leadership team consists of:

  • Fawzi Behmann, Chair

  • Norma Antunano, Vice Chair

  • Hanan Potash, Past chair

  • Vittal Siddaiah, Program

  • Nitin Garg, Website

  • Eric Zavesky, AT&T Liaison

We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with AT&T, where we held our regular meetings until Q1 2020, when we had to switch to virtual meetings due to the pandemic.

The Austin chapter is part of the Central Texas section with over 4,000 members and 10,000 subscribers. Austin is a vibrant and high-tech hub in North America, and where IEEE Globecom 2014 was held.

I have the opportunity to set up different themes from one year to the next, focusing on advancements in disruptive technologies such as 5G/6G, IoT, and AI, security enabling and block chain enabling many use cases for different markets such as smart cities, public safety, autonomous driving, healthcare and others. As we change the topic title and guest speaker, we witnessed a change in attendance, and that helped create active participation and dialogue.

Technical Meetings

We held 17 technical meetings in a variety of topic areas: Future of Technologies, AI, Sensor Networks, Smart Cities, Future of RF, SDR, Data Analytics, Cyber-Physical Systems, and others. Here is a sample of some of the topics presented:

  • “Collaborative Technologies Trends in 2019 that will disrupt the market in 2020”, Fawzi Behmann, President of TelNet Management.

  • “Underground Sensor Network for Water Pipe Leakage Detection”, Prof. Semih Aslan, Texas State.

  • “Cyber-Physical System Challenges to the Trustworthiness of Systems”, Prof. Al Mok, UT Austin.

  • “Accelerating AI using HPC”, Vittal Siddaiah, Ingram School of Engineering, Texas State, San Marcos.

  • “Using SDRs and FPGAs to create Advanced Wireless Testbeds”, Sarah Yost, National Instruments.

  • “The Future of RF & Microwave Systems”, Erik Luther, X-Microwave Sys.

Our activities went beyond holding technical meetings. The remaining sections cover other initiatives that we conducted.

IEEE Austin and Student Outreach

We have initiated two Student Outreach projects at Texas State, each was an eight-month duration and focused on community hands-on IoT projects.

I introduced these projects to Texas State Administration, and they have accepted them as a part of the acredited program. The two projects each consist of a faculty advisor, lecturer, host sponsor, and two teams, each of four students including a leader. The frameworks of the two projects were signed before of the start of the projects.

The two projects were:

  • “Smart Cities Patient Fall Detection”

  • “Smart City Concept Garage System”

The Texas State Faculty Advisors were Prof. Semih Aslan and Prof. Damian Valles, and IEEE Host Sponsor was Fawzi Behmann.

As a host representing IEEE, I established a high-level definition, goal, expectation and project description. The students provided details forming the Statement of Work (SOW), followed by written specification. The focus of the remaining part of the first semester was for the students to dive deeper into the requirements, understanding technology and applications, and defining the architecture of a functional prototype system. Toward the end of the first semester, the students purchased all the material, assembled the parts and started testing individual units. The second term focused on building software and starting sub-system testing, leading to high-level functional prototype testing, storing data in the cloud and implementing AI-based functions.

I had weekly status calls with the students and responded to any of their needs. At year-end with the completion of these projects, the students demonstrated the project at the Texas State year-end senior design day. I handed a certificate of achievement, and I invited students to deliver special presentation to the IEEE Austin chapter as well as facilitated for the students to demonstrate their project at the Texas Smart Cities event. The demo encouraged positive attention and dialog with attendees.

Smart City Summit (SCS)

The Smart City Summit (SCS) was held on December 1 in Austin ( The chapter worked closely with ComSoc to drive membership as part of the Summit. Special rates were created. As a result of these efforts, 30 members joined from ComSoc, with 16 being new members. This is the second highest total of new members delivered by a chapter worldwide in this ComSoc initiative held in 2019.

The SCS attracted 133 attendees. The one-day summit was held at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), one of the largest in the nation. IEEE USA President followed by TACC Executive Director and Fawzi Behmann delivered the summit opening remarks and program outline. The core program content had three segments focused on disruptive technologies and the impact on building smart cities, improving healthcare, and mobility. Each segment had a keynote speaker, followed by a deep dive panel session (four experts and a moderator). At the end of the core program, there was a showcase of innovative projects from startups and students. The program concluded with an Executive Recap session focusing on future directions. There was a special appreciation dinner at a nearby restaurant that was attended by the speakers and special guests and organizers.

The three keynote speakers were:

  • Patricia Florissi, Vice President and Global CTO for Sales, Dell/EMC.

  • John Cole, Chief Executive Officer of SkyTran.

  • David Atienza, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and head of the Embedded Systems Laboratory at EFPL, Switzerland.

Prof. Dharm Sign, DL from Africa, was part of the panel and spoke to the chapter, UT and Texas State Graduate students.

Other Activities

  • Jointly presented at a public forum with AT&T Wireless CTO, CEO of Texas Advanced Technology Council on 5G technologies.

  • Participated in a panel on “IoT-Smart Networks and Social Innovations” at the IEEE Vision/Innovation Challenges (VIC) Summit.

  • Supported the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE) and Supported National Instruments Week held in Austin.

  • Supported the ComSoc Summer School and the first Student Conference.

I wish I can share more details, but feel free to reach out to me at

A well attended Smart City Summit in Austin including 30 new members.