Faculty Profile, People
Improving industrial efficiency with data analytics
May 4, 2017
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
PhD, Computer Science, University of Manitoba (2001)
BCSc Honours, University of Manitoba, (1996)
“I am actively involved in the start-up community, including leading my own company, and I encourage students to think and act entrepreneurially.”
RAMON LAWRENCE has taught multiple courses at three different universities to thousands of students—a history of teaching and mentoring that he says requires passion for education and personalized motivation for students.
Active in Computer Science curriculum development since 2006 at UBC Okanagan, the Associate Professor cherishes most of all being in front of a classroom, approaching teaching like a science, measuring results, verifying and improving his techniques.
“Although research achievements and breakthroughs are critical to the health and reputation of the institution, the very core of a university is its students and their learning,” writes Lawrence of his teaching philosophy.
“Teaching provides the opportunity to have an immediate impact on students’ lives.”
Being recognized on the UBC Okanagan teaching honour roll seven times, Lawrence says students at the campus, particularly undergraduate students, are able to receive significantly more personal contact with their professors than students at other institutions.
“Many of our undergraduates have the opportunity to work collaboratively with professors and be involved in experiential learning activities,” he says.
“These learning experiences are unique to a smaller, more intimate environment, and are not something you generally find at larger universities. It also means there is more of a community of professors and students working together for common learning goals.
“Teaching really does matter at this campus.”
WHEN VISION BECOMES REALITY
Lawrence’s area of research involves database systems, specializing in join algorithms and database engines, embedded databases, database integration and sensor networks. He sees the impact it can have: “It is exciting to see your vision become a reality.”
Partnering with the City of Kelowna, Lawrence used database technology to demonstrate how improved efficiency in water usage for city parks is possible using a sensor network system. His research involved designing a system that uses sensors placed in soil to monitor moisture and automatically control irrigation to minimize water usage.
This project was later extended to building a mobile software application running on iPads to allow park staff and technicians to better understand the equipment and infrastructure in the parks. The system was deployed throughout the City of Kelowna with the goal of improving the efficiency of park maintenance activities.
Beyond the classroom, Lawrence supervises undergraduates working on honours and directed-studies projects.
“My students get involved in applied database projects, building systems for companies and users. I am actively involved in the start-up community, including leading my own company, and I encourage students to think and act entrepreneurially.
“Building a technology business is a great way to have an impact on society.”
DATA: OUR GUIDING TOOL
Lawrence is passionate about building software that makes a difference in the world. There is ample evidence that his work is making a difference right here in the Okanagan.
“Programming allows the opportunity to make amazing things that help people and companies,” he says. “Many of the research systems have been released as open source projects for the world to use.”
As shown by the diversity of real-world applications, data technologies are key to our information society. Data analytics improves industrial efficiency, resource utilization, and environmental impacts by helping us discover better ways of doing things and understanding the world around us.
Lawrence says his current research project on building tiny databases for embedded devices will hopefully find applications in the Internet of Things, “connecting millions of devices to the Internet.”
The Internet of Things involves connecting sensors in consumer electronics, buildings, and environmental systems to the Internet so that the data collected can be quickly analyzed and acted upon. The database research will enable this data collection and analysis to be more efficient and less costly to use and deploy.
—by May Li