Confluence 2016 - a fruitful visit to Amity University and India
Last week I had the privilege to attend the Confluence 2016 conference in Amity University, Noida, India. First of all, I gave a keynote speech named: "From IoT to IoP: Towards Democratization of Data". At the same time, I also presented a presentation for a paper named "Wi-Fi Fingerprint Localisation using Density-based Clustering for Public Spaces: A Case Study in a Shopping Mall". This paper is co-authored with my students, Cornelius Toh and Yasir Saleem.
This is my first visit to India. It is a very interesting experience because though I am familiar with Indian culture and food, but it has always been more towards the southern indian since majority of the Indian in Malaysia are southern indians. Furthermore, Some of the famous tourist sites such as Taj Mahal, Red Fort, the New Delhi city itself etc. - I kind of anticipated some new experience from this trip.
The host university, Amity University, is one of the top private university in India. It is around 24 years old, has 125k students all around the world, and is growing rapidly. What attracted me to accept the invitation to speak at Confluence 2016, other than this being my very first keynote speech, is also the opportunity to speak along speakers from renown universities. It would be great to network and seek opportunity to collaborate with them. Among them are such as Prof Supriya Chakrabarti from University of Massachusetts Lowell USA, Prof. Jean-Paul Van Belle from University of Cape Town, Prof. Graham Kendall from University of Nottingham, UK and Malaysia (whom I had quite some selfies/photos together), Prof. Ajay Gupta from Western Michigan University, USA and Prof. David Gries from Cornell University, USA. To me, this is an honour because some of them are very experienced and well known in their areas of expertise. So there I go - I agreed and I was in India last week.
Upon arrival, I was picked up by Kunal, a student helper for the conference. There I also met Prof. R. Logeswaren, a colleague from Asia Pacific University (APU) Malaysia. The first impression of the city - just the traffice and highway to the university was foggy and packed. There were many cars on the road and compare to Malaysia, we will probably say Malaysian driving seens pretty safe now. Nevertheless, it seems very common to change lanes and use the vehicle horn almost all the time. I even read signs behind vehicles saying "Horn Please". Well, what works there might not work else where, but we did arrive at the university safely and in one piece.
The conference was a grand event, as far as I can observe. Many students are there, either as volunteers or participants. The opening ceremony was nicely done, and slowly I understand more why such a conference was planned - it serves as a great platform to network, collaborate and share knowledge, not limited to researchers/industries, but also to the students and staff at the institution. Other than the talks the invited speakers, faculties also took the opportunity to invite us to visit and to speak to their students. I find such arrangement clever and wise - For asian institutions, travelling to international conferences and destinations can be pretty expensive. If now the speakers are in house, we should allow and encourage access to international speakers in house - and hosting an international conference is one of the good approach.
A quick note on the students I've met at Amity University - they are very friendly, polite and respectful. But most important of all - they are vocal and interested to learn. I see a contrast between them and my students. Compartively, our students in Malaysia seem to be more shy and quiet (yes, not all, I know). Nevertheless, being interested and vocal will always help someone to go all out to get what he wants - if you want knowledge, you just cannot sit and wait - you must go (all out) to get it.
Other than work, we got the chance to also visit Taj Mahal and see New Delhi a little. The best part of my experience is the food - At Amity University, only vegetarian foodis available/provided. But trust me, I have nevered missed meat through out that few days. Indian vegetarian food, particularly northen/Delhi types is really nice. I had pratha or naan almost every meal, and I think that made me really happy :) Only on the final day before I leave the country I went with two more delegates to the Bhape Da Hotel (it's a restaurant!) for some meat - and again it was tasty in my opinion.
Perhaps when I get the time I will blog with photos on the event, food and tourist attractions. That's all for a short summary of the trip :)