Professor Flora Salim has been appointed to the Cisco Chair in Digital Transport in the School of Computer Science at UNSW.

The Research Chair is part of an exciting partnership between UNSW and Cisco with a focus on industry-led research in digital transport and areas such as mobile networks, behaviour analysis, multi-vehicle planning, resource allocation, and transport modelling.

It will focus on the digitisation of transport, and builds on UNSW’s strengths in data science and transport systems engineering, and Cisco’s global technology leadership in the digitisation of transport.

Professor Salim, currently the co-Deputy Director of RMIT Centre for Information Discovery and Data Analytics (CIDDA) at RMIT University, is a recognised expert in the use of machine learning on stream and sensor data for human behaviour modelling. She was recently appointed as a member of the Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts.

She is an Associate Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Automated Decision Making and Society and her current research focus is on developing data-efficient machine learning and fair and explainable AI techniques for applications in mobility data science and personalised recommender systems.

“I am very thrilled to join UNSW in the new role of Professor and Cisco Chair of Digital Transport, Centre for Critical Digital Infrastructure,” Prof. Salim said.

“There are a couple of things that make me really excited about this role. Firstly, UNSW’s strong commitment to research excellence coupled with direct opportunity to translate the research for impact and transformation in the industry sector.

“The role will provide a platform for me to generate more impactful research in the field of data science and ubiquitous computing, particularly on human behaviour modelling and machine learning for time-series and spatio-temporal data, coupled with the opportunity to apply them across multiple emerging technologies, such as IoT, digital twins, and automation, viewed from the lens of transport and mobility. 

“Secondly, there has never been a better time to do research in this important area of transport and mobility.

“Not only is there more data available to fuel the research in mobility data science, but also the further multi-prong impact from this research area into multiple other areas such as pandemic management, supply chain, digitisation in infrastructures and energy systems, the future of work, the future of retail, future energy systems, spatial intelligence and defence, and sustainability,” she added. 

“Finally, Cisco’s strong commitment into this partnership, with the access to datasets and platforms that can fuel the research further. As a researcher, we typically could only wish to have access to such datasets, unless when we are in an industry setting or industry research lab. But this is now enabled through Cisco’s close partnership with UNSW through this role. 

“The role will bring lots of opportunities to collaborate closely with Cisco, Innovation Central Sydney, Transport for NSW, and other partners in the ecosystem.

“I am also very keen to expand the collaboration further to include other stakeholders in the digital transport and mobility that form larger smarter cities and IoT ecosystems, other technology providers and end user groups that will reap the benefits.

“Using this role to do more excellent and impactful research, I hope to see more practical knowledge and applications of fundamental research along with a streamlined translation pipeline, towards more human-centric, effective, efficient, sustainable, safer, and fairer systems in our cities.”  

Data-driven decision making

The new Research Chair aims to help create opportunities to develop the technology agenda and support the acceleration of digitisation and data-driven decision making in Australia’s transport sector. The future transport system could reduce delays due to vehicle breakdowns, or detect potholes, bumps and potential hazards on the road, making travel easier and safer for everyone.

Dean of UNSW Engineering, Professor Stephen Foster, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Salim to the Research Chair in Digital Transport; this work is especially important in our rapidly evolving world, where the need for integrated and dynamic transport systems for people and products has never been more critical.”

The Research Chair builds on UNSW and Cisco’s long-standing alliance, which includes Innovation Central Sydney, a research centre focused on developing new uses for Internet-of-Things technologies. UNSW engineering students also benefit from education, technical training and career mentorship at the Cisco Networking Academy

Reg Johnson, Cisco’s director of education & strategic industries, said: “We’re excited about Professor Flora Salim's appointment as the Cisco digital transport research chair, a role that will accelerate digital innovation in the transport industry, enhance the future of mobility; and make it safer, more efficient and sustainable.”

“At the heart of it, transport is about people and communities, with technology and innovation playing a bigger role than ever before to unlock the best outcomes and connect communities in new and faster ways than ever before.”

Digital transformation

The Cisco and UNSW partnership is anchored by Innovation Central Sydney (ICS), an industry and research collaboration centre located at UNSW, with a vision of advancing digital transformation through an open innovation ecosystem. ICS and the new digital transport chair is part of the national industry innovation network, which brings the industry and universities together to rapidly respond to problems and challenges of national importance. 

“Our transport systems play a critical role in building resilient businesses and communities. Digital transformation will continue to drive new opportunities in cities around the world for an enhanced passenger experience, with new capabilities to deliver better service levels, improve safety, security and environmental control to maintain regulatory compliance" added Mr Johnson.  

Professor Aaron Quigley, Head of School in Computer Science and Engineering at UNSW, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Flora Salim as the Cisco chair in Digital Transport. Digital Transport presents a unique set of challenges from AI to networking, and data science to cybersecurity.

“Flora's arrival is a linchpin in our establishment of the proposed Center for Critical Digital Infrastructure. Building on our Operating Systems, Open Source and CyberSecurity strengths in UNSW and the John Lions Foundation we are aiming to create a nexus for education, research and best practice in open source technology innovation.

“In CDI we can advance open source technology for populations across Australia and the world. We look forward to welcoming Flora to help us redefine the human experience beyond the edge of possibility.”

Prof. Salim, who will officially commence her new role in April, obtained her PhD in Computer Science from Monash University in 2009 and has received more than $10M in research funding in the last 10 years.

She was a Humboldt-Bayer Fellow, Humboldt Fellow (experienced researcher), Victoria Fellow, and was the recipient of the RMIT Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence–Early Career Researcher 2016; the RMIT Award for Research Impact – Technology 2018; the RMIT School of Science HDR Supervision Excellence Award 2017; Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Research Industry (APDI) Fellowship (2012-2015), and IBM Smarter Planet Industry Skills Innovation Award (2010).

She serves as a Steering Committee member of ACM UbiComp, Associate Editor of the PACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies (IMWUT), Area Editor of Pervasive and Mobile Computing.

She was also a Visiting Professor at University of Kassel, Germany, and University of Cambridge, England, in 2019.