Inaugural Nelms Institute Conference Connects the World of IoT

Dean Cammy Abernathy delivers opening remarks at the conference

Experts from throughout academia, industry, and government converged recently at the inaugural Warren B. Nelms IoT Conference. The conference was sponsored by the Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World, the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, Discover Financials, ECE Florida, the UF Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering, and Florida Applied Research in Engineering (FLARE) to discuss innovations in IoT security, safety, intelligence, and interoperability, as well as the future of the field.

The two-day conference featured 15 invited speakers, 4 signature talks, a panel discussion, 65 student poster presentations, and 23 student hardware demos to create a vibrant conference attended by more than 200 people from all over the world. Beyond the academics in attendance, luminaries from such industry giants as Toyota, Intel, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, and Discover Financials participated. Governmental entities were represented, too—participants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Army, the Air Force Research Lab, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were also in attendance.

Conference attendees, day one
Conference attendees, day one
Panoramic view of student poster session
Student poster session

Conference Focus

The conference was arranged to focus on four main areas:

  • IoT Security & Trust, with focus on sensor, communication, and system security and trust
  • Safety: From Automotive to Food/Medicine/Materials
  • Environment & Health: Emerging Application of Smart Systems
  • Edge Intelligence, Analytics, and Interoperability

Conference Attendees

Central to many invited talks and discussion was the notion that smartness, security and interoperability have to be ‘baked in’ to every step of the IoT design and deployment process. Whether discussing solar power and a smarter grid or edge sensors and the future of education, conference attendees made it plain that any discussion of the Internet of Things had to treat these elements as foundational.

Conference Namesake

David Nelms
David Nelms, Retired CEO of Discover Financial, and son of Warren B. Nelms

Of particular interest to attendees was the appearance of David Nelms, former CEO of Discover Financials and the son of the institute’s namesake. The Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World is named for of ECE alumnus Warren B. Nelms, a New Engineer who built his own solar “smart” house before such a concept even existed. Both of his children went on to become UF engineers. His son and daughter-in-law, David and Daryl Nelms, honored Warren by generously investing $5M to help create the institute.

David Nelms gave an interesting talk which, as he noted, differed from the conference’s other talks—it was completely non-technical and didn’t feature a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, Mr. Nelms discussed his father, his particular path in life, and ultimately, how he ended up CEO of Discover Financials. He also shared his wisdom on the emerging challenges and research opportunities in the area of home automation.


Smart home protected by drones
Student demo: A home with an intruder-detection system utilizing connected drones

One key feature of the conference was that it gave students the chance to showcase their recent research projects to interested members of industry, government, and academia. The almost 70 posters presented showed a remarkable diversity of topics. Projects showcased in the session included: the smart home guarded by a swarm of connected drone; remote fault detection in arrays of solar panels; smart water quality sensing; apps for addressing food security; systems for more efficient wireless charging.

The Future

Dr. Swarup Bhunia, Director of the Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World, was extremely pleased with the conference. He noted,

“We’re delighted to see the enthusiasm and energy the conference brought to our students, faculties, collaborators, and research sponsors. We greatly appreciate the tremendous support of every participant. Of particular significance, besides the high-quality invited talks, was the student poster and demo sessions, where our talented students showcased cutting-edge research on many dimensions of IoT. We believe the conference was a great success – thanks to the collective effort of our excellent colleagues and staffs at the Warren B. Nelms Institute and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.”

Planning for next year’s conference has already begun—the 2020 Nelms IoT Conference will be held Oct. 19-20. Optimism is high and the conference is expected to grow in a number of ways. As Associate Director of the Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World Dr. My T. Thai says,

“With this great start, we are excited about the future of the conference. The expanded 2020 conference will feature a trans-disciplinary program exploring advanced and critical research frontiers. We hope to successfully bring IoT technologies safely and securely into every aspect of our lives.”​