Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS)

For generations, scientists have attempted to create a substitute that can perform the same tasks as a human. The arrival of the computer 50 years ago has helped scientists progress quickly towards this goal. Rapidly advancing technology now makes it possible to create computer-based ‘human-like thought processes’ that can solve complex problems based on big data.

The UJ IIS will recruit a multi-disciplinary team of highly-qualified scientists and engineers from UJ and industry, ranging from Computer Science through Health Sciences, Management, Accounting and more. In terms of research the Institute will focus on Systems Intelligence and Cognitive Computing; Big Data Analytics and Deep Learning; Digital Revolution and Machine Learning; and Industrial application of Intelligent Systems and Cognitive Computing.

Head of Institute

Professor Babu Paul

  • DIRECTOR Institute for Intelligent Systems
  • Professor in Artificial Intelligence & Statistical Science

What If?


With Artificial Intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, big data analytics, machine learning, cognitive computing and robotics increasingly appearing in the headlines of our news feeds, there is no better time for the University of Johannesburg to take a leading role by partnering with industry, Government and communities to dismantle big data problems for the economic benefit of South Africa. Thus, the establishment of the Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS) at UJ.

We know that AI can literally revolutionise all sectors of the industry including automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, education, research and also the public sector. We also know that South Africa’s science mission is to create wealth, thereby creating jobs and eradicating poverty. With these hopes and dreams comes obligations to establish leading innovative hubs (such as UJ IIS) for learning, collaboration, research and rapid development of new products, technologies, services and solutions.

Although, out of the astronomical number of species that evolved on earth, humans are the only highly intelligent ones to emerge, we humans still struggle with some tasks, such as analysing big data. We know how to collect data (we designed very clever computers that can do this), how to store data (we even designed clouds for all our storage needs) and how to manipulate data. But when it comes to effectively and accurately analysing big data, we battle. If we are asked to analyse a million genomes to figure out the basis of cancer, or to analyse different aspects of climate change, we struggle. Truth is, we need help and Artificial Intelligence is the solutions to many of our challenges.

Rapidly advancing technology now makes it possible to create computer-based ‘human-like thought processes’ that can solve complex problems based on big data. So what if we could apply AI to improve the lives of all humans on earth?

What if we could install smart sensors in our homes and cities to help reduce energy usage, monitor the safety of infrastructure and maximise the utilisation of roads? Imagine if we could develop smart transport intelligence systems that would revolutionise traffic systems and the scheduling thereof through the application of AI? Signalling is a huge problem in South Africa and UJ IIS is at the forefront of research in this field, analysing the likelihood of an accident within a certain time interval, by using sensors that are placed at pre-determined locations in order to monitor traffic signalling and the effect thereof on road safety.

What if AI can analyse large data sets to improve medical diagnostics? Could we have DocBots that apply predictive analytics using DNA data to warn of illnesses and life-threatening disease before they occur?

Could we not have virtual and robotic teachers that offer first-class education to everyone that wants it, no matter who you are, how much money you have or where you live? Would this not solve the ‘access to education challenges’ in our country?

What if we could eliminate crime with RoboCops that could predict high risk activities and be deployed proactively to keep the peace and eliminate crime in SA? At UJ IIS, we are designing intelligent systems to assist with detecting fraud and identifying unauthorised intrusions into IT systems. We could apply intelligent systems to determine if borrowers are likely to default on their loans. These systems will be super beneficial to banks and other financial institution in South Africa to deal with the huge numbers of financial transactions generated every day and to assist in determining credit risk.

Will it be possible to solve the energy crises by applying AI? Why could we not apply AI to mine through petabytes of data to predict when a power grid might fail so that we can proactively send field service engineers to fix the issue before it happens and prevent a power outage?

What if AI could save our planet? We know that species are becoming extinct at a rapid pace. These extinctions have devastating impacts on the ecosystem. What if, for example we could apply AI for accurate fisheries stock assessment? UJ IIS is currently working with the Department of Agriculture on maritime modelling for sustainable fisheries.

The pace of innovation is going to lead us to interesting places, and perhaps sooner than we think – UJ is ready. We realise that we are really just at the tip of the iceberg with AI.  In a few years, AI will be so intertwined and pervasive within all industries that life on earth may become impossible without it. For this reason, we will continue to ask questions, explore new ways of applying AI, think innovatively and continue to ask: ‘what if?’…

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