In memoriam

Paul Havinga (1962-2024), smart sensor pioneer

Nieke Roos
Reading time: 2 minutes

“If there was ever a scientist who represented the entrepreneurial spirit of the University of Twente, it was Paul.”

Paul Havinga has passed away on 3 May, aged 62. Havinga was a pioneer in (wireless) sensor technology (link in Dutch), both as a professor at the University of Twente’s Pervasive Systems group and through his involvement in multiple spinoffs. He co-founded Ambient Systems in 2004, Inertia Technology (wireless motion sensing) and Smart Signs Solutions (indoor navigation, link in Dutch) in 2008 and Locus Positioning (indoor tracking) and Terrateq (environmental and animal monitoring) in 2015. Part-time, he also was a principal scientist at TNO ICT.

Havinga’s research focused on wireless sensor networks, the Internet of Things, sensor data analytics and energy-efficient wireless communication. The common denominator was the development of large-scale, heterogeneous, wireless, networked embedded systems. In 2001, he initiated the first European project on wireless sensor networks. Many research projects followed, all addressing different aspects of wireless sensor networks and the IoT.

Born in Groningen, Havinga obtained a PhD in computer science from the University of Twente in 2000, without a prior university degree. For his thesis, entitled “Mobile multimedia systems,” he won the Dow Energy Dissertation Award. In 2007, he was granted the ICT Innovation Award for the successful transfer of knowledge from university to industrial use. The same year, he received the Van den Kroonenberg Award for being a successful innovative entrepreneur. In 2009, he was appointed full professor at the UT.

“Paul was a renowned and respected scientist with both deep and broad knowledge of the field of computer science,” recollects associate professor Özlem Durmaz on behalf of the Pervasive Systems group. “His scientific influence was vast, not only through his countless, widely cited publications. Like no other, he mastered the art of exploring sometimes truly challenging theory and then translating it into solutions that found their way into practice. That practice was also a part of his daily life: he founded and supervised several startups to transform those solutions into services and products. If there was ever a scientist who represented the entrepreneurial spirit of the University of Twente, it was Paul.”

“He stood for and leaned on the people around him, particularly the members of the Pervasive Systems group. Indifferent to hierarchy, he mastered the art of collaboration, pushing and pulling toward results and then sharing successes. This attitude earned him a unique reputation: everyone knew Paul and Paul knew everyone. Not only will we miss a strong, kind personality, but above all, we will miss a wonderful colleague.”

Main picture credit: University of Twente

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