The predictor of the future

Witesyavwirwa Vianney Kambale can predict the future, and he can do it without using a crystal ball. Working in the “Transportation Informatics” research group at the Department of Smart Systems Technologies, this doctoral student uses data from yesterday and today to look ahead to tomorrow.

The foundation for Vianney Kambale’s work consists of data with a time stamp, so-called time series data. In his doctoral project, Vianney Kambale is developing theoretical frameworks that can be used to improve the accuracy and quality of these predictions. “In the next step, I will need to test the framework I am developing on use cases. My focus is on electricity consumption data, traffic data or stock prices,” Vianney Kambale explains. The doctoral student has been part of the research group in Klagenfurt for two years. He is very pleased with his progress: “I really like the culture. Kyandoghere Kyamakya, the professor who heads the group, has created an environment that is a favourable setting in which to develop as a scientist. I truly appreciate that.”

Vianney Kambale grew up in the Congo (DRC), where he specialised in biology and chemistry at high school. His parents were keen for him to study medicine. Laughing, he tells us: “But I realised that I don’t like hospitals. So I told them that I had discovered a new passion: information technology.” He commenced his University studies in Goma, but by his first year he had a scholarship in his pocket and moved to Pretoria in South Africa, where he studied electrical engineering, specialising in telecommunications. After completing his Master’s degree, he spent ten years at the university as a lecturer: “During this time, I almost forgot about research,” Vianney Kambale reports. In the Congo, he subsequently ran into friends who had come to the University of Klagenfurt.

Vianney Kambale’s wife and children – aged 4, 8 and 10 – live in South Africa while he concentrates on his doctoral thesis in Klagenfurt. He always shares one thing with them: “Maths is not difficult!” He adds: “At school, children are often told that maths is a very difficult subject. But I say: No, that’s not true. We need to change this perception so that we don’t deprive young people of the joy of playing with numbers. Yes, you have to practise, but if you put your mind to it, maths is beautiful.“ Maths and physics are the basis for many high-tech fields that are great to work in and where a lot of progress can be made, such as robotics, artificial intelligence or electrical engineering. The lack of joy in maths even extends to universities, as Vianney Kambale notes: “You can change the world with an app. And earn good money. I tell my children: ‘You don’t want to be the people who simply use apps, you want to be the people who create them.’”

A few words with … Witesyavwirwa Vianney Kambale

What would you be doing today if you hadn’t chosen to work as a scientist?

I would probably just be teaching at a school or a university somewhere!

Do your parents understand the things you are working on?

Not completely, but I think they have a rough idea of my research field.

What is the first thing you do in the office each morning?

I say a short silent prayer.

What makes you furious?

Generally? Dishonesty.

Do you go on proper holidays? Without thinking about your work?

Currently? No, there is always that idea about work that sticks at the back of the mind.

What are you looking forward to?

I am certainly looking forward to finishing my doctoral studies soon and also witnessing how our work could contribute, as small as it might be, to the field of my research.