What is OR?

Operations Research is the key to tackling complex business challenges, changing them into valuable opportunities to innovate and revolutionizing the way we live. In short, it is the application of analytical methods to make optimal use of available data, employing techniques from the mathematical sciences such as statistical analysis, modelling, and drawing upon psychology and operations science.

From manufacturing to the military, farming to energy forecasting, OR is relevant to all industries and companies that are in pursuit of optimum efficiency and decision-making for better business. It is fundamental to just about any service to manage real-world issues, such as determining production, loss, yield, risk, profit and scheduling to name but a few.

The Award

For nearly fifty years, nominees of the Franz Edelman Award for Achievements in Operations Research and Management Science, the most celebrated award in OR, have been recognised for their transformative approaches to analysing data, pioneering the ways that we interact and utilise information. This year’s six finalists announced by award host, INFORMS, follow the award’s prestigious history as teams revolutionising in the fields of broadcasting, healthcare, vehicle fleet management, inventory management, communication and alternative energy.

In the field of broadcasting, the incentive auction team at the Federal Communications Commission has been recognized for ground-breaking work on the world’s first two-sided auction. The FCC has successfully implemented a visionary model and mechanism of market exploration for the US 600MHz frequency band. In what is called the US Broadcast Incentive Auction (BIA), the FCC designed an auction in which the spectrum for sale is not specified upfront but relies on the current broadcast users revealing their preferences for spectrum they are willing to release in return for different levels of payment. Then, this “relinquished” spectrum is put forward to be auctioned and assigned to the companies making the best offers for new uses of the frequencies.

As part of the BIA, the FCC asked the Smith Institute for Industrial Mathematics and System Engineering to help deliver the most complicated spectrum repacking exercise ever undertaken. This process maximised the amount and the quality of spectrum released for new uses, while protecting the coverage and service quality enjoyed by consumers of broadcast services. The Smith Institute’s task was to verify the design and implementation of all the bidding algorithms, optimisation models and constraint generation upon which the implementation of the Broadcast Incentive Auction BIA was based.

The FCC is deeply honored to be one of the six finalists for this prestigious award, and I am pleased that INFORMS has recognized the ground-breaking accomplishment of our incentive auction team. This auction would not have been possible without the use of operations research tools to solve complicated design and implementation challenges.

Ajit Pai
Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission

The 2018 presentations and award will take place at the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and OR in Baltimore, Maryland on Monday 16th April.

Baltimore harbour

Who was Franz Edelman?

Considered one of the founding pioneers of OR, Franz Edelman dedicated his lengthy career to research that would facilitate optimum decision-making in all industries. Upon reaching adolescence in Nazi Germany, he fled the country for England and was interned to Canada as a lumberjack. He attended McGill University, Montreal, as an undergraduate and later obtained a PhD in applied mathematics at Brown University. It was when he joined the RCA (Radio Corporation of America) as an engineer that Edelman became first compelled by computational analysis; it is here that he established America’s first Operations Research Group. With the application of his already expansive knowledge, he was able to envision the great potential of computer systems in business; a way to best interpret facts to assemble an optimal solution.

Edelman died in January 1982 but was awarded the SMIS prize posthumously for his paper: ‘Managers, Computers, and Productivity’. The same year, he became the namesake of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences’ (INFORMS) most prestigious prize.