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Intelligent Technological Systems

We primarily focus on technical systems that are based on the interplay between engineering, science, and informatics. Typically, such systems yield products in the field of information technology, communication technology, mechanical engineering, automotive and transport engineering, and the electrical and medical industry. The market success of products deriving from these industries will, in future, be largely determined by resource efficiency, usability, and reliability.

The technical systems of tomorrow must display resource efficiency, usability, and reliability.

  • Resource Efficiency: We are guided by the principles of sustainable development; we are active in such fields as energy-efficient machines and motor vehicles.
  • Usability: Technical systems are required to possess more and more intelligent and active interfaces allowing users natural and intuitive handling. These systems will encourage modern interaction using displays, touch, gesture, or speech for flexible information processing according to the situation, as well as offering partly or wholly independent operator assistance adapted to the needs of the individual user. The systems addressed here must be able to give the user a clear explanation of why certain actions are carried out.
  • Reliability: The clearly-defined IT term comprises the availability, dependability, and security of technical systems and is an expression of their ensured confidentiality.

All of the above demands new approaches for the creation of the technical systems of tomorrow; it includes information technology and non-technologically oriented disciplines. This interdisciplinary approach offers a wide range of methods, techniques, and processes with which sensor, actuator, and cognitive functions – that were up until now only known to exist in biological systems – can be integrated into technical systems. Such systems are termed intelligent technical systems; their design, control, and realisation require new approaches and presents interdisciplinary research with new challenges.

We want to develop and establish a new school of thought for the design of technical systems.

In principle, this new school of thought considers procedure models, specification, and modelling techniques, fixed methods and IT tools for syntheses and analyses. It also includes training and education programmes. This approach should be based on sound theory and must appeal to product developers and designers in the target companies. The creation of the basic conceptual platform is in an ongoing process that combines the work completed to date and systems engineering, in general. Systems engineering is intentionally cross-domain. It is a functional and target-oriented approach for the creation of complex systems that aims to integrate a variety of different domains and describe a structured process of development starting with the concept and extending well into the operational phase. Systems engineering remains a bold vision; a vision we want to turn into reality. Today, systems engineering is more of a compilation of practices than a comprehensive, coherent school of thought for the design of complex multidisciplinary systems. In the light of this, we see a whole panorama of potential opportunities for us make our profile and position clear: we intend to establish ourselves as the leading systems engineering institute.

Structuring our research programme

We structure our research programme in the two dimensions research competencies and application areas. The dimension research competencies elucidates the emphases of our research work. The dimension application area shows the purpose for which we use our competencies in order to induce societal and economic value.

Research expertise

As an interdisciplinary research institute, we combine the research expertise of our different workgroups to achieve the jointly defined objective of designing intelligent technical systems. Our current common focus is on the following five areas:

  1. Self-coordination, self-optimisation, and reconfiguration: Nowadays we can observe the phenomenon that certain complex systems function although they exhibit no central coordination. Such systems have typically a high degree of distribution, volatility, and emergence in common. Their operation can neither be observed centrally nor controlled centrally. Instead it is essential that concepts for the decentralised design, realisation, maintenance, and adaption are investigated.
  2. Mechatronics, sensing, and communication in distributed systems: In distributed systems mechatronic components operate in a network and represent individual subsystems which communicate and cooperate with each other. Software solutions are needed which guarantee quality of service. Furthermore multi-layered software architectures are needed to achieve this goal representing an important research goal.
  3. Safety and Security: Safety properties have long been of interest in the engineering of intelligent technical systems, which is why their assurance is an essential part of current engineering methodologies. Right now the institute’s goal is to extend those methodologies such that the engineered systems will be “secure by design”, i. e., by design can withstand malicious attacks. In contrast to safety engineering, this requires a minimization of the system’s attack surface, and hence also it’s required functionality.
  4. Design methodology: The “Voice of the Customer” is at the center of a customer-oriented design methodology. Only in this way functions and services which generate added value for the customer can be identified surprising and exciting the end customer. An important target is a comprehensive model-based design environment which starts at the requirement definitions and comprises all phases of the design.
  5. Strategic planning and knowledge management: The consequent orientation on customer value leads to systems which excite the customer. To this end the knowledge about the way similar products are used by the customer has to be gained. On the basis of such data application scenarios are generated.

Fields of application

Here, our emphasis lies on the implementation of real technical systems offering real benefits or fulfilling real requirements. This process should be carried out in close collaboration with the business sector, thus promoting the exchange of experiences and practices and validating the tried and tested procedures we have created. The following fields of application are currently the most important from our point of view:

  1. Intelligent Technical Systems, Cyber-Physical Systems
  2. Distributed IT-Systems
  3. Knowledge-based socio-technical systems

We pursue our goals in close cooperation with the business community and at the forefront of research, embedded in international, national and inter-university research networks.