* Research objective: digital assistant for industrial machines in the future production environment of a smart factory
* Research focus: System Architectures, Artificial
Intelligence (AI) and Cyber Security
* Cooperation and joint funding by the companies B&R Industrial Automation, COPA-DATA and SIGMATEK
* Funding by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digitalization and Economic Location and Christian Doppler Forschungsgesellschaft
Salzburg/Puch-Urstein/Vienna, June 29, 2022: In the context of Industry 4.0, entire value chains must be adapted quickly and flexibly. This paradigm shift requires new concepts and methods and poses considerable challenges for manufacturing companies and industrial automation. This is where the new “Josef Ressel Center for Intelligent and Safe Industrial Automation” (ISIA) at the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences comes in, funded by the Federal Ministry for Digitalization and Economic Location. Over the next five years, the team led by center director Stefan Huber will lay the foundations for a digital assistant that will intelligently support the human operators of complex machines and take cyber security into account from the outset.
Industry 4.0 is accompanied by a vision: Flexible, adaptive and intelligently orchestrated value chains. These allow the production of personalized and individualized goods, shorter time-to-market times for new products and, in the future, the complete automation, autonomization and optimization of entire value chains. This development first requires adaptable, digitized, interconnected and ultimately autonomous machines. The way to get there is to be prepared by digital assistants for industrial machines, which raise the degree of autonomy of these machines by methods of artificial intelligence. This JR Center (JRZ) aims to research and build the necessary foundations in the area of system architectures, artificial intelligence, and cyber security in the context of industrial systems. The inherent interdisciplinarity is a prerequisite, challenge and opportunity at the same time.
Ministry of Economics promotes the future of industrial automation
By funding the Josef Ressel Center at the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, the Federal Ministry for Digitization and Economic Location is specifically strengthening research in the fields of automation and digitization – important central topics for the labor market and business location of the future. “In Austria, we have numerous highly competitive pioneers in the field of automation,” emphasizes Federal Minister Martin Kocher. “Maintaining and expanding this lead is a matter of concern to me, and the new JR Center is another important contribution to this end.”
Digital assistance for human operation
Autonomous machines require data communication beyond the boundaries of the factory’s operational environment. Cybersecurity represents a significant aspect of this. Security necessarily goes hand in hand with a continuous reduction of human control and permeability of data communication. Via Artificial Intelligence, methodological synergies are created between cybersecurity and assistance for machine operation, especially with regard to anomaly detection.
“The methods and mechanisms needed for intelligent and secure industrial automation require an adequate system architecture that provides the necessary environment, mechanisms and flexibility,” says center director Stefan Huber, explaining the goal of the new research center.
It is primarily about artificial intelligence in the classical sense:
a digital assistant must be able to receive perceptions from an environment and act on the environment by recommending actions to human operators, presenting information, or autonomously controlling machines. “The digital assistant should be able to relieve and support human operators by providing assistance in monitoring and controlling machines. In very concrete terms, this applies, for example, to people who operate injection molding machines, milling machines, lathes, labeling machines or filling machines,” says Huber, summarizing the long-term goal for practical applications.
Silicon Valley of industrial automation
An essential component of the JR centers is cooperation and exchange with companies. “We are in the extremely fortunate position of finding an extraordinary innovation region in the Salzburg and Upper Austria area, virtually a Silicon Valley of industrial automation. I am delighted to be working with three leading companies in automation:
B&R Industrial Automation, COPA-DATA and SIGMATEK,” says Stefan Huber. “All three companies are always shaping the state of the art in their fields, and with this JRZ we are jointly taking the next step in shaping the future.”
Governor Wilfried Haslauer emphasizes the role of research for Salzburg as a business and science location:
“Universities of Applied Sciences are an important partner for the economy in education and application-oriented research. With this Josef Ressel Center, another lighthouse project for the WISS, Science and Innovation Strategy Salzburg 2025, is being implemented to further expand the bridge between universities of applied sciences and industry and to strengthen the innovative power of companies. The combination of digitization and cybersecurity in particular is one of Salzburg’s areas of strength that can thus be expanded.”
“The universities of applied sciences are important pillars and centers for science due to their great practical relevance. Through the close cooperation of innovative companies and the researchers as well as students of the FH Salzburg, both sides benefit enormously. It strengthens the domestic education location as well as that of science and creates application-oriented research at the most modern level,” says Provincial Councillor Andrea Klambauer.
Research fields: System architectures, AI and cyber security
The JR Center focuses on three research fields: system architectures, artificial intelligence and cyber security. Each of the collaborating companies provides frontline support for one of these research areas. Together, the three areas form the foundation for a digital assistant.
The Salzburg-based company SIGMATEK cooperates with the JR Center in the research area of system architectures. SIGMATEK has already developed numerous innovations in the design of automation system architectures and is specifically focusing on research in order to be able to play a role in international competition. Marianne Kusejko, Managing Director of SIGMATEK: “Our industry is in the field of high technology. A strong research university in the field of industrial computer science, which produces well-trained graduates, benefits the entire business location. This research center is therefore a strategic long-term concern for us.”
B&R supports the research area of artificial intelligence. CEO Jörg Theis sees great potential for the further development of AI methods in the collaboration with the team at the JRZ: “AI methods are used in various areas at B&R, such as industrial image processing. The use of AI with regard to autonomous, intelligent industrial machines is an innovative step for the entire industry that will bring fundamental changes to automation.”
Together with the automation software manufacturer COPA-DATA, the research area of cyber security is the main focus. The adequate transfer of modern security concepts from IT to industrial systems with their own characteristics is a particular challenge in this research field. Thomas Punzenberger, CEO: “With our zenon software platform, we have been supporting industrial companies in the digitalization of their processes for many years. Cyber security is playing an increasingly central role in this. We are looking forward to contributing our know-how to the JR Center. In creative exchange with science and partner companies, we want to exploit our joint innovation potential.”
Third Josef Ressel Centre at FH Salzburg – a success story
The JR Centre ISIA is already the third JR Centre to be opened at FH Salzburg. The first “Josef Ressel Centre for User-Centric Smart Grid Privacy, Security and Control” (2013-2017) gave rise to the “Centre for Secure Energy Informatics (ZSE)”. In November 2020, the “Josef Ressel Centre for Dependable System-of-Systems Engineering” was opened.
Doris Walter and Raimund Ribitsch, management of FH Salzburg: “Research on the pulse of time and innovation through research, that is what FH Salzburg does. Our already third JR Center offers an excellent setting for this and we are very proud to be able to open it. In addition to the funding provided by the BMDW and the Christian Doppler Research Association and that of the corporate partners, the FH Salzburg also provides significant own funds. Sustainable research funding for universities of applied sciences is therefore indispensable for the further development of high-quality and relevant research.”
In Josef Ressel Centers, application-oriented research is carried out at a high level, with outstanding researchers cooperating with innovative companies. The Christian Doppler Research Association is regarded internationally as a best practice example for the promotion of this cooperation. Josef Ressel Centers are jointly funded by the Federal Ministry for Digitization and Economic Development (BMDW) and the participating companies.
About Stefan Huber, Center Director
FH-Prof. DI Dr. Stefan Huber, MSc, studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Salzburg and received his PhD in algorithmic geometry in 2011. From 2013 to 2015 he conducted research as a PostDoc at IST Austria with Wittgenstein Prize winner Herbert Edelsbrunner in the area of Algorithmic Topology and Topological Machine Learning. Afterwards, the native Upper Austrian worked for several years in a leading position in research & development at B&R Industrial Automation in the field of smart factory and digitalization. During this time, he played a key role in the development of a new type of intelligent transport system and published numerous patents on the subject. In 2019, Stefan Huber moved to FH Salzburg, where he teaches primarily in the field of industrial computer science at the Information Technology & Systems Management program. His research focuses on artificial intelligence in an industrial context, algorithmic geometry and topology, with applications especially in machine learning and industry.
More at [www.fh-salzburg.ac.at/isia] (http://fh-salzburg.ac.at/isia)
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