Photo: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

16. December 2020

New Josef Ressel Center: How to connect complex systems

The new Josef Ressel Center at the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences is researching how systems can be built to reliably function in conjunction with other systems.

In technical development, various trends can currently be observed. On the one hand, things are becoming “smart”, i.e. they are receiving software-supported functionality, and on the other hand, they are being interconnected. But what happens when these trends affect sensitive areas on which we depend? At the end of November, the “Josef Ressel Centre for Dependable System-of-Systems Engineering” was opened at the University of Applied Sciences Salzburg, which addresses these questions.

The watch has long since become a smartwatch with a built-in fitness tracker. Devices such as televisions, computers, and mobile phones are connected to each other, so that movies stored on the computer can easily be watched on the TV via WLAN. But networking is not only entering the field of consumer electronics.

Sensitive areas such as the power grid (smart grid), transportation (e-mobility), industrial production (industry 4.0), or entire cities (smart cities) are now interconnected. Since there are significantly more different components involved here than with a smartwatch, these are referred to as complex systems. These can in turn form into system-of-systems, for example, when electric vehicles are connected to the power grid for charging.

Complex systems in combination as a challenge

Mastering highly complex systems – especially in combination as “system-of-systems” – is a central challenge of the future. These systems must above all be able to ensure reliable operation.

For example, the power grid and e-mobility are developed and operated by completely different actors. The various disciplines use different technical languages, concepts, and methods. When these systems are supposed to work together, unplanned effects can occur that affect their reliability.

If, for example, e-mobility is further expanded in the future and cheaper charging for electric cars is offered at certain times, simultaneity effects can occur. If many electric cars are waiting for the rate to become cheaper and start charging at that moment, there can be negative feedback on the power grid in the worst case scenario. To ensure reliable operation, the power grid and e-mobility must be considered as a system-of-systems in their entirety. Similar to building a house, the different actors must work together well – in our case, for example, vehicle developers with energy providers. They must find a common “language” and understand each other’s concepts.

Christian Neureiter__Copyright Lagler_FH Salzburg_2
Christian Neureiter, Senior Lecturer Informationtechnic & System-Management and Director of the Josef Ressel Center for Model-Based Development of Dependable Systems is researching reliable systems. Photo: Lagler/FH Salzburg

The Josef Ressel Center is researching System-of-Systems

At a new research center at FH Salzburg, they are dealing precisely with this issue. At the Josef Ressel Center for Model-Based Development of Dependable Systems, innovative development methods for interdisciplinary engineering of such highly complex systems are being researched. A central research question for the next five years is how systems can be built to function reliably and be compatible as a system-of-systems. The goal is to develop reference models – a kind of “catalog of prefabricated houses” – for systems that work essentially and have been tested and can be adapted to specific needs as required.

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