Collaborative Embedded Systems

Feb. 01, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2020

Up until recently traditional embedded systems, e.g. control units in cars, could exclusively be used in familiar and stable environments. However, in the future by the means of collaborative system networks approach, they shall also be used in a highly automated manner, i.e. autonomously, in much more variable areas of application with open contexts. The BMBF-project “Collaborative Embedded Systems” (CrESt) worked on the development of embedded systems towards model-based collaborative solutions with increased flexibility. The project involved 11 industrial and 12 academic partners and ended after three years of operation on January 31, 2020.

Embedded systems are an integral part of everyday life. For example they control the airbags in our cars and ensure the safety of airplanes and that the production in a modern factory runs as planned. However, the current state of technology limits the using potential. The existing software technology can only be used in completely known and stable environments. The software of the system networks cannot react to changes that are unpredictable at the time of programming. Moreover, a central (mostly human) control is indispensable for essential decisions. Technological limits go along with security concerns against increasing independence and flexibility. Errors and inaccuracies during the development process can endanger people and cause economic damage.

Partners and support

Under direction of TU Munich 12 research institutes and 11 business partners work together, including six companies from Berlin and Brandenburg. The project has a total volume of approximately 23 million euros and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with about 15 million euros as part of the program “IKT 2020 software intensive embedded systems".

Goals and project structure

The CrESt project is looking to further develop classical embedded systems to collaborative embedded systems which can be used in an unknown environment. The challenge is to enable dynamic alliances to fulfill tasks in intelligent cooperation. The perspective is changing from the behavior of a single system to the entire system network. The complexity of the individual systems as well as the partially unknown environment result in questions concerning the adaptability of the architectures as well as how to deal with an uncertain context. In addition, new test procedures are required which guarantee security and safety.

For the development of highly automated collaborative embedded systems a methodological framework is to be created, which will be scientifically founded and simultaneously field-proven. This includes:

The analysis of requirements to concepts, techniques and complementary tools,

afterwards the development of the methodological and tool-technical contributions,

the evaluation of the methodological results with regard to potential for improvement and a subsequent revision.

The developed methods will be applied to selected case studies:

  • Cooperative vehicle automation: Development of an environmental model using radar information, a digital map, car2car communication and various sensors for longitudinal and transverse guidance of a vehicle convoy.
  • Convertible factories: Development of methods and tools for the planning and configuration of flexible production facilities. The collaborative system consists of production units which are largely independent of one another. It is intended to ensure an individualized production with optimal production utilization.
  • Distributed power generation: Development of dynamic software and system architectures that ensure a highest amount of reliability of intelligent power supply along with minimal cost.
  • Cooperating transport robots: Development of a collaborating fleet management for highly automated transport robots. Each robot will be able to handle orders by intelligent cooperation, thus ensuring better utilization and higher reliability.

The software for the construction of the case study systems is designed model-based. It is the long-term goal of the project to develop modeling methods and tools which are able to generate the necessary systems automatically. Fraunhofer FOKUS accompanies several subprojects:

  • Development of methods for analyzing adaptive systems,
  • creation of requirements for modeling approaches and procedures for taking uncertainties into account,
  • creation of requirement for methods of verification and validation,
  • design of methods for run-time validation.

Furthermore, Fraunhofer FOKUS is responsible for module checking and monitoring. In cooperation with the Berlin-based company InSystems, FOKUS is coordinating the field study "Robotics" and, in addition, assumes the lead for the case studies as a subproject coordinator.

Application areas

The methods developed in the project allow the using of alliances of embedded systems in completely new ways. There are application possibilities in all sectors of industry:

  • Power generation
    • Offshore wind turbines
    • Gas and steam turbines
  • Infrastructure solutions
    • Transport, smart production with robotics
    • Automation and software solutions for industry (industry 4.0)
  • Medical technology
    • Computer tomography and magnetic resonance tomography
    • Healthcare Monitoring
    • Laboratory diagnostics and clinical IT
  • Avionics
    • Fleet maintenance of civilian aircraft or satellites
    • Planning of traffic routes and traffic flows at airports and in airspace
  • Smart Mobility with automated driving
  • Smart Home with intelligent home appliances and installations
  • Smart Farming with intelligent agricultural machines

Project Conclusion

In the CrESt project, new architectural concepts for flexible, dynamically coupled and adaptive systems could be developed. Flexible systems can be used in several applications, while adaptive systems dynamically adapt to variant rich contexts. These architectural concepts were tested in the use cases of convoy driving of vehicles, flexible manufacturing, distributed power generation and collaborating transport robots.

The first results of the CrESt project were presented to visitors of the 2018 CeBIT through the exhibit of a transport robot. Additionaly the results were presented several scientific publications.

CrESt was a follow-up project of the SPES 2020 and SPES_XT projects, which were also concerned with embedded systems. Work from CrESt is being continued in the new XIVT project.