Harald Gietler | Foto: aau/Müller

Expanding the sensory skills of machines

Machines are already capable of many things. A certain set of sensors has already been fully developed. And yet, Harald Gietler, researcher at the Department of Smart Systems Technologies seeks to discover: “Who knows what kinds of sensors we will need in the future?” He is currently developing a new technology, which will allow machines to determine the location of other machines.

Harald Gietler specialises in electrical engineering. Using electromagnetic fields, for instance, he hopes to improve the localisation of autonomous systems, such as robots or drones. Explaining the mechanism involved, he tells us: “There’s a transmitter and a receiver. Between the two, an electromagnetic field is established, which helps the receiver to determine the location of the transmitter.”

This technology could be useful, for example, in production halls where several robots are actively deployed, or in the case of wireless charging platforms, which require drones to land as accurately as possible. When asked whether there are limits to using an electromagnetic field in this way, Gietler replies: “Yes, there are limits. However, within a range of just a few metres we can provide a position determination that is precise to the nearest centimetre. What counts is this: the closer, the better.”

Under the supervision of Hubert Zangl, professor at the Department of Smart Systems Technologies, Harald Gietler is working on this topic for his doctoral thesis. In the course of his scientific career, he recently had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad at the renowned ETH Zürich, where he focused on a different aspect of the functionality of this technology. Specifically, electromagnetic fields are subject to disturbance variables, which often take the form of conductive objects, usually made of metal. “In many cases, robots are also made of metal”, Harald Gietler points out. In order to be able to deliver correct results despite these disturbance variables, their effects must be taken into account in the mathematical model. For this, attention needs to be paid to both the respective metals and the design of the robots. Due to the intensive support received at ETH Zurich, Gietler and his supervising professor were able to achieve very good results within a very short time. After returning to Klagenfurt, he now wants to process these results further. What is more, he is already preparing for a further research period abroad.

It appears that Harald Gietler, who began his studies in Information and Communications Engineering after completing the secondary technical college in Klagenfurt and who is now about to complete his doctorate, is aiming straight for a scientific career. When asked, he elaborates: “Yes, research offers many advantages. One of them is freedom. Freedom to work on whatever interests you. And, to a large degree, freedom to do that wherever and whenever you want”. Harald Gietler also enjoys teaching. Whether his path will eventually lead him to a professorship, or whether he will be tempted by a job in industry, is still wide open. “At any rate, I’m not worried,” he explains. Thanks to his goal-oriented approach to work, there is certainly no need for concern.

A few words with … Harald Gietler

What would you be doing now, if you had not become a scientist?

I’ve never really thought about it. I’d probably be a freelancer.

Do your parents understand what it is you are working on?

Possibly not in every detail, but they certainly grasp the basics.

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at the office in the morning?

Chat with my colleagues over a cup of coffee.

Do you have proper holidays? Without thinking about your work?


What makes you furious?


What calms you down?

Sports. It allows me to forget the worries of everyday life.

Who do you regard as the greatest scientist in history, and why?

I don’t think it’s possible to name a single person. Progress is based on the work of many. If I had to choose, I would mention James Clerk Maxwell, because his work has a significant influence on mine.

What embarrasses you?

My occasional impatience.

What are you afraid of?

Obtaining unsatisfactory results from experiments that have been planned far in advance.

What are you looking forward to?

My upcoming annual surfing trip to Portugal.

Harald Gietler | Foto: aau/Müller

Download: Harald Gietler | aau/Müller

Studying technology at the Universität Klagenfurt

Research and teaching excellence is what sets Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt’s technology programmes apart. Established in 2007, the Faculty of Technical Sciences prides itself on its exceptional student-supervisor relationships, which facilitate continuous, profitable exchange between tutors and students at all levels. Our technology programmes, which have a large practical component and focus on our key strengths (e.g. Informatics, Information Technology and Technical Mathematics), open up a world of opportunities for our students. And if you decide to take a Joint or Double Degree, you can also gain new experience overseas by taking a semester abroad or attending a summer school. More