Vogelschwarm | Foto: Siegi/Fotolia

Swarms take over production

Scientists working on the research project SWILT are developing Industry 4.0 algorithms inspired by nature.

A new research project labelled SWILT (Swarm Intelligence Layer to Control Autonomous Agents) is set to start at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt in October 2018. This project brings together four Carinthian partner organisations (Lakeside Labs GmbH, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Infineon Technologies Austria AG and Novunex GmbH) to collaborate on cyber physical system swarms, in order to link the real and the virtual world. Funded by the FFG, the 1 million Euro project is scheduled to run for three years.

The powerful interconnection of production facilities represents a huge challenge for industrial corporations. These production plants exhibit complex and dynamic modes of behaviour, similar to those observed in ants, bees, fish, or birds. Inspired by examples provided by nature, Project SWILT revolves around modelling entire industrial plants as swarms. Be they machines, products, or transport systems – they are all part of a swarm, thus coping with the increasing dynamics and complexity of Industry 4.0 systems.

“Years of experience have shown us that algorithms of self-organisation can master highly complex problems and identify good solutions. The innovative aspect of SWILT lies not in the provision of yet another pre-calculated production plan or routing table, but in gaining local rules from swarm intelligence algorithms”, Melanie Schranz (Lakeside Labs GmbH), the project manager, tells us. Wilfried Elmenreich, who represents NES/AAU in this project, goes on to explain: “This permits reactive algorithms, which compensate the dynamic changes in production in a flexible manner by processing data in real time. It will be one of SWILT’s crucial research objectives to develop a library of these swarm intelligence algorithms. This is designed to comprise application-specific requirements and limitations and will facilitate structured tests, analyses, and comparisons by means of simulation.”

The organisation, observation, and coordination of swarms with thousands of autonomous swarm members is a highly complex task. To address this complexity, SWILT roots the local swarm rules in a novel three-step architecture, which allows autonomous swarms to communicate among its agents. This communication draws on the new 5G trend technology, an indispensable factor for Industry 4.0 due to its high data rates combined with low latency. Thanks to the 5G Playground, which is due to be launched in the Lakeside Science & Technology Part at the start of 2019, the research partners are anticipating ground-breaking results for swarm algorithms, which are implemented as 5G network application.

 

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