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Interaction- and Communication-based Systems


Prof. Dr. Simon Mayer

In our research group, we explore interactions among devices and people in ubiquitous computing environments. Our focus is on the integration of physical things into the Web, on increasing the autonomy of Web-enabled devices, and on making interactions of connected devices intelligible for people.

News

Secure Communication with Batteryless Sensors

A new paper from our group and with colleagues from ETH Zurich and KU Leuven was published at the 11th Mediterranean Conference on Embedded Computing.

Abstract: Batteryless sensors have recently been proposed as an energy-efficient and cost-effective alternative to battery-powered sensors. By harvesting and immediately consuming ambient energy, it becomes unnecessary to design systems with large energy storages, which significantly increases their form factor, cost, and environmental impact. Many works have focused on designing batteryless systems that sense data, process it, and wirelessly broadcast processed data. Yet wireless security aspects of batteryless applications are only now receiving attention. In this work, we propose a secure communication system based on symmetric key encryption, that enables batteryless sensors to securely broadcast data. Furthermore, we demonstrate this system on a batteryless smartcard in two application scenarios: static sensor deployment for secure data gathering, and mobile device for identification purposes. Our experimental results demonstrate not only the feasibility of secure communication with batteryless devices but also the small overheads of introducing security in wireless beaconing applications.

Link to the full paper

Author: Simon Mayer

Date: 17. June 2022

Explainability of Cyber-Physical Systems

A new paper from our group on the explainability of cyber-physical systems was presented at the FLAIRS-35 Conference.

Abstract: The increase in automating complicated physical processes using Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) raises the complexity of CPS and their behavior. It creates the necessity to make them explainable. The popular Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) methodologies employed to explain the behavior of CPS usually overlook the impact of physical and virtual context when explaining the outputs of decision-making software models, which are essential factors in explaining CPS’ behavior to stakeholders. Hence in this article, we survey the most relevant XAI methods to identify their shortcomings and applicability in explaining the behavior of CPS. Our main findings are (i) Several papers emphasize the relevance of context in describing CPS. However, the approaches for explaining CPS fall short of being context-aware; (ii) the explanation delivery mechanisms use low-level visualization tools that make the explanations unintelligible. Finally (iii), these unintelligible explanations lack actionability. Therefore, we propose to enrich the explanations further with contextual information using Semantic Technologies, user feedback, and enhanced explanation visualization techniques to improve their understandability. To that end, context-aware explanation and better explanation presentation based on knowledge graphs might be a promising research direction for explainable CPS.

Link to the full paper

Author: Simon Mayer

Date: 17. June 2022

EToS-1: Eye Tracking on Shopfloors for User Engagement with Automation

A new paper from our group and with colleagues from OST – Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences was published at the Workshop AutomationXP22: Engaging with Automation which took place during the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2022).

Abstract: Mixed Reality (MR) is becoming an integral part of many context-aware industrial applications. In maintenance and remote support operations, the individual steps of computer-supported (cooperative) work can be defined and presented to human operators through MR headsets. Tracking of eye movements can provide valuable insights into a user’s decision-making and interaction processes. Thus, our overarching goal is to better understand the visual inspection behavior of machine operators on shopfloors and to find ways to provide them with attention-aware and context-aware assistance through MR headsets that increasingly come with eye tracking (ET) as a default feature. Toward this goal, in two industrial scenarios, we used two mobile eye tracking devices and systematically compared the visual inspection behavior of novice and expert operators. In this paper we present our preliminary findings and lessons learned.

Link to the full paper

An impression from the workshop:

Author: Jannis Strecker

Date: 24. May 2022

Circular Fashion: The Refashion Collection by Solve

The Refashion Collection, a project by Solve Studio that was supported by members from our group, has been unveiled today. We are looking forward to exploring the potential of industrializing this circular design strategy together with Solve!

Author: Simon Mayer

Date: 17. May 2022

Best Demo Award

A new paper with involvement of a member of our group was awarded Best Demo at the International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN).

The work, titled “DPP3e: A Harvesting-based Dual Processor Platform for Advanced Indoor Environmental Sensing“, has been a collaboration with researchers from ETH Zurich. The demonstrator showcases the DPP3e dual-processor indoor energy-harvesting platform. The DPP3e (and its advanced sensors for indoor environment sensing) can be integrated via its BLE interface (with the ability to send BLE packets every 5 seconds while consuming only 37 𝜇W) and also features a sub-GHz LoRa transceiver to facilitate data collection over long distances.

Link to the full paper.

Author: Simon Mayer

Date: 16. May 2022

Agent-Oriented Visual Programming for the Web of Things

A new paper from our group and with colleagues from the University of Bologna was published at the 10th International Workshop on Engineering Multi-Agent Systems.

Abstract: In this paper we introduce and discuss an approach for multi-agent-oriented visual programming. This aims at enabling individuals without programming experience but with knowledge in specific target domains to design and (re)configure autonomous software. We argue that, compared to procedural programming, it should be simpler for users to create programs when agent abstractions are employed. The underlying rationale is that these abstractions, and specifically the belief-desire-intention architecture that is aligned with human practical reasoning, match more closely with people’s everyday experience in interacting with other agents and artifacts in the real world. On top of this, we designed and implemented a visual programming system for agents that hides the technicalities of agent-oriented programming using a blocks-based visual development environment that is built on the JaCaMo platform. To further validate the proposed solution, we integrate the Web of Things (WoT) to let users create autonomous behaviour on top of physical mashups of devices, following the trends in industrial end-user programming. Finally, we report on a pilot user study where we verified that novice users are indeed able to make use of this development environment to create multi-agent systems to solve simple automation tasks.

Link to the full paper

Link to the presentation at EMAS

Author: Simon Mayer

Date: 13. May 2022

Signifiers for Affordance-driven Multi-Agent Systems

A new paper from our group was published at the 10th International Workshop on Engineering Multi-Agent Systems.

Abstract: The ecological psychologist James J. Gibson defined the notion of affordances to refer to what action possibilities environments offer to animals. In this paper, we show how (artificial) agents can discover and use affordances in a Multi-Agent System (MAS) environment to achieve their goals. To indicate to agents what affordances are present in their environment and whether it is likely that these may help the agents to achieve their objectives, the environment may expose signifiers while taking into account the current situation of the environment and of the agent. On this basis, we define a Signifier Exposure Mechanism that is used by the environment to compute which signifiers should be exposed to agents in order to permit agents to only perceive signifiers that are likely to be relevant to them, and thereby increase their efficiency. If this is successful, agents can interact with partially observable environments more efficiently because the signifiers indicate the affordances they can use towards which purposes. Signifiers thereby facilitate the exploration and the exploitation of MAS environments. An implementation of signifiers and of a Signifier Exposure Mechanism is presented within the context of a Hypermedia Multi-Agent System and the utility and efficiency of this model is presented through the development of a scenario.

Link to the full paper

Link to the presentation at EMAS

Author: Simon Mayer

Date: 13. May 2022

Semantics for Building Automation

A new paper with involvement from a member of our group was published at the ESWC 2022 Industry Track.

Abstract: Building automation (BA) systems orchestrate and monitor the functioning of a wide variety of utilities in a building so that living spaces are kept comfortable, safe, and secure. The complexity of such a system which involves multiple disciplines (heating, air-conditioning, lighting, fire safety, security etc.), coming from multiple vendors, is compounded by the fact that each building differs in the way the equipment operate and coordinate. So far, efforts involving semantic modeling of BA systems, like Haystack, IFC, or Brick, have been focusing on the description of the building topology, installed equipment, and to a lesser extent, the control strategy, the modeling of the physical process and the role of the control program. In addition, the semantics of interaction with the devices used in BA, which is essential to establish technical interoperability, has so far not been coupled to the BA semantic models. As a result, planners, project engineers, technical operators, and service technicians have to design and understand the working of the system by piecing together information from different sources. From our experience at the Smart Infrastructure division of Siemens AG, we describe briefly in the following sections some key use-cases, the challenges faced by us while applying semantic data in BA, and finally describe our approach and its evaluation in real-life buildings.

Link to the full paper

Author: Simon Mayer

Date: 12. May 2022

Team