We should really understand that flexibility is critical
Updated: Jun 28, 2021
By reducing the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions to at least 50% of their 1990 levels, the European Green Deal aims to make this the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. And by bringing together experts in Intelligent Digital Systems from across Europe, Inside (formally known as ARTEMIS) wants to help make this goal a reality.
Moving knowledge to industry
Automation and digitalisation can be a double-edged sword. Despite being two of the primary ways of reducing the environmental footprint of industrial activities, the increased use of the internet consumes a lot of energy – most of which is produced by coal power. “There’s a lower bound on the energy cost of sending one bit of data that we cannot go below for physical reasons. Even that bottom line says that there will be a significant cost to transferring information around the globe,” explains Jerker Delsing, Professor at Luleå University of Technology and a long-time participant in Inside. “So, can we reduce the amount of data? For the Green Deal, we need to think architecturally about the kind of computations and where the computations are made – classic digital computation or new technologies like neo-morphic computing and computing at the edge or in the cloud. This is what I'm involved in: creating brains that can then move this knowledge to industry.”
As a network of OEMs, SMEs, universities and research institutes, Inside acts as the ideal technology platform to create links between industry and academia that disseminate this vital knowledge. Through the involvement of Member States and the direction provided by the Electronic Components & Systems (ECS) Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA), the association also helps create long-term governance. “We need to find the balance between knowledge infrastructure, information infrastructure and all other infrastructures,” Jerker notes. “Railways and roads live for many years but it takes even longer to change them. We should really understand that flexibility is critical.”
Point A to Point B
As for how Intelligent Digital Systems (and software-intensive embedded systems in particular) can best serve sustainability, it’s again about the cost of communication and computation. “About twenty years ago, a good friend of mine would rephrase things like ‘rip and replace’ as ‘wrap and reuse’ – being able to reuse, update and evolve technologies with as little effort as possible instead of just tearing everything down and rebuilding. This is an important feature of sustainable competitiveness and is already part of a number of projects being pushed by Inside,” says Jerker. “How do we make roads and traffic situations much more flexible than they are today? Information technology can help to some extent. To me, a railway is hard-coded – you go from Point A to Point B – but how do you increase the capacity on that railway? By doing things smarter and enabling the integration and interoperability with other transportation means.”
Ultimately, success in the European Green Deal will depend on the capacity for industry and society to adapt to fast-changing situations and recruit the talented individuals who can develop at the same pace. Without collaboration, few companies have the means to achieve this – but having brought together 770 partners in 56 projects so far, Inside will keep on building bridges and facilitating sustainable innovation until the Green Deal’s targets have been met.