Fraunhofer Applied Research Center for Wireless Sensor Technology, Coburg

Fraunhofer Applied Research Center for Wireless Sensor Technology, Coburg

While the industry continues to make advances in sensor technology and miniaturization, researchers and engineers are facing a wide range of challenges related to transmission and compression methods, analyzing  context-based information collected by the system, visualizing measurement results, developing entire systems using interactive or model-based methods and in particular transferring these technologies to concrete fields of application.  

In order to tackle these challenges, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS and the University of Coburg jointly created the Fraunhofer Applied Research Center for Wireless Sensor Technology in 2012 with the support of the Bavarian government. The center focuses on the development of practical solutions for industry based on wireless sensor network technologies.

The center, which is headed by Prof. Dr. Thomas Wieland from the University of Coburg School of Computer Science, works closely with the university. The center’s laboratories are located in the Hofbräuhaus, a former brewery that houses a technology and innovation center on the grounds of the university’s Campus Design location, and is directly adjacent to the Institute for Sensor and Actuator Technology (ISAT). Jürgen Hupp, head of the Communication Networks department at Fraunhofer IIS, is responsible for coordinating the research activities between the center and IIS. The collaboration primarily involves the Communication Networks and Image Processing and Medical Engineering departments at Fraunhofer IIS.

Research Activities

The activities of the Fraunhofer Applied Research Center for Wireless Sensor Technology focus on sensors or sensor systems and how they can be networked to a central point, or to one another, using low-energy, short-range wireless communication technologies. In a sensor network, the interaction, synchronization and coordination of multiple sensor nodes facilitates determining or even predicting events or current states. The decisive issue however is the integration of the sensor network into the entire process chain.

The center furthermore carries out applied research in the fields of sensor networks and cyber physical systems with a focus on the visual and model-driven development of applications based on wireless sensor networks, in addition to examining technologies such as wearable computing and information security.

Business Fields

The Fraunhofer Applied Research Center for Wireless Sensor Technology focuses on making wireless sensor and sensor network technologies available for a variety of applications and developing customer-specific applications. These activities are primarily carried out in the following business fields:

  1. Machine and building structure monitoring: Sensor networks can be employed to monitor the functionality of machines and equipment, process chains and control systems as well as building structures and bridges. This helps ensure continuous performance while providing timely and reliable detection and prediction of potential outages. In line with the rationale of Industry 4.0, sensor networks also permit the development of systems for identifying and automatically configuring processes that can determine general and current-state characteristics using a decentralized approach and then transmitting the collected information so that it can be further utilized within the process chain.
  2. Ambient monitoring: Wireless sensor networks are suitable for monitoring various surfaces with respect to prevailing environmental conditions such as temperature, soil humidity and pest infestation, as well as for monitoring security-related events (access control). Value-add applications such as acquiring feedback from users on service offerings or linking sensor networks to control systems are also possible. In the field of agriculture for instance, tracts of land can be cultivated by taking into account the microclimatic conditions of the soil with sensors.
  3. Out-patient rehabilitation: Sensors can be used to monitor the movements and progress of patients during independent physical therapy rehabilitation sessions. They can also keep track of the body’s vital functions, leading to timely identification of potential convalescence setbacks or relapses. The center is working to integrate both of these applications into clothing with the aim of increasing their day-to-day utility in an effort to broaden out-patient rehabilitation services, particularly for patients with skeletal and musculature injuries and disorders. 

Apart from s-net®, a patented technology developed by Fraunhofer IIS, the center also offers wireless sensor network platforms based on standards like IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee, in addition to free or open-source systems such as TinyOS and Contiki. Solutions tailored to the needs of the customer are also available.