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13 December 2021

Project will transfer AI from the cloud to the IoT device

In a new DIREC project, computer science researchers collaborate with industry to develop artificial intelligence to let the IoT devices handle more things.

Photo: Kaare Smith, DTU

Digitization of society is one of the prerequisites for achieving the climate goal of 70 percent CO2 reduction by 2030. And there small sensors (IoT devices) installed in e.g. buildings, heating systems, and treatment plants will play an important role in managing energy consumption, heat, indoor climate, etc.

In a new project Embedded AI – supported by the national research center DIREC – researchers together with industry will investigate how to develop AI (artificial intelligence) that can be implemented in IoT devices so that they can do more themselves. Today, sensors are dependent on AI algorithms on cloud platforms or decentralized networks (Edge Computing), where data and commands are sent via internet / wireless networks.

“It is quite obvious that you will not be able to do the same as with the cloud and edge, but it will cost less, use less energy and be able to react faster. It will also increase security and privacy because data can be kept where it is collected. So there are many benefits to embedded AI, says the project manager, Professor, Section Manager, and Deputy Director at DTU Compute Jan Madsen.

In the project, DTU, Aarhus University, the University of Copenhagen, and CBS collaborate with the pump manufacturer Grundfos Holding, the engine and machine manufacturer MAN Energy Solution, the window manufacturer VELUX, and the technology company Indesmatech.

Move AI from large platforms to small ones
During the three years, the partners will work on specific issues within the four industry partners. They are strong representatives of companies that will be able to strengthen competitiveness by knowing the right tools and platforms to leverage embedded AI (eAI) in their products.

The project will examine the process of going from large platforms to small ones, explore suitable tool platforms, check what opportunities new types of chip provide for embedded AI and map out how embedded AI will be able to change the business models for companies.

Grundfos is experiencing a knowledge gap

The idea for the DIREC project has come through network meetings, where research institutions and industry talk about future competencies and technology needs. Here, Thorkild Kvisgaard, Head of Electronics, Director Technology Innovation at Grundfos, has participated.

He says the company sees a clear need to be able to move some of the artificial intelligence from the large platforms that run on mainframe computers, etc., down and run in more embedded devices (AIoT), even though it will be very resource-limited platforms to work on. Because you can save energy, and you avoid having to send data over the Internet and be dependent on the Internet and cloud solutions that run outside your own control.

“It will, of course, turn out that you can not do quite as much on platforms with limited resources, but we do not know those limits today. And maybe we can do a lot more than we think. If we work with something that is not time-critical, it does not matter that the embedded AI has to spend several minutes figuring something out if it is a slow and complex process,” says Thorkild Kvisgaard.

“At Grundfos, we have experimented with the technology ourselves, but we are experiencing a gap between what data science experts work with on large cloud platforms and what IoT programmers work with. So we hope that the project will also create a better understanding of each other’s work areas.”

Chip becomes crucial

The industry partner Indesmatech acts as both the local office for chip manufacturers, facilitates various development projects with new technology and helps companies to develop technology.

The company is looking forward to clarifying the possibilities when working with Embedded AI algorithms, explains Co-founder of Indesmatech Rune Domsten:

“What is interesting about the Embedded AI project, in addition to the software used for AI, is to investigate which chip and hardware platforms to execute on and use in the different situations. Because the battery consumption in sensors really depends on which chip you use, and it can be a question of whether the battery lasts for e.g. five or ten years.”

Although the industry partners in the DIREC project as large companies are already working on AI, the project could also have great significance for especially small companies that lag behind with artificial intelligence, says Project Manager Jan Madsen:

“While it may seem rather uninteresting in research to develop small AI algorithms, there are actually major research challenges in developing efficient architectures and methods that can be used in smaller and resource-limited sensors / IoT devices. It can also be what gets a small business started using AI for complex tasks and processes.”

About DIREC – Digital Research Centre Denmark

The purpose of the national research centre DIREC is to bring Denmark at the forefront of the latest digital technologies through world-class digital research. To meet the great demand for highly educated IT specialists, DIREC also works to expand the capacity within both research and education of computer scientists. The centre has a total budget of DKK 275 million and is supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark with DKK 100 million. The partnership consists of a unique collaboration across the computer science departments at Denmark’s eight universities and the Alexandra Institute.

The activities in DIREC are based on societal needs, where research is continuously translated into value-creating solutions in collaboration with the business community and the public sector. The projects operate across industries with focus on artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, algorithms and cybersecurity among others.


Embedded AI

Partners in Embedded AI:

  • DTU
  • Aarhus Universitet
  • Københavns Universitet
  • CBS
  • Grundfos Holding A/S
  • MAN Energy Solution
  • Indesmatech

Jan Madsen
DTU Compute
Technical University of Denmark