Tübingen / Heidelberg, October 9, 2014. Science in clear words: Dr. Sebastian Trimpe, a research scientist in the “Autonomous Motion Department" (Stefan Schaal) at the Tübingen Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, has written a short, comprehensible text (in German) that describes the research he conducted during his PhD at ETH Zurich. As winner in the category of computer science, he is one of six awardees who received the Klaus Tschira Award for achievements in public understanding of science on Thursday, October 9, 2014 in Heidelberg.
Trimpe’s PhD thesis deals with communication in networked control systems. In the methods he developed, it is the content of the data that decides, whether the information is sent or not. Each unit transmits data only if it is new, not predictable and especially relevant to the other units.
As a research platform, Trimpe used a two-meter-tall aluminium structure in the shape of a cube. Through the cooperating movements of six arms, the cube can balance on any one of its corners. Communication among the arms is limited to the essential information at appropriate times. This so-called „event-based communication“ results in smooth and efficient data exchange, and avoids inhibiting network congestion. On the cube, the data exchange required for balancing could be reduced significantly.
Because the methods are based on mathematical models and hence an abstract description of the underlying systems, they can readily be transferred to other engineering systems. In future, this research may help that robots, cars or other intelligent machines communicate with their fellows - but only if they really have something to say.