The theme of study tour USB 14.0 is ‘Smart Surroundings’. Smart surroundings can be described as our surroundings becoming smarter every day. More and more aspects of the everyday life are being automated, observed and mostly communicated between systems. What are the consequences, how do these systems work and how do you launch these systems on the market? These are the type of question that you will encounter during the study tour. ‘Smart Surroundings’ is a broad definition and therefore six tracks have been composed, namely the following:

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Internet of Things
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • Modern Human Input and Output Devices
  • E-Commerce
  • Big Data and Security

Each track focuses on a different aspect of the theme and the tracks are described below in more detail.

Energy Efficiency (CAES)

This track focuses on using information and communication technology to improve our everyday energy use in so called ‘Smart grids’. A smart grid connects several smart household devices with flexible energy usages. The intelligence in the devices is coordinated by supply and demand. For example, a refrigerator and a television may be (partially) turned off at night, but should always be turned on at 8 o’ clock. By applying intelligence into our electricity grid, we can greatly reduce our energy usage. Two examples of assignments:

Smart grid control methods: practice vs theory
There are many control methodologies for Smart Grids. Some are device specific, some use generalized techniques to be device agnostic. Commonly used techniques are cost functions. Such functions give an abstract description of device possibilities and their preference.  Within Triana, a smart control method developed at CAES, cost functions are also used. There is a lot of theory on cost functions, but how applicable is this theory in practice? Within this assignment, you will create/analyze a small control algorithm, testing/analyzed to (un)usability of cost functions.

Plug-and-play Storage assets
Storage is seen as an important asset in stabilizing future smart grids. Next to dimensioning and positioning, also the optimization strategy is important to exploit the potential of storage. In this assignment you are challenged to study and evaluate local optimization algorithms for storage assets. For this, a simulator for future scenarios is available which can be used in which only the optimization algorithms need to be implemented.

Internet of Things (PS)

In what is called the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects — from containers to pacemakers — are linked through both wired and wireless networks to the Internet. When objects in the IoT can sense the environment, interpret the data, and communicate with each other, they become tools for understanding complexity and for responding to events and irregularities swiftly. The IoT is therefore seen by many as the ultimate solution for getting fine grained insights into business processes — in the real-world and in real-time.

Examples of topics to be addressed are:

  • Smart Dust technologies: highly miniaturized integrated microelectronic or MEMS based solutions, addressing aspects as energy harvesting, wireless communication, and efficient processing.
  • Opportunistic networking and participatory sensing: research and solutions showing the potential impact of the use of smartphones, and the integration and sharing of different sensor systems for IoT
  • Wearable computing and smart textiles: integrated solutions for body area networking, their interaction with people and environment.
  • Real Time Localization Systems:  efficient, scalable, and easy to deploy localization technologies with smartphones and RTLS.
  • Internet integration: showing end-to-end internet based IoT solutions offering scalable and efficient services.

Autonomous Vehicles (DACS)

This track focuses on autonomous vehicles: vehicles operating without a human driver.  Autonomous vehicles have numerous advantages over human-controlled vehicles, such as fewer traffic collisions, increased roadway capacity and higher speed limits. Many car manufacturers (including General Motors, Nissan and Toyota) have made attempts to create autonomous vehicles, but the development of computer-controlled vehicles introduces many challenges, such as vehicular communication, cyber security and sensing the environment.

Modern Human Input and Output Devices (HMI)

Technical advancements have made it possible to use new human input and output devices in our everyday surroundings. Consider the touch screen; they were only used sparsely a few decades ago and now they are integrated into our surroundings in the form of smart phones. These changing devices provide us with opportunities for innovative forms of interaction; with the system, but also with other people. New gesture types are for instance implemented in touch devices to support more types of applications and systems are being developed that make that people cannot only hear and see, but also feel each other when they are not together. This track focuses on the impact of new technologies on Human Computer Interfaces, but also on the effects on the users. You can think of:

  1. Creating innovative interactions with input devices such as the Leap, physiological sensors, or the Myo and/or with output devices such as touch devices, Google glass, or the Oculus Rift.
  2. Designing tools for and/or performing a user experiment on the possible psychological effects of touching or being touched by others over a distance.

E-Commerce (IEBIS)

As the e-commerce market grows more and more retailers enter the market and rely on external providers for IT and business services, especially in the order fulfilment process. A whole new market of e-commerce related service offerings is growing. We want to investigate on current trends in this market and get insight into the related research in the field. Topics we want to cover are for example:

Reverse retailing platforms: Turning around the buying process by giving customers the possibility to publish their orders and retailers select.

Control customer behavior: Limiting the number of return shipments by getting insight into customer behavior. By creating a customer profile it might be possible to prevent fraudulent refunds.

Multivendor cross selling services: Enable cross selling and shipping among specialized shops to compete with the overwhelming power of large online stores.

Big Data and Security (DB & DIES)

Big Data is a recent buzzword that has caught a lot of attention. Big Data is used as a term to describe data sets too large to be processed by conventional database techniques. New technologies have to be used to capture, manage and process the data. Besides the challenges involved in processing the data, useful information can be extracted form the data itself. This data can be used for malicious purposes, but instead can also be used to find cyber attack patterns. Therefore this track also focuses on the security aspects of Big Data. Examples of topics are:

  1. The student will participate in the Norvig Award 2014, where you have to extract new valuable information from the CommonCrawl web crawl, a crawl of over 6 billion webpages. You will learn to use Hadoop and perform an analysis on a cluster of SURFsara. For a more security oriented research, you can focus on searching for malware, viruses, spam, etc. This assignment will be performed in a team of two students.
  2. The student will evaluate the security of modern techniques to hide the access pattern on big databases. Hiding the access pattern is highly relevant in certain applications. For instance, if the database contains DNA data, seeing an access pattern can reveal the nature of a certain medical test (e.g., susceptibility test for Alzheimer’s) that is to be performed on a particular part of a DNA sequence. The student will implement existing techniques and will design and run several dedicated attack strategies to evaluate the security and general performance of those techniques.