Doc Bernd's FutureLab

Dr. Bernd Reifenhäuser holds a doctorate in physics and a degree in industrial engineering. As President and Spiritus Rector of the GIP Research Institute and member of the GIP Board of Directors, he is responsible for the orientation of GIP AG and the focal points of the work of the GIP Research Institute. In addition to his focus on Future Energy, he is working on the question "Can we copy the Brain: Beyond AI" and the new topic area of Systemic and Algorithmic Biology.

In the past, Doc Bernd designed and shaped the very successful Xyna conference with the thematic orientations. In changing times and digitalization, DocBernd will continue the view from practice into the future that shaped the Xyna conference in the FutureLab. In the following you will find contributions from DocBernd and his team on trends and developments that fall within the focus of the GIP.

Xyna Konferenz - A review

Looking over the edge with a focus on the future and innovation

The Xyna Conference was an exclusive event for customers, partners, interested parties and market participants around Smart Networks. Renowned speakers from industry and science, selected by us annually, create a unique opportunity to discuss current issues and innovations and to gather new impulses.

The conference was hosted by the core for research and innovation, the GIP AG Research Institute, which is responsible for the research focus "Digital Innovations". Among other things, the Research Institute has launched the Xyna Digital Collaborative Cloud as well as the Quantum Grid.

The first Xyna conference was held in 2006 and has become a more sought-after event year after year among customers, partners and friends of GIP.

A collection of reviews of the Xyna Conferences 2006 - 2019 can be found here:

Future Energy

Author: Doc Bernd, FutureLab

Que Sera! Smart World: What Mars Can Teach Us.

With Nasa's Mars mission, Mars is on everyone's lips again. In the Xyna Conference 2018, I dealt with the question of what we could learn from Mars for a world changed by climate change. After all, Mars has undergone drastic climate change. In doing so, I asked myself how humans might live on Mars and what we can learn from this for the concept of a Smart World that adapts to climate change where its consequences are unfortunately unavoidable. At that time, astronaut Prof. Dr. Ulrich Walter gave an overview of the state of research and approaches for a human life in space in his contribution at our Xyna Conference 2018.

A special focus in my presentation was on an interstellar power supply based on Quantum Grid technology. Especially the power generation by thermoelectric generators based on the Seeberg effect played an important role. In particular, such thermoelectric generators could be important in future smart world technologies for powering IoT and cyber-physical systems.

How far research and development in the field of these thermoelectric generators has progressed is shown in the article "Energy Center in 3D" in Physics Journal p. 20.

Thermoelectric generators (TEG) convert heat into an electric field by means of the Seeberg effect. In a circuit consisting of two different conductors A and B with material-dependent Seeberg coefficients S(T) and S(T), a voltage U is generated with $${U} = \int_{T_1}^{T_2}{(S_B(T)-S_A(T))dT}$$

In this case, T1  is the temperature at the 1st junction of conductors A and B, and T2 is the temperature at the 2nd junction of conductors A and B.

As reported by the Physik Journal, the KIT Karlsruhe spin-offs "otego" and the "InnovationLab" Heidelberg achieved amazing progress. Using thermoelectric ink based on PEDOT nanowires, 3D structures were printed. A tiny cube was thus created as a folded TEG with an edge length approximately equal to the diameter of a 1 eurocent coin.

This TEG cube could generate a power density of about 50 μWatt/cm2 at a temperature difference of 30K. This power was sufficient to drive a frahling sensor that measures temperature, air pressure, and humidity and transmits them to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The temperature difference can be easily determined by the difference between the sunny side and the shady side of the TEG.

I consider this development very interesting for the Quantum Grid. In Rural Areas, for example, there will be Quantum Grid links that are little used. That is, these rarely transmit power, but need to communicate with the Quantum Grid to enable, if needed, the transmission of power packets through them. Using such TEGs built into the Quantum Grid router at the end of that Quantum Link, this power supply could be provided. As a result, this end router can participate in Quantum Grid communication. As a reminder to transmit energy packets and thus provide electrical power, the Quantum Grid Routers involved in the transmission must exchange data packets with each other for communication. For this purpose, in simple terms, the communication modules of the routers must be able to be permanently supplied with power. This is usually done as part of the transmission of energy packets. However, if this is only rarely the case, extra supply packets would have to be transmitted to these little-used end routers.

With the thermoelectric generators, however, these supply packages are no longer necessary.  

Trends in Communication

Author: Doc Bernd, FutureLab

Since innovations with Algorithmic Intelligence for a connected world always include communication technology as an essential component, the current trends play a significant role for us and for the Xyna software of our associated company GIP Exyr GmbH. On January 1, 2021, the IEEE CNT Editorial Board published seven communication trends for 2021.

We have summarized what we consider to be the key statements below. Among them, the academically very popular but industrially not yet tackled intelligent reflective surfaces (IRS) made of artificial materials are the biggest bet for the future. IRS, as a paradigm-shifting technology, is expected to lead to a dreamland of intelligent wireless environments where wireless systems not only adapt to their habitats and take countermeasures against harmful effects, but actually control those habitats and their effects. The Board is right to ask critical questions about this. 

For our work, especially for our Future Energy area, the trends and developments in the areas of Open Radio Access Network, Edge Computing, Satellite Networks, as well as the importance of 4G, 5G and in the future 6G as an alternative to Wifi are relevant. In addition to these points, the network slicing in 5G, which will be launched on the market in 2022, is of particular interest to us and our cooperation partner GIP Exyr GmbH. Because this enables to realize industrial and application specific virtual overlay networks with the 5G network.  

Please read my summary below: 

Seven Communications Technology Trends for 2021
A note from the IEEE CTN Editorial Board:

  • We Will All Be Disappointed in 5G Because 6G Will Look So Much Shinier
    “All of a sudden, mmWave bandwidths seem narrow and we hunger for terahertz frequencies, massive MIMO seems pointless when we can instead deploy intelligent reflecting surfaces that need no active RF chains, and anything not controlled by a data-driven learning algorithm seems to be a relic from a bygone era.”

  • 2021 Is Open Radio Access Network`s (ORAN) Breakout Year
    Jio and Rakuten had both pursued an IT approach to developing greenfield cellular networks, showing that such an approach can be feasible and indeed successful. The ORAN committee started publishing interfaces and specifications at a breakneck speed in 2020 and new suppliers started to appear with ORAN-focused products. This January, Vodafone, Deutsche Telecom, Orange and Telefonica announced a partnership to support the rollout of ORAN in Europe. So, 2021 is shaping up to be the year when ORAN must show it has the capability to dominate 5G in the longer term. Everyone will be watching closely and adjusting their plans accordingly.”

  • We Will Be Amazed by What 5G Can Do and It Won’t Be Because of Massive MIMO
    “The German government has also aligned its new spectrum auctions with a goal of allowing enterprises to own their own cellular infrastructure. Underlying all of this is the belief that factories, large private spaces (malls, sports stadiums, etc) will start to provide differentiating and boutique services using new capabilities explicitly built into 5G. The use of 4G in unlicensed bands is already available and allowing local spectral ownership will reinforce the Quality of Service capabilities.”

  • AI in Communications Becomes Just Another Thing
    “It turns out that AI is only useful if you have massive amounts of data to train on (who knew?) and this limits its usefulness in communications where everything is in motion and bandwidth and power are limited. We predict that, in 2021 and onwards, it will become a useful tool in the communication engineer’s bag of tools, like Tensors.”

  • Finally, Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces (IRS) Will Become a Popular Acronym in the US
    “A year ago, we commented on how metamaterials, in their many forms and shapes, were going mainstream. This turned out to be an understatement. The new subdiscipline spawned by these artificially constructed materials, and chiefly by the so-called Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces, ranked second to none in terms of paper submissions to communication journals and conferences in 2020. However, despite this runaway academic enthusiasm, industry is, for now at least, mostly watching from the sidelines. It may thus be premature to hail IRSs as a paradigm-shifting technology, even if the possibilities are certainly both intriguing and alluring at this stage, with a dotted line that leads to a dreamland of smart radio environments where wireless systems do not merely adapt to their habitats and take countermeasures against deleterious effects, but actually control such habitats and their effects. Put differently, a world in which the environment is part of the wireless system itself, as opposed to an external –often hostile– player. How much of the environment must be rendered controllable for that to make a difference? Can such degree of control be attained? Is an IRS really better than a good old relay? Many questions, and still few answers, so we don’t expect the volume of papers to abate anytime soon.”

  • Satellites Go up, Balloons Come Down, and a Whole New Field of Network Engineering Emerges
    “Overall, 2021 will be a year of dynamic development for broadband satellite internet. It will test the business potential of hopeful constellation operators as well as the potential response of geostationary satellite operators.”

  • 2021 Will Be the Year We All Live on the Edge
    “Multi-access edge computing (MEC), formerly known as mobile edge computing, aims at optimizing the performance for ultra-low latency and high bandwidth services by providing networking, computing and services at the edge of the network. Key drivers of MEC include the massive deployments of IoT and the combination with next generation 5G networks. With MEC, service providers are looking forward to monetizing their network services by introducing new applications and services for their customers. The adoption of MEC architecture started a couple of years back, with the development of standards, APIs, and protocols by organizations such as European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). We’re expecting to see more MEC-based applications and services this year, and hoping for new and improved user experiences.”


Can we copy the brain?

Author: Doc Bernd, FutureLab

Hirnorganoiden Frankenstein will come

"Can we copy the Brain" - immediately we think of any form of artificial intelligence run on machines. But what about actually creating artificial biological brains?  After all, such ideas have been around for a long time. An ethically problematic approach and, as I thought, far from realization - until I came across the article "Consciousness in the Petri dish" by Sara Reardon in the journal "Hirn & Geist" No. 03/2021 p. 45.

In this article the author reports about mini-brains, consisting of complex, tiny cell clusters. Neuronal progenitor cells form neurons that interconnect. The article goes more into detail about the status of several research papers on animal, but also human organoids. For example, the 2017 study by Quadrato, G. et al. called "Cell diversity and network dynamics in photosensing human brain organoids", Nature 545, 2017, published in the journal Nature, in which light-sensitive organoids formed from such cells as those found in the retina. These organoids began to fire when exposed to light and showed this through corresponding EEG signals.

These are amazing results, but they are still far from thinking brain organoids. The whole thing has a considerable ethical dimension, which is also critically discussed in the article.
In my opinion, we need clear regulations here as to what is ethically acceptable and what consequences such systems with brain organoids could have. The cyborgs that are popularly portrayed in science fiction are already greeting us from afar.

Since reading the article, I have been concerned with the question of whether and how such organoids could be used to build cyber-biophysical systems (CBPS) to perform specific tasks. For example, these CBPS could be equipped with artificial organoids capable of sensory perception and processing. Their EEG signals are then processed by the cyber part of the CBPS in order to control corresponding physical action systems or processes.
Conceivable in this context would be the formation of an odor sensor made of artificial organoids derived from the olfactory sensory cells of dogs. The electrical activity of these cells acts as an input variable in the form of spike trains to a spiking neuronal network (SNN) implemented on a neuromorphic chip. The SNN could then, for example, detect corresponding diseases, such as Covid 19 SARS 2 (C19). Or one step further, the organoids are augmented to form a brain organoid. These can then detect C19, as in dogs, in addition to sensory perception. This result is then intelligently processed by the cyber part.

Perhaps the engineering of restricted and specialized brain organoids is a real alternative, for example to the development of a physical-chemical odor sensor, which at best can rival the dog's nose.

It remains exciting!

Can we copy the brain

The brain is one of the most fascinating parts of the body and despite all the existing knowledge, many questions still remain. That is why I have chosen the motto "Can we copy the brain" for the Xyna Conference 2017. A central question that has been with us for a long time and that we are also currently dealing with. Particularly relevant are the two approaches of Deep Learning Neural Networks and Neuromorphic Computing. In particular, the latter approach, in execution with Spiking Neural Networks, offers an interesting approach to non-digital algorithmic intelligence. Representing Deep Learning Networks, I was able to attract one of the most famous researchers in artificial intelligence, Prof. Dr. Schmidhuber, to speak at our 2017 Xyna conference. His talk gave the guests an exciting insight about the future development of artificial intelligence and into his research work. In doing so, he came to talk about his vision in which outer space would be conquered by machines with artificial intelligence.  His machine-centered and posthuman vision of the future was countered by philosopher Prof. Dr. Gehring, who presented a philosophical and ethical view of the topic. If you want to read even more about our this conference, click here.

Since 2017, a lot has happened in the field of artificial intelligence. Therefore, I am currently rephrasing the question "Can we copy the brain" to "Can we support the brain". Unlike the first, the second question can already be answered in the affirmative.

The approach of a data-driven algorithmic intelligence, as offered by AI approaches such as DLN, implies that the right data can be provided in sufficient quantity for their training. While this may still be comparatively easy for cat image recognition, it is not trivial for more complex problems. The key is to define the right task and to acquire the right data with the necessary quantity and quality. This shifts the task from knowledge-based model building to data acquisition, or as I would describe it as a physicist: the determination of the relevant parameters with the help of the corresponding measurement methods.

I am currently working on the question of how routing and beamforming could be implemented in 5G and XG mobile communications using AI. In this context, I refer to the article by F. Restuccia and T. Melodia in IEEE Communications Vol. 58 No. 10 p.58.

Quantum Grid more important than ever

Author: Melissa Schubert, Corporate Communications

In addition to the ever-increasing pandemics in the future, there is a real risk of a blackout due to the diversification of the European power grid into classic large-scale power plants and many green plants that generate renewable energy, from small PV systems to offshore wind farms. In this case, the power supply would fail across the country or across Europe, sending millions of people back to the Middle Ages. Even though some critical infrastructure has made provisions with emergency generators, these only run for a limited time. Once this time has elapsed, vital equipment in hospitals would fail, the transport of raw materials and food would be halted, and hundreds of thousands would have to lose their lives. In addition, the economic consequences are immense. A pan-European blackout came within a hair's breadth in January of this year, when the power supply for Europe was on the verge of collapse.

Accordingly, a secure and predictable power supply is essential for the European economy and society. For more than a decade, the GIP Research Institute has been working intensively on the conception of future intelligent energy networks. To this end, Dr. Alexander Ebbes and DocBernd developed the Quantum Grid for packet-based, routed and self-organized power transmission, analogous to Internet technology. GIP holds patents in Europe for this novel power grid and transmission method. Built in analogy to the Internet, which was designed for resilience and robustness, a routed power grid has a high potential for blackout prevention. In this way, we aim to drive the development of an energy internet and make a positive contribution to the energy transition and environmental protection through the integration of renewable energy.

Already in 2015, our Xyna conference was fully dedicated to the topic of "Energy and Internet" and in particular to the Quantum Grid. The dangers of a blackout were reported by Mark Elsberg, who very vividly described the impact of a pan-European blackout in his bestseller. GIP has continuously developed the Quantum Grid. At the 2017 Xyna conference, DocBernd presented the use of artificial intelligence in the Quantum Grid, and in the course of the 2018 conference, the method patented by Dr. Ebbes and DocBernd for intelligent packet-based control of hybrid storage could be presented. With this technology, power profiles can be realized by the intelligent and packet-based power flow of different storages with different power characteristics.

At the 2019 conference, DocBernd presented the Quantum Grid out of the Box for Africa, which allows previously less developed areas to access electricity.

A critical step in the evolution of the Quantum Grid was made by DocBernd through the invention of a new transmission method with a modified power package and self-organized management to compensate and balance volatility. This modified Quantum Grid is not only limited to the power grid, but also enables smart sector coupling, as well as smart and automatic management of storage. In December 2020, a patent application was filed for this new process and the associated new transmission network.

With this modified Quantum Grid QG 4.0, the existing European power grid can be segmented into security cells. These security cells are interconnected via so-called quantum grid routers, the cell router, for packet transmission. Each of these cells is a micro grid, managed by the Cell Router. If there is a power shortage in one of these cells that can no longer be compensated, the Quantum Grid Router can limit the blackout locally to this cell. In addition, important consumers such as hospitals or mobile radio stations in the cell can be connected to the cell router via Quantum Grid Routers. In this way, their supply can continue to be ensured.

All this is done by the Quantum Grid Control software and the corresponding power electronics controlled by this software.

This will include the following key innovations:

  • Self-organized and automatic storage management to compensate for fluctuations
  • Integration of power and gas grid to incorporate hydrogen-based energy supply and Power2X
  • Cell Segmentation & No Trust Cyber Security: New security concept against cyber attacks 

This allows the power grid to be inoculated against blackout with our Quantum Grid mRNA in the form of our new control software. Currently DocBernd is working on the further development of the Quantum Grid based Bulkhead & Firewall concept against the widespread spread of a blackout.

More information can be found at Quantum Grid.