Inria is coordinating a new European project, OpenSwarm, to develop technologies for the Internet of Things. The result is applications in significant areas, such as workplace safety, environmental protection, or mobility. Deciphering scientific issues with Thomas Watteyne, a researcher in the field of the Internet of Things at the Inria Center in Paris and coordinator of OpenSwarm.
A New Generation Of Connected Objects
Dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) and supported by Inria, the OpenSwarm project was launched on January 26, 2023, as part of Horizon Europe (a European program for research and innovation). Thomas Watteyne, research director at Inria Paris and head of the AIO team, is the coordinator. He summarizes the objectives: “We will develop technological building blocks to prepare the next IoT innovations. We are particularly interested in intelligent sensors capable of interacting within a dynamically connected network. The researcher continues:
Heir to the EVA team whose work it extends, AIO was created in 2022. However, its members have been working on IoT and robotics for a long time, forging close links with the academic world, large industrial groups, and startups. For this particularly innovative project, with a budget of nearly 6 million euros over 40 months (from January 2023 to April 2026), they mobilized nine European partners for a considerable amount of information to process
With low energy consumption, wireless networks are increasingly used to monitor difficult-to-access areas, civil engineering works, or production sites. “These networks of connected objects work very efficiently for simple surveillance applications, in which raw data, from sensors placed in the areas to be monitored, are transmitted periodically to a server which analyzes them continuously,” explains Thomas Watteyne. This static mode of operation proves to be particularly robust and secure. However, for the applications in which OpenSwarm is interested, we will develop dynamic networks within which mobile sensors can exchange data with each other and with a central server.
The task then turns out to be significantly more complex because such a network must be able to reconfigure itself according to the movement of the sensors, the latter being able, for example, to be carried by robots. This involves organizing the network to ensure sensors’ location, communication, and collaboration – all in real-time! In a dynamic IoT network, the number of interactions and the quantity of information exchanged between sensors quickly become very important. However, the algorithms used in static networks are not efficient at processing these data flows. One objective is to address the various scientific and technical challenges posed by new-generation technologies for IoT.
Generic Solutions For Varied Uses
How will OpenSwarm overcome these limitations? Thomas Watteyne explains the approach: “First, we will develop new algorithms to reduce information transfer times between dynamic network sensors – to operate almost in real-time. Next, we will exploit the potential of recent innovations in embedded technologies based on artificial intelligence for IoT by giving them significantly increased computing capabilities. Finally, we will develop a compiler specific to swarm programming. There is none at present, so it must be built from start to finish…”
Thus, OpenSwarm partners intend to develop generic solutions that can be configured and adapted for various uses. They wish to demonstrate the robustness and performance of their innovations in four areas: environment, health and safety at work, mobility, and smart cities.
A Very Inventive Testing Platform
The final stage of the project: consolidate feedback, rich in lessons, on these different use cases. It will be preceded by in-depth research, covering the most theoretical developments, and by implementation of the technical solutions proposed.
This crucial validation phase will rely on the inventiveness of Inria researchers through DotBot. Designed to promote teaching and research in robotics, this tiny robot, easy to build at a low cost, can be equipped with a sensor. Thus, a thousand connected units will form an experimental platform to test swarm programming.
Another project asset is open source, as Thomas Watteyne points out: Inria has chosen to develop available technologies, facilitating collaboration between the partners in the same project. This also allows wide dissemination of the designed technology blocks within the academic or industrial community; open source promotes a win-win strategy.