Behind the curtains of InSecTT – a pan-European joint effort to create trust in AI

Silicon Alps network partners team up for InSecTT – a Virtual Vehicle project in cooperation with SAL, AVL, NXP and CISC

InSecTT – Intelligent Secure Trustable Things, is a pan-European effort with 54 key partners from 12 countries (EU and Turkey), to provide intelligent, secure and trustworthy systems for industrial applications to provide comprehensive cost-efficient solutions of intelligent, end-to-end secure, trustworthy connectivity and interoperability to bring the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence together. InSecTT aims at creating trust in AI-based intelligent systems and solutions as a major part of the AIoT.

Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) is the natural evolution for both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) because they are mutually beneficial. AI increases the value of the IoT through machine learning by transforming the data into useful information, while the IoT increases the value of AI through connectivity and data exchange.

We have asked project lead Dr. Michael Karner at Virtual Vehicles and Dr. Fjolla Ademaj, project lead at Silicon Austria Labs as Scientist in the Wireless Communications Unit in Linz, Upper Austria about the proceedings and to provide some insights into the project for the Silicon Alps network.

As complex as it is, can you give us a brief overview of the InSecTT project?

Karner: Of course! Basically, InSecTT (Intelligent Secure Trustable Things) is a European research project funded by the ECSEL joint undertaking and national EU member states including Austria (FFG). It’s a pan-European effort with 52 key partners from industry and research out of 12 countries (EU and Turkey). VIRTUAL VEHICLE in Graz is the coordinator of the project, which is a huge responsibility having in mind that InSecTT has a total budget of about 50 Million Euros, approximately half of it being European and national funding. The project started in 2020 and aims to finish in 2023.

What are the basic idea and the common aim of the project partners?

Ademaj: The aim of the project is to provide intelligent, consistently secure, trustworthy and cost-efficient solutions in the field of industrial IoT (IIoT). 

And then came the pandemic. How did 2020 affect the project, were there any complications or even beneficial effects?

Karner: InSecTT started in June, right in the middle of the COVID19 crisis. Hence, we had to do our kick-off meeting (with more than 150 participants) that originally should have taken place in Graz completely online. This was quite challenging but worked out really well. Ultimately, since then all meetings took place online. Of course, there is nothing better than getting to know each other at a physical meeting, as this significantly eases collaboration while it implicitly builds up trust between the people working on the project. In addition, never underestimate what is being discussed during the breaks or evening events! Lots of important and good ideas are created there, which cannot be done in an online meeting.

Ultimately, how did the project emerge after all?

Karner: We had a predecessor project called SCOTT, about the same size, which was about building a secure and trustable Internet of Things. During the project, we came to the conclusion that the addition of Artificial Intelligence to the Internet of Things brings an enormous benefit. Hence, we decided to write the proposal for InSecTT which, as one of only a few in a very competitive process, got selected for funding.

What are possible fields of application and what is SAL’s role in the project?

Ademaj: As Michael said, the central project idea is based on the merging of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things in order to create trust in AI-based intelligent systems in industrial applications. These are, for instance, in the automotive industry, manufacturing, intelligent infrastructure, health, railways or shipping.

 SAL’s work thereby focuses on the security aspects in automotive and manufacturing applications, such as high synchronization accuracy (even in harsh environments), interference monitoring and estimation of communication parameters, interference suppression and testing of advanced cybersecurity attacks.

With such a host of high-level partners, how did you choose the right players for a project of that size?

Karner: In a project of this size with more than 50 partners it is important that each partner covers their specific role in the project in an excellent way. Hence, we had to be very selective in which companies/research organisations having as partners in the project. We have several top industries and research organisations/universities from all over Europe and Turkey involved, and I am proud to say that Austria is very well represented here. We have a strong top know-how Austrian industry participation with companies like NXP Semiconductors Austria, CISC Semiconductor and AVL List involved, and also research partners like Silicon Austria Labs. And of course, VIRTUAL VEHICLE as the overall coordinator of the project.

Wow, that’s amazing and sounds extraordinary by all means! Coordinating all these must be a huge responsibility, what exactly is your job at the project?

Karner: At VIRTUAL VEHICLE, I am the Lead Researcher in Embedded Systems and Project Manager for large-scale research projects like InSecTT. In the InSecTT project, I am the overall Project Coordinator and Project Manager, hence in the end responsible for the success of the project.

With all these bright minds involved and combined know-how, we can look forward to ground-breaking results. Can you illustrate for our network what your own expectations are and what problems you think may be solved for our future – and which are especially relevant for the Silicon Alps network?

Karner: The idea of InSecTT is bringing two main drivers of today’s innovation together: the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. Combined, we are calling them the Artificial Intelligence of Things (IoT+AI=AIoT), and we are placing it as close as possible to the place where the action happens (at the so-called “edge”), in order to have fast reaction times also in critical situations. In the project, we are showing how this combination can be highly efficient used in a broad variety of different use cases from the European industry. For example, we have Automotive scenarios like resilient wireless vehicle-to-X communication, platooning or security testing, Railway applications like trains that – while they are moving – are forming a “virtual coupled train” going part of a journey together, we have Airports, Planes, Harbours/Ships, Public Transport, Health Industry, Smart Factories, Smart Buildings etc. involved. Our use cases demonstrate the applicability of the AIoT for the benefit of European key industries, in which also the Silicon Alps network is strongly present.

In addition, an important topic is how to trust such systems. For the user, they often look like some kind of black box that she/he needs to trust. In our project, we are aiming to develop an understandable and explainable Artificial Intelligence, where the user is able to understand how decisions are being made, in order to build up trust in the solutions.

We are curious: Do you have any ideas yet what will come next?

Karner: As the project is now running for roughly half a year, we are in the middle of starting the actual implementation of the use cases. This will be done in an iterative approach, with several releases over time. Our goal is to regularly show the results of the project to interested parties and the general public, in order to get feedback on our work and also involve relevant stakeholders. The project is following an open innovation approach, which means that we want to maximize our cooperation and the uptake of our results also outside of the project consortium. In addition, in the second half of the project, there will be a public event with live showcasing of the demonstrators co-located with a conference about the project results.

Where can we get all the information first hand?

Karner: We are continuously posting highlights of our project on our social media channels (TwitterLinkedInYouTube…) and our website.

Thanks to both of you for the interesting talk. We highly recommend visiting the website and following the social channels to our network!

Watch the explanatory video with Dr. Michael Karner

Dr. Michael Karner, PhD, is the overall Project Coordinator and Project Manager InSecTT and Lead Researcher in Embedded Systems and Project Manager for large-scale research projects at Virtual Vehicles.

DI DR. Fjolla Ademaj is Project Lead at Silicon Austria Labs as Scientist in the Wireless Communications Unit in Linz, Upper Austria.