Skip to main content

The infrastructure of the future

Prof. J.H. Lang gives a glimpse into the future of infrastructures
Prof. Jeffrey H. Lang
Prof. Jeffrey H. Lang
Vitesse Professor of Electrical Engineering at the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Prof.J.H. Lang
Prof. Jeffrey H. Lang, Vitesse Professor of Electrical Engineering at the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

It is my pleasure to join the growing partnership between HARTING and the MIT MTL. HARTING has some very exciting opportunities and challenges ahead of it. I look forward to being part of the team that will meet those challenges.

One of your main research areas is the efficiency of electric devices and components. What role do you believe infrastructure plays in increasing future production efficiency?

Prof. J. H. Lang:

Efficiency may be defined in a multitude of ways: economic, environmental, energy, etc. In terms of energy efficiency, today’s focus is often on designing intrinsically efficient components. Tomorrow’s focus will be on using systems and ensembles of components in efficient ways. For example, a smart infrastructure could eliminate wasteful standby modes by optimizing ramp up and ramp down cycles. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the efficiency of systems will always benefit from the continued modification and updating of its components, for example as new materials become available.

Power efficiency is often directly linked to miniaturization and integration. What are the hot topics of miniaturization strategies for the infrastructure / electric devices of tomorrow?

Prof. J. H. Lang:

For semiconductor systems such as processors and other microchips, efficiency generally increases with miniaturization. However, for electromechanical devices, efficiency dramatically reduces with miniaturization. Further, as electromechanical devices are becoming smaller and smaller they are also becoming more plentiful, and thus their systems are becoming less efficient. A big challenge is then to deliver energy efficiently to a large number of small devices and coordinate the operation of those devices using cooperative communication and control strategies so as to recover efficiency.

The benefit of simulation is ever increasing for innovative product development. How do you think the new IoT technologies will affect the product development process?

Prof. J. H. Lang:

The forces of competition, cost reduction, resource consumption, and miniaturization are pushing the limits of design. Therefore design margins are becoming slimmer and slimmer. The “build and test” approach is no longer practical, especially in an era of mass customization. To stay competitive, a simulation-based design approach with associated design rules will allow devices with slim design margins to be produced, thereby increasing financial margins. A multiphysics approach that combines thermal, structural, mechanical, electromagnetic, and even materials modelling is essential.

MIT is one of the most renowned research institutes worldwide. What role does academic research play for industrial innovation?

Prof. J. H. Lang:

The relationship between MIT and Industry is first and foremost a partnership, where MIT takes plays two roles. On the one hand, MIT is a “Spin Off Maker” or “Idea Factory” where new technologies are developed and startup companies are launched. On the other hand, MIT provides technological foresight looking out at developments over a 10-20 year horizon thereby allowing established industrial partners to tackle challenges beyond today’s business needs. Our students are not product design engineers, but rather technology pioneers developing the disruptive technologies of the future.

Artificial Intelligence is one of today‘s buzz words. What do you think will be the next big „Artificial ...“?


Prof. J. H. Lang:

Building upon Artificial Intelligence, perhaps “Artificial Maintenance” will be the next big thing – intelligence applied broadly to the routine health monitoring of systems and devices. Humans are simply not able to manually maintain increasingly complex and large-scale systems. Therefore selfaware, self-monitoring and self-diagnosing systems and components are essential. Such artificial maintenance is present in critical infrastructures today, and there is a growing trend in industry and elsewhere to bring such maintenance to lower and broader levels. This effort will surely grow to focus increasingly on individual components. Self-aware systems will also generate torrents of data that can be transformed into insights concerning performance, efficiency and usage, and will lead to new designs for equipment and processes that are better matched to their application.

Recommend article

Eingeschränktes HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
More about Guest Commentaries