Bio-intelligence: Organised efficiently by nature

The future of production and logistics lies in bio-intelligent networks and ecosystems: Natural processes and habitats serve as models for the interaction of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence. In the video, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael ten Hompel explains the opportunities of the new economic trend »bio-intelligence« as a perspective for sustainable value creation.

Digital technologies and bio-intelligence do no compete with each other - quite the contrary: looking at nature's organisational principles creates new opportunities for companies to successfully implement Industry 4.0. This includes, for example, a completely novel understanding of decentralistation: “ Today, the idea of a brain as control centre is frequently being used to plan material flow systems. This image of an organism with a central brain is a typical human point of view, but not suitable at all for industry 4.0”, said Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael ten Hompel, Managing Director of Fraunhofer IML. Nature, however, organises itself: “Throughout its entire history nature never relied on a central planning system. The image we should keep an eye on is that of many organisms in a biosphere.”

Bio-intelligent Networks & Ecosystems

For several years now, Fraunhofer IML has been researching in its test hall “LivingLab Cellular Transport Systems” how “swarm intelligence” - one of nature’s important principles of self-organisation - can be used for intralogistics. However, the new approach goes much further - to completely self-organising systems in which technology replicates and optimises itself. “In such cellular systems, each logistical protozoon has its entire construction plan and also the construction plan of the entire system. This is a decisive difference to classical designs”, says Prof. ten Hompel. “Each protozoon or cell has the entire genome, is basically capable of controlling the entire system and is also able to adapt, learn and pass on the next software generation.” As prototype of such a logistic protozoon, ten Hompel mentions the “Low Cost Tracker”developed at Fraunhofer IML.

The orientation towards processes from nature and the development of bio-intelligence can also make a significant contribution towards implementing the future image of the Social Networked Industry, in which humans and machines will work together in partnership. Social networks on the Internet, as a form of interaction and self-organisation for millions of people, are the model for organising the social networked industry. But the question is what an environment must look like in which artificial intelligence can move about and interact with humans?

Prof. Dr. ten Hompel explains: “The future lies in digital biospheres as workspaces for people and technology”. Such bio-intelligent systems would only be successful, if they enabled humans and machines to work together.

Last autumn, the Fraunhofer IML participated in a broad-based preliminary study by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research on the biological transformation of industrial value creation. The research requirements identified in the study form the starting point for the development of highly efficient bio-intelligent value-added systems. Prof. ten Hompel states: “It is already clear that the biological transformation can and will utterly change logistics systems as we know them so far.”