Some examples of our research, more will follow. 

Integrated Circuit Design

Integrated Circuits (ICs) form the heart of all modern electronic systems. They allow extreme complex and cost effective hardware that have shaped the world as we know it today.

The main tasks that ICs do is digital processing of data. But where do these bits come from? They are captured by sensors. This can be a simple keyboard, but also an antenna (wireless communication, radar), a camera, optical fiber, cable, microphone, and thousands of other sensors like for example used in self-driving cars. These sensors all generate analog signals because nature is analog. These analog signals have to be converted to digital bits and therefore we always need an interface between the physical world of sensors and the computer world of bits. This is not only the case for sensing but also for actuation: we need displays, robot motors, 3D printers, loudspeakers, and complete self-driving cars. These sensor and actuator interfaces are all analog circuits that are implemented in ICs. The analog circuits amplify weak sensor signals, filter away unwanted interfering signals, sample the signals on very precise time moments and convert them to clean digital bits. In order to fabricate electronic systems at a low cost and with high reliability, we integrate analog sensor and actuator interfaces in the same technology used for digital hardware. This allows for single chip devices, which are cheap, reliable and mass producible.

The Integrated Circuit Design (ICD) group is one of the few leading academic groups in the world for analog integrated circuits. We focus on fundamental new approaches, often resulting in one or two orders of magnitude of improvement for a given IC technology. This means that we invent better design techniques. Many techniques that are used in products originate from the IC Design group in Twente. Examples are the “Nauta Transconductor” which is an infinite gain-infinite bandwidth circuit used in high speed filters to filter unwanted signals away. Another breakthrough is our noise “thermal cancelling technique” which can cancel the noise produced by the first transistor which senses the very weak antenna signal.

Discrete Mathematics & Mathematical Programming

Algorithms and optimization are hidden under the surface of our daily lives much more than most people realize. Only some 70 years ago, advanced optimization techniques were mostly limited to the inner circles of military logistics. The Berlin Air Lift was one of the prominent examples where large-scale mathematical programming techniques have been used. Today optimization techniques are at the core of all navigation devices. They schedule processes on our smartphones, determine which web content to display, compute robust train schedules, or match supply and demand in energy networks.

In the group Discrete Mathematics & Mathematical Programming (DMMP) we develop algorithmic techniques to solve both generic and application-specific mathematical optimization problems. Our leading motive is provable quality and efficiency:

• Finding algorithms to compute optimal solutions efficiently, such that also largest-scale problem instances can be tackled in short time, or understanding why no such algorithm can exist.

• For notoriously hard optimization problems, finding algorithms that come with performance guarantees on computation time or solution quality, and in doing that also profoundly deepen our understanding of these problems.

Our work therefore includes fundamental and structural analysis of optimization problems in light of their computational complexity, the development of new tools to analyze and  understand algorithms also beyond the realm of worst-case analysis, as well as the development of knowledge and methods that enable us to solve optimization problems even in decentralized settings with several, possibly competing decision makers.

Translated into mathematical terminology, this means that we do fundamental research in combinatorial optimization, mathematical programming, algorithmic game theory, and  algorithm design and analysis. This fundamental work is embedded into societal context mainly via two application areas in which the group is actively involved. These areas are public and private traffic and design and control of smart grids. 

Formal Methods and Tools

As software is being more and more complex, it has become a true challenge to develop reliable software. When you write a program, you are actually writing instructions that can be understood by a computer. In the past, these instructions were carried out one after the other. These days, however, it is not unusual for a computer to execute multiple series of instructions simultaneously. This increases the complexity of the process and thus the likelihood of errors or problems. New techniques are needed to check complex programming for instructions that will cause errors or conflicts - even before you try to execute the instructions in your production environment.

The Formal Methods and Tools (FMT) research group distinguish two focus areas:

1. Verification of concurrent software. Here the goal is to automatically establish the correctness of software with respect to its specification. The activities contribute to the certification of safety critical applications, for instance in automated driving and healthcare, and to the increased security of critical infrastructure and the Internet of Things.

2. Quantitative evaluation of ICT systems. Many reliability criteria have a quantitative nature, for instance performance, availability, resource consumption, risks and costs. A strength of our group is to translate domain-specific models to formal models that address these metrics.

We contribute to optimizing energy consumption, computing residual safety and security risks, and developing smart maintenance strategies. A common approach in software technology, connecting many of our research projects, is the use of domain-specific models and model transformation. It links models for various system aspects at several abstraction levels. Another unifying aspect is formed by the software tools that we construct, to benchmark our algorithms in competitions and challenges, and to validate new methods on realistic case studies.

Besides verification and optimization of the reliability of critical applications of ICT in health, robotics, infrastructure and the Internet of Things, we are open to new and emerging applications of our technology, for instance in systems biology, health management, and nanoprogrammable systems.

Centre of Transport Studies

Medium to low urbanized regions generally deal with an ageing population. Many people may no longer have access to a car, health and mobility can be a serious problem. This requires a smart transport system that is accessible for all people and can contribute to a sustainable and inclusive society.

In medium to low-urbanized regions traffic safety, the viability of public transport and equity in accessibility are important issues that should be addressed. Smart transport systems should be flexible or adaptive, since travel demand often varies considerably over the day. Research at the Centre of Transport Studies (CTS) revolves around the design of these smart transport systems.

We use ICT technology to monitor both travel demand and accessibility for all modal transport systems. However, as a basis for a good design monitoring is necessary but not sufficient. We also need a good understanding of underlying processes, e.g., which factors are actually driving travel demand, how does demand influence supply and vice versa, and how can individual travel patterns best be influenced. For this we require new ICT methodologies for data fusion, data analytics and human-machine interaction, and ICT technologies that are able to measure the motivation why travelers make certain choices.

Flexibility means that in a public transport system the service that is provided should meet demand as much as possible. We cannot design a public transport system as a unimodal system with fixed timetables and fixed lines. Instead we need a public transport system based on multimodal principles, a combination of a main backbone system and a variety of modes, including autonomous car(pool)s and e-bikes. Since our approach contains collective elements, the system should not only match demand as much as possible, but also individual travelers should become digitally connected prior to their journey.

Industrial Engineering and Business Information Systems

Technology enables new delivery channels, new services, new business models. Internet of Things, open data, and intelligent software agents open up entirely new ways to organize matters. Increasingly big data is available to analyze and re-design industrial networks. The application of techniques from artificial intelligence and robotics to supply chain have a large impact on the distribution of work and the interfaces between machines and humans.

The Industrial Engineering and Business Information Systems (IEBIS) group focuses on how to use information technology to create value in business processes in logistics, health and services industries. With research projects that have substantial impact on innovating practice while significantly contributing to the international scientific knowledge base. We closely collaborate with industry, knowledge institutes and government agencies.

IEBIS has a special interest in decision support systems and inter-organizational systems connecting networks of businesses and governments. We study novel ways of organizing networks such as dynamic global sourcing and multi-agent coordination. We develop and apply quantitative models and algorithmic approaches, simulation and gaming, ICT architecture and business modeling and prototyping to create and evaluate innovative concepts.

Methodologically, our research is based on quantitative (Operations Research) models and algorithms for both deterministic and stochastic systems, discrete event simulation, serious gaming, ICT architectures and business modeling, data mining and business analytics, and prototyping to create and evaluate innovative concepts. Both central and distributed control architectures for interorganizational systems (e.g. multi-agent models) are applied.

Within the current research portfolio of IEBIS we discern three major themes, with ties existing between any two themes, either methodologically or content-wise. Financial and security aspects play a role in any of the three domains. The two research pillars are Industrial or Systems Engineering and Business Information Systems, while the three themes are

  • Design, planning and control of logistics and supply chain networks
  • Design and engineering of IT-based services and security measures
  • Design and optimization of operational processes in healthcare

How can an information system make a good fit with human users so that it contributes to their autonomy and quality of life? How can we do that while respecting the civil and fundamental rights of users? The answers to these questions will help build a better and more just society in which information technology supports our shared moral values and our collective interests.

The Philosophy (PHIL) department analyzes information technology and its role in contemporary society from a philosophical and ethical perspective. We aim to understand how information technology affects, and is itself shaped by, society. We also aim to provide normative and ethical evaluations and assessments of information technologies and their correlated social and cultural impacts. We particularly focus on new and emerging information technologies, and develop approaches that support responsible innovation, as well as responsible design, development, and use of these technologies.

We consider a broad range of information technologies in our research, with a particular interest in big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, next-generation internet and internet-ofthings, IT in medicine, wearable and implanted IT, virtual and augmented reality, and IT in smart cities. We focus on philosophical themes that include human-technology relations, well-being, autonomy, justice, responsibility, freedom, security, privacy, democracy, and human connectivity.

We have developed, and will continue to develop, specific approaches to support technology developers and policy makers in responsible innovation, and to support users. Among our developments:

  • methods of value-sensitive design, which help developers to design IT systems in accordance with stakeholder values such as privacy and nondiscrimination;
  • the technological mediation approach, which contributes to designing IT systems that have a better fit with the human mind and body and human needs, and which also helps users by anticipating in the design phase how they will respond to the technologies;
  • ethical impact assessment, which helps technology developers, policy makers and users assess the potential impacts and ethical implications of innovations. 

Read more about the education we offer.