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Research focus

Interfaces

From a philosophical point of view, reality can be considered to be a multiplicity of individual systems that essentially exist independently of one another and that remain stable for a certain period of time. Despite their relative degree of independence and stability, the individual systems need to be able to exchange resources (energy, matter, information) with one another in order to remain stable over the longer term. The interfaces across which such exchanges take place are therefore of great significance for both technical and social systems.

htw saar has recognized that interdisciplinary collaborations and interactions only succeed when there is a proper understanding of such interfaces, as this enables the process of exchange between the independent systems to be simplified.

One simple illustrative example is provided by the technical system ‘automobile’. The ability of today’s cars to function properly is predominantly dependent upon the supply of appropriate energy resources such as combustible fuels (petrol, diesel, natural gas) or electricity. To ensure that the supply of energy is maintained, a vehicle is fitted with instruments that show the driver the amount of ‘fuel’ remaining (interface), thus allowing the vehicle to be refuelled or recharged at the system ‘filling station’ where the systems communicate with one another via the interface ‘pump’ or ‘charging point’.

Robustness, efficiency and sustainability of processes

Europe’s prosperity is primarily the result of value creation in the production of goods and the supply of services. Added value is created by breaking down manufacturing and supply chains into component processes that use resources (energy, raw materials, labour costs) efficiently and that are robust (i.e. exhibit low error rates). The goal is to maintain these processes over the long term (sustainability). The term ‘Industry 4.0’ refers to a concept that effectively contains all of these factors.

Life-course transitions

The concept of interfaces also plays a role in the self-maintaining and self-organizing aspects of human life. While the individual phases of human life are generally stable, it is at the interfaces between successive phases where life crises may arise and where there is a need for counselling and support.

Young people moving from a school learning environment into a vocational training environment is an example of one such transition. Young people in this situation require advice on selecting a career that not only provides a means of earning their livelihood over the long term, but also reflects their talents and interests. This transition is often also accompanied by a change of social group and the need to readjust and refocus.