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Jan Blech designs software for the new industrial revolution

Professor of Practice is setting up a new research facility for the factories of the future
Aalto University professor of practice Jan Blech photo by Jaakko Kahilaniemi

What kind of research do you do and why?

I am the Professor of Practice at the Aalto Factory of the Future, a new multidisciplinary facility aiming at bringing together academia and the manufacturing industry. Our goal is to provide a platform for innovation, research and education in the area of advanced information technologies applied to agile future production systems. The interconnection between IT technologies, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering will play an important role in future factories.

My own research is focused on software architecture and formal methods. I am interested in designing and analysing software systems empirically, as well as using mathematically founded techniques to prove that a system fulfills given requirements. One challenge is to design flexible software systems while guaranteeing the safety of involved software and the response times of robots and machines.

How did you become a researcher?

My background is in computer science; in programming languages and formal methods. After receiving my master’s diploma from the University of Karlsruhe, I continued with a PhD – which I obtained from the University of Kaiserslautern – in a similar area. I have been working as a researcher at universities and research institutes in Germany, France and Australia. Before joining Aalto University, I worked as an expert in the automotive industry. I enjoy the university atmosphere and the freedom offered by working as a researcher.

I would say that the collaboration between industry and academia has become a key element of my work. Making projects interesting from a commercial as well as an academic point of view is something I have tried to achieve in all of my recent projects and initiatives.

What is the most important quality in a researcher?

Endurance and patience. Sometimes it takes a long time to see the results of your work. Especially if you want to develop something of practical relevance, it can take time before the results are picked up by the industry and become useful.

What do you expect from the future?

We are in the middle of a new industrial revolution and the area of industrial automation is extremely interesting. I look forward to seeing the outcome of the new technologies currently under development, such as the interconnection between computer science and classical engineering disciplines that are necessary for, among other things, mobile devices and robots. Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, adaptive software systems, virtual reality and augmented reality create great possibilities for human-machine interaction also in the manufacturing industry. I’m eager to see which technologies become successful.

Jan Blech started as Professor of Practice in Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering as of February 2019.

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