AI.Highlights from NRW

Curated from the AI.Map

Selected examples of the North Rhine-Westphalian AI ecosystem

In this section, we highlight research projects and collaborations, as well as companies and products from NRW that are exemplary for what is possible through artificial intelligence. The AI highlights are characterized by the fact that they address socially relevant topics and challenges, contribute to sustainability, are particularly successful or have received awards.

These highlights show just how multifaceted NRW’s AI ecosystem is. Are you curious? You can find many more outstanding examples from the topic areas “Economy”, “Science ” and “Qualification” on the AI.Map containing more than 700 entries.

Learn more about NRW’s AI.Highlights:

Highlights – Spring 2024

ACCURE Battery Intelligence
Better and safer battery use with AI
With the help of an analysis software from the Aachen-based start-up ACCURE Battery Intelligence, batteries such as those used in electric cars and electric buses can be used more efficiently, sustainably and safely. The innovative aspect: AI methods with a focus on data analysis and prognosis can be used to monitor and optimize modern battery storage systems in real time. This means that malfunctions, a drop in performance or battery fires can be avoided at an early stage. The lifespan of the battery is also predicted for customers. For this technology, the start-up was awarded with the NRW Innovation Award in the “innovation2business” category in 2023 and the AC² Innovation Award of the Aachen region in 2022.
Work optimization through motion analysis with AI
Using mobile sensor technology, AI and machine learning, the Dortmund-based start-up MotionMiners is able to analyze motion and manual work processes quickly, anonymously and cost-efficiently. Motion mining can be used to improve the ergonomic working conditions of employees and optimize work processes. This intelligent technology was awarded the 2023 Innovation Prize in the “innovation2market” category.
Generate audio files with AI
Generating audio files, transcribing spoken texts and improving poor voice quality in existing audio material – AI can help with all of these tasks. Comevis’ C-Cloud offers AI-based apps for various areas of audio and voice communication, which are helpful in branding and marketing, for instance. Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) can be used, for example, to edit audio tracks or generate your own audio files. The AI system can also assess whether sounds are suitable for a particular brand or campaign. The Cologne-based company has already won several awards with C-Cloud, most recently the “TOP 100 Innovation Competition” in 2022.
AI helps with text creation
Anyone who needs support when writing texts can use the writing assistant DeepL Write from the Cologne-based unicorn DeepL. With the help of artificial intelligence and neural networks, the entered texts are analyzed and linguistically improved. Users also have the option of selecting alternative formulations or choosing between different writing styles. The function of formulating the entered text in simple language should be emphasized, which can contribute to barrier-free communication. DeepL Write has repeatedly been voted as the best writing assistant compared to competing programs.
Recogizer Group
Saving energy through intelligent air conditioning technology
Commercial properties such as office buildings, educational establishments and hotels consume a lot of energy every day. How can energy savings be made here? This is where the AI-based solution from the Bonn-based GreenTech company Recogizer comes in, as used at the Vodafone Campus in Düsseldorf, for example. Here, it reduces energy consumption by more than 20 percent and improves climate comfort at the same time. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning are controlled from the cloud. The building’s operating and consumption data is used as the basis for this, and the technical systems are constantly optimized by AI-based algorithms using additional data streams and forecasts on weather, customer frequency and opening hours. Recogizer’s self-learning technology was awarded as Top Supplier Retail 2020.
AI warns about flood risk
When flooding is imminent, every minute counts. The AI-based sensor system “Floodlight – Netilion Flood Monitoring” from the Bochum-based company Okeanos Smart Data Solutions and the Swiss company Endress + Hauser AG can use sensor data to detect the risk of flooding, particularly of smaller waters, at an early stage. Based on data from waterworks, public authorities, weather services and various water level reports and ground measurements, AI can be used to calculate the probability of flooding and make predictions for regions at risk. This leaves time to warn affected areas and the population. Floodlight was awarded the QUBO – Innovation Award of the Ruhr University Bochum in 2023.
AI supports recycling
Plastic waste in the organic waste garbage makes recycling difficult or even impossible. This is where the AI system c-detect from the Bielefeld-based company c-trace comes in, which can detect contaminants such as various plastics in organic waste. Using camera images, AI checks directly inside the garbage truck whether the garbage contains plastic bottles etc. and classifies the waste. With the help of an RFID-based identification system, the detected contaminants can be assigned to individuals who can then be contacted in order to improve their recycling behavior in the future.
Stadt Siegburg
Chatbot ensures barrier-free accessibility on communal website
Making municipal websites accessible, that is the job of chatbot “Siggi” – developed by the Neuraflow agency. It is used on the website of the city of Siegburg, where it supports interaction between citizens and the city administration, among other things. By using the GTP-4 language model and Retrieval Augmented Generation, the chatbot can understand complex queries, find relevant information and respond clearly – in up to 95 different languages.

Highlights – Summer/Autumn 2023

Using AI without programming knowledge
For a long time, it was assumed that the use of artificial intelligence in companies required a high level of technical know-how from external experts or in-house employees – the Bochum-based start-up ai.dopt proves the opposite with its modular platform. With its help, even users with no prior knowledge can put together their own customized AI systems, add data sources and download AI apps for different industries from the store. This makes it possible to identify AI potential and evaluate possible use cases. Thanks to the platform, the use of AI is safer and easier, which also lowers the entry barrier for AI newcomers. As a result, ai.dopt has already secured the “Start-up of the month” award for February 2022 from ruhrHUB as well as a “StartUpSecure” funding grant from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Using AI to prevent blindness in old age
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common cause of blindness in old age. But artificial intelligence can help with the treatment. Together with Novartis AG and St. Franziskus-Hospital Münster, the Essen-based company pacemaker has developed a method that can detect the disease using deep learning and predict the success of treatment. As a diagnostic assistant, AI can relieve the burden on medical professionals, support them in the choice of treatment and avoid wrong decision making. For the development of “DeepEye” as a medically approved product, pacemaker (formerly Westphalia DataLab GmbH) was awarded with the “Deutscher Preis für Künstliche Intelligenz” 2020 in the category application.
Active Cleaner Aktivstallroboter
AI robot cleans the stable
Quickly cleaning horse stables protects the animals from pathogens and annoying insects. But the cleaning process is physically demanding. This is where the “Active Cleaner” active stable robot, whose AI system was developed by Zauberzeug GmbH from Havixbeck, steps in and takes over the stable work autonomously. The system uses camera images to recognize the horse droppings and instructs the robot to dispose of them. WASSERBAUER GmbH Fütterungssysteme, the series manufacturer of the Active Cleaner, received the “Innovation Award EuroTier 2022” in gold for the cleaning robot.
KI mobilizes people with disabilities
Strolling through the city or spontaneously visiting friends: The “PAGAnInI” project was launched to enable people with cognitive impairments to lead a self-determined life and be mobile without restrictions. “PAGAnInI” stands for “Personalized Augmented Guidance for the Autonomy of People with Intellectual Impairments”. As part of the project, an adaptive learning and training system is being developed that uses augmented reality to help its users move independently and safely in public spaces: For example, obstacles on walkways are clearly marked. The self-learning AI system is adapted to the individual learning level of the person and their needs: If learning progresses, the amount of assistance is reduced; if more support is required, it is intensified.
Making AI intuitive and easy to use
The goal of the “Center for Cognitive Interaction Technology” (CITEC) at Bielefeld University is to develop technologically advanced system solutions in such a way that they are easy to understand and intuitive to use. Therefore, the researchers are working on the scientific foundations of cognitive information technology, a field of research that aims to make machines more intelligent and helpful so that they can interact with humans in a natural way and adapt to changing situations. Assistance systems are intended to relieve employees of unhealthy or physically demanding tasks, such as the installation of complex components, or to look after the well-being of people in residential care homes. CITEC was founded in 2007 as a cluster of excellence and has received two awards from the “Deutschland – Land der Ideen” initiative.
AI in public discourse
Artificial intelligence is more relevant than ever and is hotly debated at the dinner table, in conference rooms, on social networks and in the mass media – but where does the debate stand and who is involved in the discourse? To get to the bottom of these questions, the “Meinungsmonitor Künstliche Intelligenz” (MeMo:KI) project conducts monthly population surveys as well as media and Twitter analyses. The “Center for Advanced Internet Studies” (CAIS), which is leading the project, makes the results available to the public on its website in the form of interactive dashboards and analysis reports. Knowing the opinions, wishes and criticism regarding AI systems helps those responsible to educate people about the right aspects and developers to adapt their AI products to the wishes of users.
Planning city traffic more efficiently with AI
Quickly finding a free parking space and the city stroll can begin: That is the vision of the Aachen-based start-up SONAH. With its AI-based sensor system, it provides the data that traffic planning in big cities need. Instead of equipping parking spaces and roads individually with sensors, the sensor box monitors traffic from high buildings or masts and uses machine learning to provide a wide range of information about the urban space, such as the capacity of parking spaces. With its sensor platform, the start-up won the “Mobility Start-up Pitch NRW” of the State Ministry of Transport in 2018 and received state funding for the “5URVIVE” project to optimize rescue chains in 2021.

Highlights – Spring 2023

Using AI to prevent food waste
Automating orders, avoiding food waste, and increasing sales at the same time? Based on artificial intelligence, the start-up Foodforecast Technologies offers a special software called “foodforecast” for bakeries, supermarkets and other food production companies. The software analyzes historical sales figures and combines them with important influencing factors to provide an automated sales forecast for future orders. In this way, only those quantities of bread and rolls, fruit and vegetables, or other food products are baked or ordered which are actually sold. This ensures greater sustainability and efficiency for companies.
NeuroSys Cluster 4 future
AI ensures competitiveness
Developing Europe’s very own AI hardware: This is what the research cooperation “NeuroSys 4 Future” considers its task to be in order to remain at the forefront in terms of economy, safety and ethics. For this purpose, the actors of RWTH Aachen University, along with the Research Center Jülich and the NRW Landesinstitut AMO, want to create a competitive, scientific and economic ecosystem in the greater Aachen area. A broad spectrum of expertise is coming together: Physics, materials science and neuroscience, engineering, and computer science all cover technical issues. Innovations are developed in collaboration with economics, while experts from ethics and sociology build bridges to society and politics.
AI Language Model for Europe
Strengthening the innovative power and competitiveness of SMEs across Europe while at the same time preserving data sovereignty and protection: This is the purpose behind the EU research project “OpenGPT-X”. Within the framework of this project, a powerful AI language model for Europe is being developed. This requires the processing of large amounts of data. The data, some of which is sensitive, will only be processed within Europe and made available via a decentralized cloud solution operating in accordance with European security standards. Due to the demanding technical requirements, several partners are joining forces to combine their AI expertise, including Forschungszentrum Jülich, Technische Universität Dresden and Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln.
AI for clean waters
Keeping rivers and oceans free from plastic waste and protecting the environment in the process: That’s what the project “Machine Learning on Multisensor Data from Airborne Remote Sensing to Combat Plastic Litter in Oceans and Rivers (PlasticObs_plus)” is dedicated to. It uses AI to detect pollution of water bodies from above and uses the collected information to reduce and prevent it in the future. The AI also helps to identify where the trash comes from, how it spreads and where it is washed up. This is done using aircraft and drones equipped with smart imaging sensors. Conveniently, this measurement system can be easily integrated into routine aerial monitoring, such as oil and environmental monitoring or coastal protection.
Using AI against hail damage
Hail damage on a car – what now? Normally, experts or a car repair shop will assess the dents on the vehicle and estimate the amount of damage for the customer’s insurance company. With the use of artificial intelligence, damage detection is now easier, faster and particularly reliable: With “image-assisted hail dent analysis,” or BUHDA for short, the reflective surface of the car is examined for storm damage using computer vision. The system was developed by the start-up HaSt, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS, which was responsible for algorithm development in the area of image processing and AI.
AI prevents disinformation on the web
True or Fake? Recognizing disinformation on the Internet is not always easy. This is why the project “AI-supported assistance system for crowdsourcing-based detection of disinformation spread via digital platforms (noFake)” was launched. On the “CORRECTIV.Faktenforum” platform, committed citizens can use AI to check the credibility of a source, the authenticity of images and the validity of facts. In this way, false reports or hate comments can be more easily detected and quickly “disposed of” before they spread further. The project was initiated by the non-profit computing center CORRECTIV and the universities of Bochum and Dortmund.
Using AI to predict environmental data
At what time is the maximum amount of solar energy available? Are there droughts or floods ahead? And how good will the air quality be in the near future? The project “AI Strategy for Earth System Data (KI:STE)” uses artificial intelligence to analyze and accurately predict environmental data in areas such as clouds, water and air quality, and provides it to scientists and other interested parties. It is part of the funding initiative “AI Lighthouses for Environment, Climate, Nature and Resources” by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. KI:STE is a joint project of Forschungszentrum Jülich, RWTH Aachen University, the Universities of Cologne and Bonn, Helmholtz HDS-LEE, and the research and management companies 52°North and Ambrosys.
AI regulates road traffic
Getting from A to B faster while also reducing street noise and air pollution? As part of the project “Artificial Intelligence for Traffic Signal Systems (KI4LSA)”, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB are collaborating with a number of project partners to find a solution for improving traffic flow on the basis of real-time data from existing traffic signal systems and through the use of AI. A demand- and situation-oriented control concept ensures up to 30% shorter waiting times for cyclists, car drivers, and other road users. At the same time, it provides pedestrians with greater safety at traffic light intersections. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport.
AI in sign language
Even today, digital communication is not accessible in all areas and more than 70 million deaf people around the world are affected. With the help of the project “Avatar-based Speech Assistant for Automated Sign Language Translation (AVASAG)”, this is supposed to change. Using AI, the real-time controlled and realistically presented 3D sign language avatar translates German texts into sign language and also improves social participation of the deaf in everyday life. For instance, by automatically providing them with accessible travel and service information at airports or train stations. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
AI in the power plant
By 2025, around half of the electricity consumed in Germany is to be generated from renewable energies. To achieve this, smaller, decentralized energy generation plants are particularly important. It is therefore important that they run and are maintained in the best possible way. This is where the project “Leading-edge cluster industrial innovations: Intelligent monitoring of power generation plants based on cost-efficiently applicable AI technology (SPIN DSC)” is intended to help. Project partners in industry, the energy sector, digital technology and research have developed a cloud-based platform that provides various information about a power plant’s condition based on operating data and using AI. As a result, it can be managed in a more energy-efficient manner and the appropriate time for maintenance work can be determined.
Clinomic Medical
AI in the intensive care unit
Modern intensive care medicine ensures the survival of seriously ill patients and simultaneously improves their quality of life. This is what the start-up Clinomic Medical of RWTH Aachen University – consisting of a team of physicians, researchers and experts in medical IT – aims to achieve with the development of the medical assistance system “Mona”. Using AI technology, Mona assists with documentation, insight into patient data and precise treatment. The system uses language which is easy to understand and allows more time for patients and their relatives. Mona is individually adaptable to the respective clinical operation and has already been awarded various prizes.
AI relieves the burden on nursing staff
Facilitating nursing staff’s work and helping the elderly to live safely: This is made possible by the intelligent, award-winning sensor systems developed by nevisQ, a company founded by students from RWTH Aachen University. For instance, they have developed a room sensor that is installed in the elderly person’s room at baseboard level. The sensor provides movement data, thereby detecting falls immediately and reporting them to the nursing staff. In this way, quick help is possible. Artificial intelligence helps to interpret whether a fall has occurred. As a result, false alarms can be minimized.
AI facilitates work in agriculture
How do different types of grain and plants develop in the fields? Which ones thrive particularly well depending on the environmental conditions, and where, on the other hand, are there gaps or diseases? To find answers to these questions, drones, smartphones or other mobile cameras capture pictures which are then collected and analyzed using artificial intelligence and advanced image processing software by research start-up Pheno-Inspect. In this way, it is possible to determine the status and performance of crops in the (trial) fields in real time. The purpose of the software solution is to use the data to support work in plant production and breeding, as well as agricultural research.
AI in energy supply
Ensuring security of supply and advancing the German energy transition: Every day, energy suppliers and municipal utilities are confronted with challenges such as these. At the same time, they need to cut costs, conserve resources and generate revenue. Using AI, energy suppliers can achieve optimal prices for electricity and gas trading and profitably integrate wind and solar energy, which are susceptible to price fluctuations, into their portfolios. For this purpose, adaptive algorithms automatically observe the market, assess risks and provide precise price forecasts. This is how energy start-up Unigy ensures its customers a sustainable position in times of the energy transition, something for which it recently won the Founder’s Prize NRW.

More ideas on the AI.Map

KI.NRW’s AI.Map provides a comprehensive overview of North Rhine-Westphalia as an AI location and creates visibility for AI experts from business, science and research. In this way, the KI.NRW competence platform helps to connect cutting-edge research, innovation and entrepreneurship and significantly contributes to establishing North Rhine-Westphalia as a nationwide leading location for applied artificial intelligence.