Project title: Automation-Supported Hotel Communication (ASHoCo)
Project period: 06.2017-05.2018
Funding Type: FFG Innovationsscheck Plus
Industry Partner: Hotelkit GmbH, Salzburg, Austria

Abstract: The hotel industry, as well as other industries, have made huge advantages for their customers because of information technologies, such as Chatbots. The Hotelkit Gmbh aims at improving internal hotel communication and communication with customers by applying Chatbots as novel communication channels. Therefore, the project includes (a) identifying and analysing existing chatbot variants including prioritization according to diffusion rates; (b) developing a concept for integrating selected chatbot variants into the existing communication environment; and (c) implementing prototype solutions for selected chatbot integrations. The main outcome of the research work represents the foundation for planning the next development steps at the hotelkit GmbH.

People involved (from TU Wien): Stefan Biffl, Dietmar Winkler


Project title: Test Automation for a Modular Embedded System Test Stand (TAMES)
Project period: 02.2017-12.2017
Project Type: Contract Research
Industry Partner: Software Quality Lab GmbH, Linz, Austria

Abstract: Software test automation in the automation systems domain typically include hard-wired testing tool chains with limited flexibility of involved individual testing tools, i.e., parts of the tool chain cannot be exchanged easily. However, in industry practice different project partners apply a defined set of tools that need to be integrated, e.g., during the project course or during system maintenance. Thus, there is a need for a flexible test automation framework to support the exchange of selected tools on related test automation layers with low effort and low downtime of the testing tool chain. Main goal of this industry project is (a) to develop a test automation concept for a modular embedded system test stand (Hardware-In-The Loop) and (b) a prototype implementation of selected components. The main project outcome, a demonstrator for a flexible test automation framework will be presented at a tools fair in the automation systems context.

People involved (from TU Wien): Stefan Biffl, Dietmar Winkler, Kristof Meixner


Project title: Christian Doppler Laboratory Software Engineering Integration for Flexible Automation Systems (CDL-Flex)
Project period: 1.1.2010 – 31.12.2016
Abstract: The general scope of research in the CDL-Flex is the analysis, automation, and improvement of software and systems engineering processes for complex software-intensive automation systems (AS), such as industrial production plants. Software and systems engineering projects in the context of the CDL-Flex aim at producing software-intensive automation systems and involve several engineering disciplines, such as automation process, mechanical, electrical, and (automation) software engineering. In such a software and systems engineering environment, the work of software engineers depends on the inputs from other engineering disciplines, e.g., requirements, process specification, and design constraints incorporated in a range of engineering models.

Major challenges for analyzing, automating, and improving software and systems engineering processes at the system level are: (1) The heterogeneity and weak integration of soft-ware tools, often loosely coupled systems-of-systems engineering environments, which evolve in parallel with-out central control, make it hard to provide an engineering environment that routinely supports organizational policies and engineering best-practices. (2) The heterogeneous representations and weak integration of the engineering knowledge necessary for the development and validation of complex software-intensive automation systems. Therefore, (3) the access of project participants, who want to automate and improve project-level processes, to engineering tool data is, in general, inefficient and fragile. An example is the simulation of a complex AS based on the orchestration of heterogeneous simulation tools that were not designed to work together. A traditional integration approach, e.g., based on scripts, files, and databases, it is, in general, difficult and error prone to reuse for or adapt to a new or changed context.

To achieve the goals in the research vision, the core methods in the CDL-Flex research areas (see the research organization below) include: (a) methods for the representation of engineering knowledge with a focus on the “common concepts” used by the stakeholders in the automation system engineering (ASE) team; (b) methods for the integration of local heterogeneous engineering knowledge sources to enable their unified querying and automated transformation; and (c) methods for the representation, analysis, automation, and improvement of engineering processes based on integrated engineering knowledge.

The free basic research in the CDL-Flex consists of the investigation and improvement of methods and tools, which are primarily of interest for the scientific community and per se not relevant for company partners. The company partners benefit from the applied basic research results in their specific use cases. Based on specific research challenges coming from the company partners we have identified the following key use cases (UCs, see this link for a collection of UC descriptions and videos.) to derive basic research goals and to evaluate research results. Each research use case captures requirements for CDL-Flex method development and evaluation. (i) the “Semantic Dropbox” extends the functionality of the well-known Dropbox application with engineering data transformation, as foundation for traceable and quality-assured engineering tool chains; (ii) the “multi-model dashboard” enables efficient monitoring of design and project conditions in a heterogeneous and complex systems-of-systems environment; (iii) “ontology-based search across heterogeneous engineering models” bridges gaps in heterogeneous data models with semantic web technologies to enable the efficient answering of advanced queries by humans and machines over engineering knowledge; and (iv) “integrated simulation” builds on heterogeneous partial simulation processes and simulator model types to design simulation interfaces for advanced integrated simulation models.

People involved: Stefan Biffl, Thomas Moser, Richard Mordinyi, Dietmar Winkler, Fajar Ekaputra, Estefania Serral, Marta Sabou.
Project Website:


Project title: Complex Systems Design &
Engineering (CSDE) – Simulation Production automation
Project period: 1.2.2008 – 31.1.2010
Abstract: Information and communication technology (ICT) has been successfully used to control and manage complex systems in many domains. However, decision makers, who deal with complex systems problems and are not ICT experts, are often not aware of the range of contributions of informatics research they could use to address their complex systems challenges effectively and efficiently. The Complex Systems Design & Engineering Lab (CSDE-Lab) is named after the TUW Informatics faculty research focus „Complex Systems“. The objectives are to engineer and manage complex systems in concrete mission critical applications in safety-critical domains, like mission coordination for emergencies, Air Traffic Management, or Production Automation. Characteristics of complex systems are to be difficult to model, predict, and manage due to their variety, dynamics and emergent system properties. Additionally, the integration of heterogeneous systems is essential in order to achieve common goals more effectively, efficiently, and/or more robust to failures. Thus, the CSDE-Lab develops, evaluates, and improves processes, methods, and tools for systems development, integration, and verification. Particular research topics in the CSDE-Lab are: a) the usage of Ontologies as continuous software engineering model for the specification of technology capabilities and capacities, support of iterative system reconfiguration and optimization; b) optimization of coordination patterns with multi-criteria objectives using space-based computing for efficient production scheduling and backup solutions with minimal disruption; and c) formal specifications and strong QA for the verification of mission critical elements, like test automations to lower the effort for re-testing software systems, the measurement of system performance, or the checking of assertions at run time to inform the responsible roles.

People involved: Stefan Biffl, Thomas Moser, Richard Mordinyi, Eva Kühn, Alexander Schatten
Project Website:


Project title: Test-Driven Automation
in the logi.cals system environment automation
Acronym: TDA – logi.DIAG
Project type: FFG national funding
Industry partners: logi.cals, Messfeld
Project period: 01.09.2008 – 31.12.2010
Abstract: “Test-Driven Automation” is supposed to support automation technicians with a new integrated development process which should help them to deal with the increasing complexity of extensive automation projects based on IEC 61131-3 and IEC 61499. During the whole lifetime of the plant the engineer should be able to use a framework based on test driven methods (from business IT state of the arte) which raises the outcomes quality while concurrently decreasing work amount. Through adapted quality assurance methods like unit- and module tests based on a new reference architecture in conjunction with requirements management, reusability and development of SW product lines are supported. The development process is stabilized for the implementation of later requirement changes too. With the help of this architecture a sum able connect of automation and test functions with Diagnose and Condition Monitoring (CM) components is also possible. The plant monitoring is considered to be a largely observing test during the running plant. For test evaluation (diagnose and CM-tasks) appropriate data analysis methods are developed which are used by automation and service technician as well as for processing on particular platforms. Test-Driven Automation should fulfill the following aims:

  • rising number of errors found during the engineering phase and so reduction of found
    errors in the integration phase by 30%
  • reduction of the start-up time by at least 10%
  • reduction of the diagnose and CM creation time by at least 35%
  • reduction of errors caused by the chance of requirements by 30%

Project results: Expected project outcomes are SW-prototypes as well as domain specific implementations in the area of the roll mill technology.
People involved: Stefan Biffl, Dietmar Winkler, Alexander Schatten, Thomas Östreicher


Project title: System-Wide Information Sharing (SWIS)
Project type: FFG national funding;
industry partner Frequentis
Project period: 01.07.2006 – 31.12.2008
Research partners:
– Frequentis, Austro Control
– Research group “space-based computing” (head: eva Kühn, TU Wien)
Contact: Stefan Biffl.
The research project System-wide Information Sharing (SWIS) is targeted as an information sharing network within the Air Traffic Management (ATM) domain, with very demanding safety and security requirements as well as the need for high availability. Today companies and organizations operate in a highly complex environment requiring well-defined but flexible means for communication and cooperation that can be easily adapted to potentially frequently changing business processes.

Traditionally most organizations have developed IT infrastructures consisting of numerous stand-alone applications, which are connected via point-to-point links and thus lack of flexibility. Over the last years several approaches have been taken to solve this architecture problem, like Enterprise Application Integration as a concept and the Service Oriented Architecture. However, these approaches provide only mechanisms for a flexible interconnection of various business applications in one domain. In the ATM case, many actors are involved, e.g. airports, airlines, military users, General Aviation, Air Traffic Service Providers, Air Traffic Flow Management instances, resulting in more or less de-coupled actions and decisions. However, due to the expected growth of air traffic in the next decades all ATM actors will be forced to co-operative handling of virtually shared information during the entire life cycle of a flight.

To support high-level cooperation, a low-level mechanism for information sharing needs to be established and the corresponding operational procedures and practices agreed and installed at all actors’ premises. In the ATM environment, the degree of heterogeneity of existing legacy systems, solutions, actors, their practices, and preferences may well preclude any “end-to-end” interoperable solution. Therefore, it is essential to keep low-level information sharing mechanisms strictly de-coupled from high-level applications that rely upon these mechanisms.

The demand for an improved solution in the ATM domain generates a need for the development of a “System-wide Information Sharing” (SWIS) based upon adequate and sound concepts. Major contributions are a) the description of the source and target systems in terms of data requirements and functional ranges as well as constraints of the infrastructure; b) algorithms deducing “intelligent plumbing” from semantic descriptions and defining an automated way to acquire the canonical data exchange model as well as the resulting data flows and interface function calls; c) the description of the solution architecture with all functional components; and d) the development of a prototype integration for example applications utilizing the results of the research project. SWIS enables sharing of information in a highly distributed environment, taking demanding requirements regarding performance, scalability, maintainability, safety and security into account.

People involved: ANJOMSHOAA Amin, BIFFL Stefan, KÜHN Eva, MOR Marcus, MORDINYI Richard, MOSER Thomas


Project title: Ambulance Routing – Fleet management for Emergency Service Vehicles
Project type: Austrian Science Fund (FWF) national funding for translational research; academic partner University of Vienna
Project period: 01.01.2006 – 31.12.2008
Research partners:
– University of Vienna, Department “Production and Logistics” (Prof. Hartl)
Contact: Stefan Biffl.
Many emergency service providers, especially ambulance departments and companies who provide non-public maintenance services, face the problem to provide different types of services with one fleet of vehicles:
(1) Emergency coverage for a certain region to provide immediate emergency service;
(2) Efficient regular service: scheduled pick-up and delivery of patients, predetermined service tasks, periodic pick-ups, etc.

This is also the current situation for the largest Austrian regional emergency service providers (e.g., the Austrian Red Cross), where the same fleet is used to provide both emergency and regular transport services. Dynamic emergency aspects thus directly influence the schedule for the regular service. When an emergency occurs and an ambulance is required, the vehicle with the shortest distance to the emergency is assigned to serve the emergency patient. Therefore, it often happens that an ambulance vehicle that has been scheduled for a transport order of a patient, but has not yet started, serves the emergency request. Thus, another vehicle has to be reassigned to the regular patient and the overall regular service schedule has to be re-optimized. Ambulances that carry out emergency transports become available at the hospital after the emergency service and can then be used to carry out regular transportation orders. Again, the schedule for regular services has to be re-optimized.

Regular transportation services are offered for handicapped persons or patients with minor diseases, who could not use taxi services. Thinking of optimization for ambulance scheduling, we have to consider at least two perspectives. From the perspective of a transportation provider, the objective is to minimize cost of operations. On the other hand, to maximize quality of service is the objective from a patient’s point of view. Although both objectives comprise a multitude of factors, a simplified model of reality is subject to our investigations. Basically, we use the length of a tour in terms of driving time to model costs and waiting time of patients to model transportation quality. A tour or route is defined as the overall movements of a vehicle over a day of operation.

The project dealt with different perspectives on the ambulance scheduling, e.g. consideration of expected transportation requests in vehicle scheduling determined from experiences in the past or waiting strategies for maximizing coverage to reduce response times for emergency services. In this contribution we will concentrate on regular transportation services, where a minor part of transportation requests arises dynamically and most of the requests are known beforehand. Emergency requests disturb regular operations, but may be modeled as dynamic requests with high priority.

Besides the constraints in classical Dial-a-Ride Problems we have the following features of our problem:
1) Different (hard as well as soft) time constraint types; e.g., dialysis patients must arrive exactly on time because the dialysis machine is reserved.
2) Heterogeneous fleet – We deal with a heterogeneous fleet concerning capacities of the vehicles and concerning the different available equipment on the vehicles.
3) Dynamic aspects – Some orders are known in advance. Additionally, the vehicle availability changes dynamically. The reason is the disappearance and reappearance of vehicles (emergency requests are serviced with the same fleet).
4) Stochastic aspects – Expected return transport orders (relatively long planning horizon), expected availability of vehicles, expected transport orders (relatively short planning horizon, in some cases emergencies occur and most probably additional vehicles are required.)

A major goal of the Ambulance Routing project is to demonstrate potential advantages of optimization algorithms in a decision support pilot system for ambulance scheduling. Related work in the field of decision support systems has demonstrated the practical use of optimization for real-world vehicle routing problems. Providing dynamic routing services requires a certain information system infrastructure that integrates Positioning Systems, Wireless Communication, and Geographic Information Systems to process necessary inputs for optimization and decision support, which in turn can provide business services useful for dispatchers.

The contributions of this project are twofold. On the one hand, we describe two promising and efficient solution procedures suitable for a bi-objective version of the dynamic “dial-a-ride problem” (DARP) and evaluate the efficiency of these procedures with real-world problem instances.
On the other hand, we review restrictions and constraints for the development of a decision support extension for ambulance scheduling and suggest a system architecture for integration of our solution procedures into an existing control center system to provide interfaces for future business services.

Project results:
People involved: BIFFL Stefan, KIECHLE Günter


Czech IT Project Process Improvement for Dependable-Systems Research based on the Novel V-Model XT Approach
Research partners:
– Czech Technical University, Department of Cybernetics (Prof. Marik)
– Sponsored by EU Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Program
Contact: Stefan Biffl.

The Gerstner Laboratory (GL) at the Czech Technical University in Prague successfully conducts research in the areas of artificial intelligence, with the focus on knowledge-based and information systems, knowledge discovery in databases, multi-agent systems, and software diagnostics. Till now GL has gathered experience in the development of many IT systems in the above mentioned areas. Due to an extreme increase in the size and complexity of software development in research projects the ad-hoc software process has already reached edge of quality and economics.

At this stage it becomes necessary for GL to build up competence in the field of “software process improvement for dependable systems” in order to enhance the research conducted in areas of dependable systems applications. This new competency will enable GL researchers to overcome the current challenges in the IT projects management (high risk of rework, risk of feasibility, quality and usability of end product and services) and to support GL researchers with the advanced methodologies addressing the quality assurance, quality management and standardization in software processes.

The specific knowledge transfer objectives are formulated as follows:

  • To acquire a knowledge of formal methodology of software development process, software engineering, software process improvement,
  • To learn the concepts of V-Model XT framework and to tailor its process models to the needs of GL research projects and application domains in Czech practice (aimed at dependable system applications),
  • To integrate methods from requirements management and knowledge engineering to refine and improve software process models,
  • To enable researches to conduct empirical studies in the area of software engineering and quality management to improve processes and products.

The partner organization providing training for the outgoing researchers is TUW, The Institute of Software Technology and Interactive Systems (IFS). IFS has a considerable experience in Quality Software Engineering (QSE) Research, teaching and training in the area of software engineering, project management, quality management, and risk management. Additionally IFS will provide the training in the V-Model XT framework for the GL researchers.


Software Process and Product Improvement with Inspection

Contact: Stefan Biffl.

Abstract: Project management and quality management are core competencies for timely and economical development of high-quality software products. This project focuses on the following three inspection-related areas: Defect Detection, Defect Content Estimation, and Reinspection. The project consists of designing and conducting a series of large-scale controlled experiments to address the above-mentioned research issues.


Computer-supported Inspection Methods in Software Engineering for small software developers

Contact: Stefan Biffl, Michael Halling, Paul Grünbacher.

Short Description:
Classical (manual) inspections show some inefficiencies which probably can be overcome by modern information technology, e.g. networked computers allowing decentralized and asynchronous work. At the same time there are indications that the “one-or-all” approach to inspections is not optimal. Diversification of inspections dependent on the type of project, the domain and the culture promises even better results. In this project we

  • Investigate the current state of computer supported inspections.
  • Compare these methods with respect to their underlying model.
  • Analyze these methods with respect to their applicability in various project contexts, especially for small software developers (SSDs).
  • Build an own prototype using an Electronic Meeting Room approach.
  • Investigate the effects of these modern techniques on the synergetic effects of face-to-face inspections meeting claimed by Fagan.
  • Provide a ‘road map’ advising users of decision criteria for various inspection types.
  • Develop a handbook plus CD-ROM containing useful and practical approaches, forms and examples, etc.
  • Validate our findings and our deliverables with practitioners from the field.
  • Disseminate our findings in conferences and scientific journals.