Researchers in Graz make AI more secure and traceable

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On 10 and 11 February, Graz will be the European hotspot for Artificial Intelligence (AI). The kick-off of the COMET module ‘DDAI – Data Driven Artificial Intelligence’, which is endowed with 4 million euros, will take place, focusing on verifiable and traceable AI. This will make it easier for companies to understand and use data and algorithms – with maximum data protection. On 11 February, Know-Center invites AI enthusiasts to the international AI conference ‘AI-KNOW’ (in its inaugural year), where the worldwide research elite meets in the Old University.

Researchers in Graz make AI more secure and traceable

Christian Rechberger, Stefanie Lindstaedt, Harald Kainz, Gerhard Schagerl © Know-Center GmbH, Fotograph Jorj Konstantinov

20 years ago, when Know-Center was founded, AI was – if at all – only an issue among IT experts. Today the potential is known across all industries. Know-Center has built up a concentrated load of competence, which has made a significant contribution to bringing the COMET module “DDAI – Data Driven Artificial Intelligence” to Graz. The EU project with a budget of 4 million euros will be implemented over a period of 4 years under the management of Know-Center. The official kick-off of the project team, which includes 4 Styrian companies AVL List, Magna Steyr, AT&S and NXP as well as the block chain expert IoV42 from England, will take place on February 10th. Furthermore, Know-Center invites AI enthusiasts to the inaugural AI conference ‘AI-KNOW’ on February 11th, for which experts from CERN, Google Reserach, the worldwide operating security company INPHER will come to Graz for keynotes (see program below).

AI-KNOW – International networking at the highest level

Leonore Gewessler, Federal Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology: “In the course of the ongoing digitalization and the ever-increasing amounts of data associated with it, there is also a need for an in-depth discussion of the possibilities and use of Artificial Intelligence. The Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology is therefore supporting the first AI-KNOW in Graz, which is dedicated to this topic with internationally renowned experts. Already in the past, the I-KNOW organized by the Know-Center respectively TU Graz under the direction of Prof. Stefanie Lindstaedt was a guarantee for highest quality and contributed significantly to the visibility of Austrian expertise in this field”.

COMET module strengthens location and creates jobs

Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner, Managing Directors of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG, which manages the COMET program: “With the COMET module on Artificial Intelligence, this focal point can be specifically expanded at the Know-Center in Graz. The “setting of research priorities (together with industry and the education sector)” in the field of AI, which is anchored in the government program, will be implemented at Know-Center together with corporate and scientific partners from Austria and abroad. The COMET excellence centre programme, which is supported and financed by the federal government (BMK and BMDW), partners from industry and various countries, has proven its worth and will be expanded with the modules in line with the requirements for the development of new technologies: “This will enable thematic priorities such as Artificial Intelligence for data protection, strengthen the location and create additional jobs,” say Egerth and Pseiner.

Link between research and industry

Rector Harald Kainz on the role of Graz University of Technology: “Graz University of Technology sees itself as an important supporter of domestic AI research. At our university, more than 200 researchers are currently working on AI in more than ten working groups. Today, the topic of AI is also anchored in almost all of our study programmes”. Know-Center plays a central role, confirms Kainz: “For us as shareholders, Know-Center, as one of Europe’s leading research institutions for AI and data-driven business, is an important link between research and business. Many of our institutes carry out projects together with Know-Center and with external partners. This increases the visibility of Graz as a research location in the international AI community and strengthens the external perception and the excellent reputation of Graz University of Technology in the field of information and communication technologies.

Expertise and international network

Stefanie Lindstaedt, CEO and CSO of Know-Center and Institute Board of the ISDS at Graz University of Technology on the relevance of the topic of AI: “There is a lot of talk about Big Data and AI today. In the end, however, it is all about implementation and the development of business models, which is what we do in around 150 projects every year. This requires specialist knowledge and a great deal of experience, but also a strong international network of experts that we have built up over 20 years,” says Lindstaedt, who also heads the international network of Big Data Centers with more than 60 centers. “This means that we are also familiar with developments in other countries, for example, which start-ups are being founded there or what research is currently being done there. We see ourselves as the first point of contact for companies that want to better exploit the potential of their data or are looking for solutions to specific problems – away from ‘off-the-peg products’,” says Lindstaedt. “Companies come to us when they need special solutions. More than 100 people are now employed at Know-Center, whereby the company sees itself both as a service provider for companies and as a training centre, both for students and in the form of training and further education for the economy (e.g. the Know-Center Data Value Check or the course “AI Essentials”, which is offered jointly with Graz University of Technology).

Better understanding of how to deal with AI

Meltdown, Spectre, Zombiload and Co: TU Graz and Know-Center have recently shown several times that they are at the forefront of AI, security and privacy issues throughout Europe. This know-how and Know-Center’s strong international networking have contributed significantly to bringing the DDAI module to Graz. Know-Center-CEO Lindstaedt about the project goals: “After 4 years we want to have the basis for AI algorithms that are explainable and verifiable and at the same time protect privacy. It should help users to better understand the possibilities and limitations of AI. And it should drastically reduce the entry hurdle for companies and individuals to use AI for the analysis of their own data in order to secure competitive advantages”. The module thus covers all stations of the data processing chain, from the data source to be verified to cryptographic methods for secure data processing, and offers AI users a better, because of being more comprehensible, basis for decision-making.”

Researchers in Graz make AI more secure and traceable

Christian Rechberger, Stefanie Lindstaedt, Adelheid Merkl, Harald Kainz, Gerhard Schagerl © Know-Center GmbH, Fotograph Jorj Konstantinov

How do you make AI more understandable and protect privacy?

One of the leading researchers at the Institute for Applied Information Processing and Communication Technology and area manager for Data Security at  Know-Center, Christian Rechberger, who is also in charge of the DDAI module, explains the challenges of the project. The focus is on developing verifiable and explainable AI algorithms that protect privacy. But what does this mean in concrete terms?

  • Protecting Privacy: The more data that AI has at its disposal, the better it works. In the B2B sector, the data pool that AI can access would of course be much larger if the data from different companies were combined. Rechberger: “However, this is often not possible legally and also for reasons of competition. No entrepreneur understandably wants the competitor to have his data. Data protection also puts a stop to this for good reason. However, cryptography makes it possible to work together with a data pool without being able to decrypt the data of others. In other words, one can learn from a common output without reading the individual data records. This ensures maximum privacy. The challenge for us is to make these processes more efficient and thus more affordable for companies. At the moment this is only being used in niches.”
  • Explanability and verifiability:“How AI works is not very transparent at the moment. You get a result, but it’s hard to understand. In HR, the result can be a recommendation for an applicant after the AI has analysed a huge amount of data. But in a way this is tantamount to a black box decision. We want to provide the basis for building an AI whose decisions are comprehensible.” The technical challenge here is that AI has very complex decision paths internally. You could “simply” present them all, but that would be completely beyond the capabilities of laymen. “The challenge is to simplify or summarize the decision paths so that they are understandable.”

AVL List sees great business potential

One of the industry partners in the DDAI module is AVL List. AI plays a central role for AVL’s long-standing partnership with Know-Center. DI Gerhard Schagerl, Product Line Manager Data Intelligence at AVL List: “With AI, AVL supports the development of powertrain and vehicles. Additionally, AVL uses Artificial Intelligence methods to help car manufacturers to predict problems in the vehicles before they occur and, based on the error forecasts, to send the right spare parts to the nearest repair shop.

AVL List is participating in the DDAI module “since we see great potential in it. Confidentiality and data protection are central points. We have huge amounts of data from different sources that must not be mixed up. If we would have efficient ways of using these data volumes, there would be enormous added value.” The role of AVL List and other industry partners in the DDAI module is to bring in the use cases relevant to the industry. For Schagerl, it is essential to link the technical possibilities or joint research and development. The manager can already refer to several successful cooperations with Know-Center. “Among other things, we have implemented a driver monitoring system in which drivers were measured with many sensors. This project has now become a commercial venture.”

  • AVL List is also a sponsor of the AI-KNOW conference and Know-Center Data Science Challenge – a format for finding young talent – which will be held for the third time in February 2020. Participants work on a complex problem in the field of Data Science and Machine Learning, with a total of 4,000 euros in prize money in the offering. The winners will be announced on February 10, 2020 at the AI-KNOW. More information: www.know-center.at/data-science-challenge
Researchers in Graz make AI more secure and traceable

Christian Rechberger, Stefanie Lindstaedt, Harald Kainz, Gerhard Schagerl © Know-Center GmbH, Fotograph Jorj Konstantinov

About AI-KNOW:

  • At AI-KNOW, the first specialist conference for AI in Graz, leading international experts will present their work and visions for the future of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on February 11, 2020. Topics are privacy-preserving algorithms, new database-driven Big Data analysis, Artificial Intelligence, Visualizations and Information Theory. AI-KNOW is the follow-up conference to I-KNOW, which was held as a Data-Driven Future conference in Graz from 2001 to 2017. With AI-KNOW, Know-Center brings the international AI elite to Graz and thus offers local experts the opportunity to inform and network about global developments in this field. Speaker at the AI-KNOW:
  • Ian Fischer, Machine Learning Researcher at Google Research, San Francisco
    Information Theoretic Objectives, Generalization and Robustness
  • Maria Girone, CTO at CERN OpenLab, Switzerland
    Girone is an expert for global Grid Computing.
  • Volker Markl is full professor and head of the Database Systems and Information Management (DIMA) group at the Technical University of Berlin.
    Mosaics in Big Data
  • Michael Sedlmair heads a research group for visualization and virtual/augmented reality at the VISUS research center of the University of Stuttgart.
    Machine Learning meets Visualization
  • Dimitar Jetchev is a cryptographer, CTO and co-founder of the security company INPHER, based in New York City, San Francisco and Lausanne.
    Scalable Privacy-Preserving Computing with High Numerical Precision
  • Further information: http://ai-know.know-center.tugraz.at/
  • AI-KNOW is organized by Know-Center in cooperation with Graz University of Technology and supported by the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, the Styrian Business Development Agency SFG and AVL.
  • Media representatives interested in accreditation please send an e-mail to 

About the COMET Module ‘DDAI – Data Driven Artificial Intelligence’

The core of the COMET module is the development of a theoretical basis for secure artificial intelligence algorithms that are explainable and verifiable.
Data is “the new gold”, but many different aspects prevent companies from mining this gold: Modern data-driven AI is highly complex, the path from data to analysis results is difficult to understand and verify, and its application requires expert knowledge which is not available in every company. Additionally, the confidentiality of the data prevents corporate partners from sharing analysis results. The aim of the COMET module is to address all of these issues and to develop secure, verifiable and explainable AI, as well as to create a curriculum for users of this AI, which should create an understanding of how to deal with and the limitations of AI. The module thus includes all stations of the data processing chain, from the data source to be verified, cryptographic methods for secure data processing to the user of AI.

  • Industrial partners in the project are AVL List, Magna Steyr, AT&S and NXP from Styria and the block chain company IoV42 from England; scientific partners are the University of Passau, KU Leuven and the Dutch University of Twente.

About Know-Center:

Know-Center GmbH – Research Center for Data-Driven Business & Big Data Analytics (Know-Center) at the Campus Inffeldgasse in Graz is one of the leading European research centers for Data-Driven Business and AI and the first point of contact for Austrian business. For 20 years now, well-known companies have been supported in using data as a success factor. The competence center, which is funded by COMET, is also the leading training center for data scientists in Austria. Qualified graduates of relevant courses of study have the opportunity to write their Doctoral thesis while working on exciting projects from the business world. In addition to COMET and contract research, Know-Center offers a wide range of AI training courses for companies.

  • The proportion of women at Know-Center is above average, with around a third of divisional and research managers being female. Managing director is Stefanie Lindstaedt.
  • For the third time, Know-Center was awarded the label ‘European Innovation Space’ by the Big Data Value Association. This recognition recognizes that companies, as trusted data incubators, aim to accelerate data-driven innovation in all economic sectors – both commercial and non-profit (see http://www.bdva.eu/I-Spaces). Further information: know-center.tugraz.at
  • Know-center is also a K1 center, which was founded within the framework of the COMET – Competence Centers for Excellent Technologies program.
  • Sponsors: Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Federal Ministry for Digitalization and Business Location, Styrian Business Promotion Agency (SFG), Province of Vienna, Vienna Business Agency
  • Owners: 60 percent public institutions (Graz University of Technology & Joanneum Research) and 40 percent private shareholders (Hyperwave GmbH & BearingPoint Technology GmbH)

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