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Mobile photonic microsensors and digital image processing using smartpads

Growing expectations regarding the quality of technical and natural products used in industry, biology, medicine, farming, and the environment – hand-in-hand with security and administration issues – mean it’s necessary to find objectively measurable quality parameters for use in production, products, and services. Help is now at hand thanks to photonic microsensors and smart computers. These make it possible to measure shape, color, spectrum and hyperspectral parameters, even in mobile situations outside the laboratory. A Bavarian initiative called Strategische Partnerschaft Sensorik e.V. (Strategic Partnership for Sensor Systems) has joined forces with an international business excellence cluster founded in Thuringia called SpectroNet. Together, they have decided to accelerate the pace of the cross-industry development, production, and introduction of photonic “Sensors 4.0” through cross-cluster alliances. The alliances will receive support from the Jena Technology and Innovation Park and the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Quality Assurance and Quality Measuring Systems.

Recent developments in photonic microsensors now make it possible to gather simultaneous information on shapes, colors, and spectrum using special micro-cameras – so-called hyperspectral cameras. This technique means that in addition to detecting shapes and colors, it is also possible to identify things like contaminants or foreign particles in foods, to check the sugar or water content of fruit and vegetables, or to assess the concentration of substances in tablets. To measure, manage, and control the quality of solids, liquids and gasses, the new photonic microsensors can be used with smart computer devices such as smartphones, smartpads and smartwatches, which can process the digital images.

The BMWi (the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology) runs a program called go-cluster with the aim of sponsoring cross-industry alliances throughout business clusters working in the fields of science, engineering, commerce, applications, and continuing professional development. Under its auspices, the Strategische Partnerschaft Sensorik e.V. program, which is based in the Biopark in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, and SpectroNet, the international excellence initiative set up in Thuringia, which is based in the Jena Technology and Innovation Park, are now intensifying and accelerating their cluster management.

The emphasis of the project is to link up cluster partners digitally in order to accelerate the exchange, introduction, and on-going development of open innovations in research and development, production, products, services, marketing, sales, training, and continuing professional development – all with a bearing on photonic microsensors and digital image processing using smart computers.

The aim of the cross-cluster service is to use established hierarchies and official channels to generate digital records of the services offered by cluster partners. This makes organization and operation more effective, with the prospect of allowing cluster partners to market new products and application services interactively, and access broader digital markets with improved business models.

During the initial phase, a website at will function as a digital commercialized business cluster platform with its own open, digital and mobile hierarchy for information, communication, and collaboration. The digital commercialization service will improve the margins of the cluster partners, making it easier to create new products and services in a reliable and affordable manner. Furthermore, by allowing for responsive smartphone and smartpad design, the workplace can be made mobile and kept modern for operational reasons.

The service offering has been organized such that current resources can always be shared among the parties involved in the cluster, at all stages of the value chain of photonic microsensors and digital image processing, addressing the needs of measurement technology and quality assurance in terms of R&D, production, products, services, marketing, sales, training, and continuing professional development. The database offers a selection of suitable experts and companies, and it makes it possible to offer new products and application services online, as well as to promote these through a digital marketplace. Training and continuing professional development are also supported with open specialist presentations and videos.

The innovative nature of the new digital commercialization service stems from the completely new underlying concept, despite the individualized delivery of the service. The structure, contents, and management of the cluster platform have been tailored specifically to mobile photonic microsensors and digital image processing. This kind of digital presentation and service delivery is unique in the photonics industry, adding value in financial terms by providing new operational and selling channels, especially by offering immediate global availability.

The solution is of particular benefit to cluster partners, not just in terms of specialist and social aspects, but also from a commercial standpoint. The digital commercialization service is especially effective at raising awareness among customers, both of the business clusters themselves and its partners. It significantly cuts the coordination costs of the different parties involved, also significantly shortening the development cycles of products and services. The SMEs, research establishments, and universities involved in the cross-collaboration cluster can raise their productivity by reducing requirements relating to materials, energy, information, cost and specialist support. By improving the competitiveness of cluster partners, satisfaction with the work carried out by the cluster improves. Being able to exchange tangible and intangible products and services directly with others also strengthens trust. Rising sales and lower costs make cluster membership more attractive. The growth that comes hand in hand with this is to the benefit of clusters in the form of higher revenues.


Prof. Dr. Dietrich Hofmann is the cluster manager of the business excellence cluster SpectroNet and director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Quality Assurance and Quality Measuring Systems, which offers services including quality evaluations, quality management, quality measuring technology, and statistical process control.

Randolf Margull is managing director of Technologie- und Innovationspark Jena GmbH, which works to promote the interests of technology-based startups. The technology and innovation park in Jena is a cluster management organization belonging to the SpectroNet business excellence cluster.

Paul-Gerald Dittrich is a content manager and Dr. Nina Galushko is a project manager of a crossclustering project called Sensorik 4.0 (sensor systems 4.0). Both are closely involved in the topic of mobile photonic microsensors and digital image processing via smartpads in industry, biology, and medicine.

Dr. Hubert Steigerwald is director of a strategic partnership in Regensburg called Sensorik e.V. This has been officially responsible for cluster management issues relating to sensors in Bavaria since 2006.

Prof. Dr. Dietrich Hofmann
Steinbeis Transfer Center Quality Assurance and Quality Measuring Systems (Jena); SpectroNet Collaboration Cluster (Jena)

Randolf Margull
Technologie- und Innovationspark Jena GmbH (Jena)

Paul-Gerald Dittrich
SpectroNet Collaboration Cluster (Jena); Cross-clustering „Sensorik 4.0“ (Jena)

Dr. Hubert Steigerwald
The “Sensorik e.V.” strategic partnership (Regensburg)

Dr. Nina Galushko
Sensorik e.V. strategic partnership; Cross-clustering “Sensorik 4.0” (Regensburg)

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