18.03.2021 | Inside Data Science

Anna Förster on new technologies and how they can help save Earth

In the interview series “Inside Data Science“ we introduce our members with their research activities and interests.

Today with Anna Förster, professor of Sustainable Communication Networks at Faculty 1 – Physics and Electrical Engineering at the University of Bremen.
What topics are you currently working on in your research?
I am currently working on a number of related topics, all of which have something to do with how different types of network technologies can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. This could be underground sensor networks for agriculture, a smart fence to protect herd animals, opportunistic networks for rural areas in Africa, or an Internet of Things approach to optimize tea fermentation. We are also developing approaches for space travel, especially for manned missions to Mars and the moon. These technologies also help our planet by offering more efficient and cleaner solutions - which brings us back to the Sustainable Development Goals.

How important is data to your research?
It is quite simple: networks transmit data. But there is much more: in all our approaches, we also use environmental data in addition to the transmitted data. This turns something as mundane as networks into a kind of spatial cognition - a topic I work on together with other colleagues here at the DSC, but especially also at the Bremen Spatial Cognition Center. And because data is so important, we always try to publicly share the data we collect, as we did recently with an image dataset of tea fermentation processes.

What role does data science play in your research: Do you see yourself more as a user, a method developer, a basic researcher, or perhaps something completely different?
Data science is extremely important for me. I need different methods to understand and use sensor data in the Internet of Things (e.g. for autonomous control of plants), to transport data more efficiently and faster (network protocols), but also to interpret our research results. Therefore, I see myself as a mixture of everything: mostly we use well-established methods, sometimes we optimize and adapt them, and sometimes we develop completely new approaches.

Which data science methods and technologies are in the focus of your research or could also become interesting in the future?
Statistical and information gain methods are very important. Recently, AI methods are also becoming more and more important.

What are your main challenges in dealing with data?
Storage space and processing time! An example: a single simulation of our opportunistic networks sometimes takes up to 4 months on our servers and produces several terabytes of data.

And finally, what is your personal motivation for joining the Data Science Center?
I love interdisciplinary research – you learn a lot from other colleagues, you can combine innovative approaches and solve complex problems. In addition, the DSC is committed to supporting young researchers, which I think is our most important task as a university and also as researchers.

Please note: The interview was originally given in German and translated into English by Lena Steinmann.

You can learn more about Anna Förster’s activities in her talk “Optimising Tea Fermentation with Internet of Things and Data Science“ in the Data Science Forum on 25.03.2021.

Prof. Dr. Anna Förster
Professor of Sustainable Communication Networks
FB 01 – Physics and Electrical Engineering

« back