Ergonomic Assistance Systems for Network Control Centers of Critical Infrastructure
The safe operation of gas and power grids is ensured by reliable technologies and experienced control center personnel. The increasing technological and systemic complexity of energy systems, along with the heightened risk of cyber-attacks, has led to a significant increase in the volume of information that needs to be considered for secure network management. The goal of the BMBF-funded project "Beautiful" is to optimize the working conditions of control center personnel in critical infrastructures.
Control center personnel are responsible for the safe and reliable operation of gas and power grids. While critical network situations have often been caused by physical impacts on the infrastructure, such as damage to lines due to construction work or falling trees, future considerations must also account for complex cross-sector dependencies and cyber-attacks as sources of risk.
The integration of renewable energy sources into the energy system requires the development of new control mechanisms to optimize the energy mix while ensuring continuous supply reliability. Wind and solar energy are injected into the power grid in a volatile manner, requiring continuous balancing with fluctuating loads. Renewable energy in the form of biogas and hydrogen is injected into the gas grid, and sources of natural gas are diversified. Due to flexible operational conditions, the gas grid can be well adapted to changing circumstances and operated in a grid-supportive manner for the power grid. Gas power plants are suitable for providing peak load capacity, as they can be quickly ramped up and down to stabilize the power grid. The well-developed gas grid can also serve as a seasonal energy storage system, storing excess energy in the form of hydrogen or methane for long periods and converting it back into electricity when needed. The control center personnel maintain a balance of gas quantity, pressure, and quality, utilizing permissible tolerances for optimization.
For the secure cross-sector control, control centers are now handling an increasing amount of information that needs to be considered in making specific operational decisions. To manage this rapidly growing complexity, more and more digital technologies are being employed, which, in turn, increases the risk of cyber-attacks. The causes of critical network conditions are becoming more diverse, and the potential for cascading effects is increasing.
The project "Beautiful - Optimized Work Design for Network Control Centers of Critical Infrastructure" addresses the challenge of developing high-performance assistance systems for the increasingly complex monitoring and control tasks. These assistance systems are intended to support secure decision-making in complex situations within a very short time frame. The transparency and trust in these systems will be supported through a standardized evaluation of their added value for control center personnel.
The initial phase involves evaluating the current working conditions of control center personnel at a network operator. Two control room simulators will be developed for the ergonomic assessment of the physiological and psychological states of control center personnel under different stress conditions.
One control room simulator will be used in an academic setting for the development of measurement concepts and data processing approaches, as well as testing new assistance systems. The assessment of physiological and psychological states will be carried out using selected measurement technologies such as eye-tracking and intelligent shirts that enable AI-supported sensor fusion.
A second control room simulator will serve as a training system at the network operator's facility. The control center personnel will evaluate the developed assistance systems under real conditions using this training system. The training system at the network operator will also be equipped with measurement systems to assess the physiological and psychological states of the personnel and determine stress levels. Critical situations can also be simulated in the training system. The utility of the developed assistance systems in handling these critical situations will be precisely determined using standardized evaluation procedures developed in the project. The developed assistance systems and the physiological and psychological insights of the control center personnel will be utilized for the development of future optimized control systems.
The project "Beautiful - Optimized Work Design for Network Control Centers of Critical Infrastructure" is implemented by an interdisciplinary consortium and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Project partners include Avacon Netz GmbH, Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Ergoneers GmbH, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT, Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE, Humatects GmbH, IAEW of RWTH Aachen University, Interactive Wear AG, PSI Software AG, and Visseiro GmbH. Associated partners are Sch
Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Avacon Netz GmbH, Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, Ergoneers GmbH, Fraunhofer FIT, Fraunhofer FKIE, Humatects GmbH, IAEW der RWTH Aachen, Interactive Wear AG, PSI Software AG, Visseiro GmbH