”If I wanted to do things on paper, I could have stayed where I was. I came to Denmark because this is a young place where I can influence the structure. It is a beautiful opportunity to make a difference!”
The words belong to Domenico Zito. The Italian professor
recently joined the Department of Electrical and Computer
Engineering at Aarhus University, where he will be heading up the
new state-of-the-art laboratory and hosting an internationally
competitive research group within wireless transceiver
applications. The new research facility is co-funded by the Poul
Due Jensen Foundation and will support Aarhus University's 10-year
ambition of joining the European elite within the technical fields.
Having such a research group in Grundfos' vicinity will undoubtedly
be valuable to meet the challenges of digital disruption.
"Wireless is a very dynamic area. Mobile phones were
pioneered by Motorola. In 1989, General Electric marketed one of
the first "miniaturised" mobile phones. It measured about 20 ´ 7 ´
3 centimetres and weighed about one kilogram, but it was the first
wireless revolution. It's only a short while back, and today we
don't care about cables or look for a telephone booth anymore. The
new wireless revolution is what we call the Internet of Things, the
network of the networks, where every object has its own connection
to the network," explains Domenico Zito.
Scaling down to chip level
A transceiver (transmitter and receiver) allows an object to
communicate wirelessly with the world. In the future, people and
objects will be connected- and together they will produce a large
amount of data.
"What we do is compress intelligence down to a chip scale.
We also work to reduce the cost of adding intelligence, which is
today 3-4 times the cost of the object itself. The new electronics
must be ubiquitous and inexpensive," says Domenico Zito.
The smart objects can make decisions autonomously, based on data
and within the constraints we decide for them. Their ability to
communicate may depend on highways for data flows. Moreover, the
objects have to be diverse, because they will perform different
tasks. Some objects will need to consume little energy, and some
will consume more.
"Look at your mobile phone. Today it has the computing power
of a desktop computer thanks to the miniaturisation. This is the
same thing happening in the Internet of Things. Scaling down to a
system-on-a-chip is the key to reduce the costs", says
Disruption: towards a service-oriented business
Some future challenges include reliability and security.
It is not just a question of the technology itself, but how the
technology will change business models. For instance, if a
driverless car will pick you up every morning, what is the point of
owning one yourself? The same goes for pumps.
Wireless is the enabling technology that will allow systems to
deliver more and more complicated services. The new business models
include after-sale services, and the new world will be dominated by
services, not applications. Companies need to transform their
business models to fit into the new reality.
"If you look at a pump, we can use wireless technology to
monitor the operating conditions of a physical system and prevent
damage. The human eye cannot see through optical barriers like a
wall or the human skin, but electromagnetic waves can go through
them, and are able to detect system failure and flag it before real
damage is done! The pump will not be an isolated component, it's
part of a large distributed system, so imagine what you can do with
cheaper and more advanced electronics," says Domenico
Educating future generations
Domenico Zito's arrival at Aarhus is part of a strategic
move. Aarhus University is investing massively in building up the
engineering science department over the next 10 years; this
includes a strong focus on digitalisation, processing power,
hyper-connectivity and artificial intelligence/big data. The other
big areas are materials science and industrial biotech.
"We believe that if we become very strong, it will be of
huge benefit for Denmark. We will be able to recruit more people
like Domenico to support a setup where we develop and nurture
engineers who have the skills to secure growth in the future. If
they have the right skills, they will be able to help companies
cope with digital disruption," says Thomas Toftegaard, Head of
the Department of Engineering at Aarhus University.
Today, Aarhus University has around 3,000 engineering students
enrolled; eight hundred of these are in the field of electrical and
computer engineering. These graduates are very valuable to the
industry, and the ambition is to double the amount of students in
this specific area.
After Domenico Zito finished his engineering degree in
Italy, he worked in the industry before returning to the university
as a researcher and teacher. He then set out to bring industry
relevant skills into education programmes and to bridge the gap
between universities and industry.
"My research is essentially always connected to education,
this is my way of being an innovator, creating the new generation
of technology leaders. Many of my former students are now
successful industry leaders and some of them are university
Domenico Zito will begin teaching in January 2017. The
ambition is to have a new master's degree programme ready by
September 2017, followed by a bachelor's degree programme.
Simultaneously, a network of industry and business partners will be
created to secure deep collaboration in the
Did you know?
- In 2005, Domenico Zito was acknowledged by the European
Commission as the top innovator in wireless technology in Europe
for his first miniaturised wireless transceiver including the
- Domenico Zito created an Ultra-Wide-Band radar, just a tiny
bit bigger than a grain of sand, which can sense your respiratory
rate using wireless technology, and implemented it on a single chip
for the first time.
- Domenco Zito built a radiometer to sense electromagnetic
radiation from a body. The human body spontaneously emits
electromagnetic waves, which can be detected to identify hidden
objects under clothes or monitor physiological parameters.
- Domenico Zito led a European Horizon 2020 research and
innovation programme to measure the radiation emitted from solar
flares. The technology will eventually be embedded into micro and