Resilience in Urban and Critical Infrastructures―
The Role of Pervasive Computing


An infrastructure is called critical (CRITIS) if its disruption poses a severe threat to public life. Electricity and water are commonly cited examples, but the list comprises the food supply chain, the public health system, and more. During the recent pandemics, videoconferencing, home office / schooling, and global virus data dashboards made the public aware of how dependent we have become on “the Internet”, or rather on ICT (information and communication technology): ICT has truly become a CRITIS. Not only that: ICT is becoming ever more important for the correct functioning of all other infrastructures: finance is already fully dependent on ICT, food and health supply are organized using ICT, even the upcoming smart (power) grid uses ICT as its ‘nervous system’. The most frightening aspect in this trend is the fact that ICT is known, from both everyday experience and serious studies, to be fragile i.e. vulnerable and for the most part rather unreliable. Nobody wants to picture a future with electricity ‘crashing / rebooting’ twice a day, being unavailable due to software updates, flickering due to congestion, being heavily affected by various hazards, or becoming unavailable for days due to cyberattacks. This is why the ICT that functions as the ‘nervous system’ of the power grid, and of any other CRITIS, must be resilient:

Resilient means―roughly speaking―undisturbed by mild and medium-scale harm; continuing to function, at least in an emergency mode, even after serious damage; fast-recovering; and learning from (real or modelled/simulated) emergencies ‘experienced’.

A particular subject of CRITIS resilience are multi-sector urban CRITIS: the growth and mechanization of cities led to a complex interwoven network of traffic, power, heating, municipal supply and disposal, etc., both indispensable for citizens and fragile. Recently, R&D efforts around Smart Cities showed that the increasing urban challenges, from pollution to traffic gridlock, from rural-urban migration to gentrification, call for ICT as a key factor in the complicated city equation. However, increasing natural catastrophes, human errors, technical threads (e.g., from nearby chemical or nuclear plants) and attacks / cyberattacks are heavily threatening the critical urban infrastructures. 

In summary, all of the above leads to the key panel question: How to morph ICT from the problem into the solution for resilience―both for common CRITIS like the power grid and for smart cities i.e. urban infrastructures? This question can be divided into two parts: 

  • How to reach resilience FOR ICT i.e. how can ICT be made resilient?
  • How to reach resilience THROUGH ICT i.e. how can ICT help to make other infrastructures more resilient rather than more fragile?

The panel will initially address these questions from a more general perspective, before diving into issues related to the role of PerCom technologies such as: 

  • The role of PerCom technologies – for increased fragility or greater resilience
  • Key PerCom design principles and concepts that may yield resilience
  • The most pressing unsolved issues towards resilience for and through PerCom

PerCom, here, refers to interconnected sensing/actuation, IoT, backhaul infrastructures, SW services, and human-facing technologies (connecting to the involved public / citizens, decision makers, stakeholders, experts, workers, and emergency responders); this includes enabling technologies such as pertinent networking, platforms, targeted AI methods, sensors/devices, and interaction modalities.


  • Prof. Max Mühlhäuser, EmergenCity Center & Telecooperation Lab, Technical University of Darmstadt  


  • Prof. Tina Comes, 4TU Resilience Engineering, TU Delft, The Netherlands 
  • Prof. Christoph Hölscher, FRS Future Resilient Systems, ETH Zurich, Switzerland / CREATE Singapore 
  • Prof. Christian Oberli, Chile Research Center for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (CIGIDEN), Pontificia Universidad Católica, Santiago de Chile
  • Prof. Moshe Vardi, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA 


Max Mühlhäuser

Max Mühlhäuser is a full professor at Technical University of Darmstadt and head of the Telecooperation Lab. He holds key positions in several large collaborative research centers like the Center for Resilient Digital Cities EmergenCity and is leading the Doctoral School on Privacy and Trust for Mobile Users.  He and his lab members conduct research on Human Computer Interaction, the future Internet, Intelligent Systems, and Cybersecurity, Privacy & Trust. Max founded and managed industrial research centers, and worked as either professor or visiting professor at universities in Germany, the US, Canada, Australia, France, and Austria. He is a member of acatech, the German Academy of the Technical Sciences. He was and is active in numerous conference program committees, as organizer of several annual conferences, and editorial board member or guest editor for journals such as ACM IMWUT, ACM ToIT, Pervasive Computing, ACM Multimedia, and Pervasive and Mobile Computing.

Dr. Tina Comes

Dr. Tina Comes is Delft Technology Fellow and Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Services at the TU Delft, Netherlands, and Full Professor in Decision-Making & Digitalisation at the University of Maastricht. Dr. Comes is a Visiting Professor at the Université Dauphine, France, and a member of the Norwegian Academy for Technological Sciences. She serves as the Scientific Director of the 4TU.Centre for Resilience Engineering, as Principle Investigator on Climate Resilience for AMS, as Director of the TPM Resilience Lab, and she leads the Disaster Resilience theme for the Delft Global Initiative. Dr. Comes’ research focuses on decision-making and information technology for resilience and disaster management, investigating the use of information and smart technology for better decisions and coordination in complex, volatile and uncertain environments. Her research involved stakeholders and decision-makers in private companies, public authorities and international organizations, and is reflected in more than 100 publications.

Christoph Hölscher

Christoph Hölscher is Full Professor of Cognitive Science in the D-GESS at ETH Zürich since 2013, with an emphasis on Applied Cognitive Science. Since 2016 Christoph is a Principal Investigator at the Singapore ETH Center (SEC) Future Cities Laboratory, heading a research group on ‘Cognition, Perception and Behaviour in Urban Environments’. Christoph is the Program Director of Future Resilient Systems FRS at the SEC since 2019, leading the current FRS 2 phase (2020-2025). He holds a PhD in Psychology from University of Freiburg, served as honorary senior research fellow at UCL, Bartlett School of Architecture, and as a visiting Professor at Northumbria University Newcastle. Christoph has several years of industry experience in Human-Computer Interaction and usability consulting. The core mission of his research groups in Zurich and Singapore is to unravel the com-plex interaction of humans and their physical, technical and social environment with an emphasis on cognitive processes and task-oriented behavior.

Christian Oberli

Christian Oberli received the PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2004 and is currently an associate professor at the Department of Electri-cal Engineering of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where he conducts research, develop-ment and education in wireless communications and embedded systems. He  heads the Wireless Technologies Laboratory (LatinaUC) and is an associated researcher of the National Research Cen-ter for Integrated Natural Disaster Management (CIGIDEN). Prof. Oberli is also a Mercator Fellow of the German Science Foundation at the MAKI Collaborative Research Centre of the Technical Uni-versity of Darmstadt. His current research interests focus on the resilience of wireless sensor net-works, including theoretical aspects as well as development and field testing of prototypes for early warning of disasters of natural origin.

Moshe Y. Vardi

Moshe Y. Vardi is University Professor and the George Distinguished Service Professor in Computa-tional Engineering at Rice University. He is the recipient of several awards, including the ACM SIGACT Goedel Prize, the ACM Kanellakis Award, the ACM SIGMOD Codd Award, the Blaise Pascal Medal, the IEEE Computer Society Goode Award, and the EATCS Distinguished Achievements Award.  He is the author and co-author of over 650 papers, as well as two books. He is a fellow of several societies, and a member of several academies, including the US National Academy of Engi-neering and National Academy of Science.  He holds seven honorary doctorates. He is a Senior Edi-tor of the Communications of the ACM, the premier publication in computing.