Tracking Time in Cyber Physical Systems

Monday, June 16, 2014 @ 06:06 PM gHale


Time presents a particular fundamental challenge in emerging applications of cyber-physical systems (CPS), which connect computers, communication, sensors and actuator technologies to objects and play a critical role in our physical and network infrastructure.

Cyber physical systems depend on precise knowledge of time to infer location, control communication, and accurately coordinate activities.

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CPS are critical to real-time situational awareness and control of a broad and growing range of applications, including autonomous cars and aircraft autopilot systems, advanced robotic devices, medical devices, energy-efficient buildings, advanced manufacturing and modern agriculture to name a few.

That is why the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a five-year, $4 million “Frontier” award to tackle the CPS challenge. The Frontier award will support a project called Roseline that seeks to develop new clocking technologies, synchronization protocols, operating system methods, as well as control and sensing algorithms.

The project, led by faculty from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, includes electrical engineering and computer science faculty from the University of California, San Diego, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Utah.

“The National Science Foundation has long supported research to integrate cyber and physical systems, and have supported the experimentation and prototyping of these systems in a number of different sectors – from transportation and energy to medical systems,” said Farnam Jahanian, head of the NSF directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “As the ‘Internet of Things’ become more pervasive in our lives, precise timing will be critical for these systems to be more responsive, reliable and efficient.”

“Through the Roseline project, we will drive cyber-physical systems research with a deeper understanding of time and its trade-offs, and advance the state-of-the-art in clocking circuits and platform architectures,” said UCLA professor Mani Srivastava, principal investigator on the project.

Today, most computing systems use tiny clocks to manage time in a relatively simplistic and idealized fashion. For example, software in today’s computers has little visibility into, and little control over, the quality of time information received from its underlying hardware. At the same time, the clocks have little, if any, knowledge of the quality of time needed by the software, nor an ability to adapt to it. This leaves computing systems dependent on time vulnerable to complex and catastrophic disruptions.

The Roseline team will address this problem by rethinking and re-engineering how the knowledge of time works across a computing system’s hardware and software.

“Roseline will drive accurate timing information deep into the software system,” said University of California, San Diego computer science and engineering chair Rajesh Gupta, a co-principal investigator on the project. “It will enable robust distributed control of smart grids, precise localization of structural faults in bridges, and ultra-low-power wireless sensors.”

The research will have a broad impact across many sectors, including smart electrical grids, aerospace systems, precision manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, safety systems and infrastructure monitoring.



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