Academia and industry join forces to make technology more resilient
As the influence of technology on all parts of modern life continues to increase, the importance of its reliability continues to grow. Partners in the EUR 18 million project DEPLOY (‘Industrial deployment of system engineering methods providing high dependability and productivity’), partly funded under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), are set to boost this reliability and resilience in technology across the board — from mobile phones to satellites.
‘It’s often crucial that you can rely on these systems,’ explains Computing Science Professor Cliff Jones at Newcastle University, UK, which acts as project coordinator. ‘For example, there is a device being developed where the car turns itself off when you pull up to traffic lights and then back on again when you go to pull off. The last thing you want is that failing, and then you’re left with a queue of irate drivers behind you, or even worse, the system turning the car off at completely the wrong moment as you’re driving along.
‘My belief is that simple systems are the only reliable ones. It comes down to reasoning — if there are too many options, then it becomes too difficult to predict what could happen,’ he adds.
In the four years to come, the consortium of five academic partners and five partners from industry will work on technologies in five sectors, with a view to developing systems which have resilience as a built-in feature from the outset rather than something that has to be added after production. The five sectors include transportation, automotive, space, telecommunications and business information, each associated with a specific industrial partner.
‘It’s a great honour for us to be working with some of the top names in European industry,’ says project Director Professor Sascha Romanovsky of Newcastle University, adding that such a project would normally be led by industry rather than academia. ‘The industry partners put in 50 percent of their own money, which is a sure sign that they take this seriously,’ he adds.
‘From the start we’ve made it clear that we’re not going to carry out research that is not meeting industry’s needs. This project will only be a success if we are able to create what they need and can use,’ Prof. Romanovsky points out. ‘Any system we create needs to be self-sufficient and the staff needs to understand our methods and tools. This is not just a four-year project which will end when we walk away from it — the whole point is that these methods last for many years to come.’
The systems developed in the DEPLOY project, which builds on the results of the FP6-funded RODIN (‘Rigorous open development environment for complex systems’) project, will ultimately be tried and tested in a pilot study for a year before going into production or being integrated in projects such as the 2013 European Space Agency’s mission to Mercury or trains of the Paris Metro.