With the digital revolution, the products and services around us are becoming more and more complex. For instance, a modern car can contain up to 100 different computing components that control the engine, doors, speed, battery, breaks, etc.
As products become smarter, they will need to integrate even more functions. However, this cannot be done just by adding components to the system because it would lead to significant increases in hardware cost, weight, space, and larger likelihood of hardware and software faults.
To face this challenge, multi-core processors are used. They are computing systems capable of hosting and executing several functions at the same time, while using fewer components, wiring and space. However, they must ensure safety and prioritise between the different functions. For instance, in a plane, responding to the flight control is crucial because a failure could have catastrophic consequences; but if the system fails to play music in the cabin it wouldn't be so problematic.
The EU-supported project Dreams has successfully developed a solution for these mixed-criticality systems which integrate multiple functions of different importance into a shared computing platform. With an EU investment of €11 million and 16 different partners across 6 European countries, the project has developed a computing architecture and design tools that can be used across many different sectors.
Implementing technology in real world applications
A wearable device to easily monitor patients' health
Within the Dreams project, the French-Italian company STMicroelectronics developed a mixed critical system based on a wearable device called Body Gateway. This system allows remote monitoring of real-time status of patients’ vital signs which are then digitised, stored and periodically transmitted via Bluetooth to a medical service.
A Hospital prototype of this solution has been implemented in Dreams according to real hospital requirements. The real-time monitoring of patients enables access to relevant data, better decisions, reduction of medical errors and improvement of patient recovery. The device can also be used in telemedicine, allowing hospitals to monitor patients remotely and ultimately improving comfort for patients and reducing cost of treatment.
STMicroelectronics is already commercialising this product, which is currently used by well-known medical companies to implement remote monitoring.
A protection system for wind turbines
The French company Alstom engineers and maintains wind turbines. Through their participation in Dreams, they could develop a control system that maintains the wind turbine in a safe state, identifying problems such as over-speed, generator overload or fault, excessive vibration and abnormal cable twist.
Through this solution, Alstom has gained in competitiveness, as now they not only sell the wind turbines but also the controllers which give more flexibility and easier maintenance to their clients. In addition, thanks to Dreams solutions, Alstom will reduce the time to develop each new turbine by 60%, get their products certified more easily and also provide maintenance to their clients in a faster way.
Controlling safety critical transports
The Dreams solutions have been used to prototype a safety critical embedded system as those that can be found in transportation and aerospace systems (railway, aircraft, satellites, etc.). This system retrieves information from different sensors and uses it to compute critical data and control actions for the transport/aerospace system. Moreover, the embedded system integrates non-critical functions without compromising safety.
This use case was led by the French company Thales, which designs and builds electrical systems for the aerospace, defence, transport and security markets. Thanks to their participation in Dreams, Thales not only increases their competitiveness but also contributes to maintaining 1/5 of the jobs in the company, which depend directly on delivering innovative multi-core safety-critical systems solutions such as the one developed in Dreams.
The successful results of Dreams have also had a strong impact on the other companies that participated in the project as technology provides. They have all opened new markets, acquired new expertise and developed new services for their own clients.
For instance, the SME Fentiss expects an annual increase in sales of 18% and the creation of 2 new jobs. Other partners such as TTTech have taken Dreams contributions even further as Dreams results helped to secure a long-term development agreement with ArianeGroup. This will allow the use of its networking technology in the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which is largely funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Overall, Dreams could have a big impact in all the industries that need to develop mixed-criticality embedded systems for their products and services. Dreams has reduced by 30% the cost of developing these complex computing systems and by 50% the cost of hardware used on them.
The results of the Dreams project are an important contribution to ensure that the computing systems of the future will be capable of meeting the increasing demands of our connected world. They will also help European industries to embrace these opportunities across different sectors in an affordable and reliable way.