Trustworthy Ambient Systems: Resource Constrained Ambience

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Computing Sciences

Abstract

Advances in communications and networking technology have made it possible to devise 'ambient' systems in which mobile devices and software agents form ad hoc groups, trading data and services. However, the technology needed to engender trust in such complex systems, and their resilience to faults and attacks, is only in its infancy.
The TrAmS platform grant sustained a research group that created new projects on technical foundations, methods and tools to model, design and analyse Trustworthy Ambient Systems. TrAmS-2 is, however, shaped by new factors. First, power provision/consumption of devices, rather than cost, is becoming a limiting factor in the deployment of ambient systems. Second, novel paradigms such as cloud computing offer a new dimension of ambience in that data and programs can be migrated without physical movement of agents. Ambient systems can therefore mix mobile devices with mobile software and services, using resources on demand. This increases the significance of threats such as power loss/limitation, and lack of trust in an on-demand computing infrastructure. These factors mean that traditional assumptions underpinning the engineering of fault-tolerant, dependable systems will be challenged.
TrAmS enabled lines of enquiry on formal engineering methods, proof support, embedded systems design, dynamic coalitions and contract-based "systems of systems" architectures. These led to 9 EPSRC, EU, industry and other projects with applications in automotive, rail, space, business and other sectors. Concrete outputs included tools and patterns for fault tolerance modelling, advances in proof technology, simulation and evidence to support deployment of formal engineering methods.
In TrAmS-2, the group will focus on the most challenging aspects of resource-limited future ambient systems. This requires skills in other areas besides fault tolerance, so we have augmented the TrAmS team with researchers in systems and microelectronics to create a group with an international profile in dependability, data management and asynchronous systems. TrAmS-2 will provide continuity of research staff, encouraging new, risky, research in areas created by this new mix of expertise.
The design and management of trustworthy ambient systems is necessarily a cooperative, large-scale, and potentially error-prone undertaking, partly because they cannot be designed as a coherent whole. Mobility (physical and virtual) makes them open to malicious and accidental failures that are difficult to predict in design. Decentralisation makes controlled recovery and evolution difficult. Lack of power can crash components, but fault tolerance costs extra power. Complex ambient systems yield verification problems beyond state-of -the-art tools. TrAmS-2 addresses these challenges in four domains:

Foundations: work towards calculi that are rich enough to describe the architectures, functionality and stochastic properties of ambient systems composed of diverse services with multiple users and owners.

Tools: exploring the development of cooperative, cloud-enabled design environments that ease access to analytic services to allow the full range of interactive verification techniques to be applied on demand to ambient system designs.

Tractable Design: work towards making design of trustworthy ambient systems designs more tractable by adding facilities to manage the added complexity of error detection and recovery without losing the underlying system structure.

Energy-Aware Ambient Systems: exploring the interplay between energy-awareness and resilience, and the provision of predictable tolerance of energy-induced threats.

Finally, TrAmS-2 will allow the group to continue taking a strategic view of its research and will help develop the careers of its members by building a group of mentors for the team members at all levels, establishing new links and exchanges, leading to further projects.

Planned Impact

Our goal is to ensure TrAmS-2 enables the impact of the new projects that result from the platform grant. Our approach is therefore to ensure that the TrAmS-2 group interacts with potential beneficiaries of these "offspring projects", and takes account of their needs when formulating research strategy and developing project proposals.
The extension of TrAmS into resource-constrained and cloud-based ambience offers great potential for impact in broad areas of industry and society. Beneficiaries include businesses providing infrastructure, devices and services for ambient systems, and end users for whom major concerns are the security, safety and quality of experience provided by the system as a whole. The entire ICT sector is being strongly influenced by societal and economic demands for systems to be energy-frugal and power-proportional, and businesses of all sizes have identified the huge potential of cloud computing but are unable to commit to clouds because they do not trust them. The projects created from TrAmS-2 address these problems by researching methods, models and tools that support developers in assessing designs both in terms of their resource usage, costs, resilience to faults and the quality of the user experience.
A major impact route is through tools supporting the well-founded modelling and analysis methods for dependable ambient systems that TrAmS-2 offspring projects will generate. We will build on our extensive experience at developing usable tools that have achieved industry deployment. To overcome the difficulty of accessing formal methods tools, we will set up the infrastructure to allow new and existing tools to be wrapped in a service-based interface and deployed on a cloud, so that users can access them without the need to install and maintain them. This approach is intended to increase, by orders of magnitude, the number and range of organisations that can then benefit from these tools. In particular it will allow SMEs to benefit from tooling that has hitherto been limited to large organisations with expertise and computing power.
We will encourage other research groups to follow our example, and make their tools available in the same cloud-based framework that we envisage way. To stimulate this, offspring projects will make test and anonymised data sets available in the cloud so that others can evaluate their tools, encouraging productive competition between tool-providers taking different approaches. For this, we will utilise the expertise of the commercial cloud companies with which we have a close relationship.
TrAmS-2 will identify and develop the impact routes that will then be used by the offspring projects on the energy/dependability interplay, again holding a workshop to involve industry stakeholders and using our ongoing involvement in the energy harvesting community, our collaboration with SMes in EU projects, and our pivotal role in industry-rich events on systems design. Our active participation in the Electronics Knowledge Transfer Network and The Chilli online platform for entrepreneurs and investors in ICT will provide major dissemination routes for developing an industrial community of interest around the TrAmS-2 offspring projects.
All the investigators have established records of creating impact from their research both from the original TrAmS Platform Grant and other extensive research careers. Tools developed in several of our projects have been deployed in industry sectors including automotive, business, transport and e-Science. Much of the existing evidence is of solid industrial impact via projects that benefited from the first tranche of TrAmS funding. For the future, the two new directions offer great potential for impact over a broad sector of industry.
 
Description - the foundations of a range of Rodin extensions and the corresponding plugins (including, why3 veri?cation, traceability and change management, elastic cloud-based proofs and model-checking, Event-B algorithmic exten-sion, use cases

- novel approaches to systematic and traceable design of fault tolerant systems of systems supported by the modelling tools and a library of architectural stereotypes and patterns and modelling guideline

- advanced methods and tools for systematic modelling of faults and fault tolerance in the ambient systems encompassing both digital and physical elements, accompanied by a set of development templates and cookbooks to ease this process

- algorithms for comparing the provenance traces in cloud-based e-science workflows

- a practical framework for applying provenance technology in delivering a better integration of complex models of larger-scale heterogeneous ambient systems

a cloud-based architecture to support the engineering of complex ambient systems, that includes a tool repository (including a variety of veri?cation tools such as SPIN, why3, ProB, Divine), an artefact repository, support for process enactment and reactive middle-ware linking the artefacts to ensure change management and traceability

- new models for capturing systems with multiple modes targeted at power and reliability parameters, such as parameterised graphs, order graphs, conditional partial-order graphs, targeting requirements of power-proportionality and parametric reconfigurability

- methods for designing robust and reliable electronics for situations where there is a variable and unreliable source of energy

- tools for modelling, analysis and synthesis of digital circuits for power management. They have been incorporated into our Workcraft software suite (www.workcraft.org), which is now being used in academic and industrial or-ganisations

- The process used to generate and analyse a dataset is often as valuable as the dataset itself. Ensuring standard processes are applied and the generation of an audit trail is critical in many fields such as the medical sciences. Previously Simon developed a provenance capture system for e-Science Central. The work developed during TRAMS2 and presented in the International Journal CCP&E article builds on this and shows how provenance traces can be compared for similarity. This is important in the case when two datasets are expected to be equivalent but are not. We also present a generalised architecture for the comparison of different types of dataset. This methodology was enhanced and presented in the WORKS workshop where we analysed whether intermediate data should be stored or regenerated on demand. Engaging with businesses locally, nationally and internationally has been part of Simon's On a local level, Simon has engaged with many SMEs and giving them advice on Cloud Computing and Big Data. Simon's work with RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) enabled them to secure £1M of funding to develop a cloud based Digital Plan of Work. This product will help the construction industry leverage Building Information Modelling. As recognition of his work mainly in research and engagement, Simon was promoted to Senior Research Associate in 2013.
Exploitation Route Tools for modelling, analysis and synthesis of digital circuits for power management have been incorporated into our Workcraft software suite (www.workcraft.org), which is now being used in academic and industrial organisations
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Transport

 
Description There have been several impact avenues we have successfully explored in the project. The project has had an impact on the people involved in it. It, first of all, has helped to substantially improve the careers of the RAs involved: some of them were promoted, some of them got academic positions, some of them have moved to industry. Many of the project RAs have been involved as co-investigators in preparation of the offspring proposals; several more-experienced RAs are now responsible for managing workpackages in the on-going projects and are co-supervising PhD students. The project has helped the team to prepare and get a number of offspring grants helping to sustain and create new RA positions in the university (and in the North East in general). We have helped to substantially increase the commercial R&D investment to Newcastle University as well. We have successfully contacted technology transfer to a number of companies in the railway and micro-conductor domains but right now we do not have any evidence of the successful application of these technologies in the company helping to create new products/processes of saving cost. Support from the TRAMS2 project for Simon Woodman has allowed Simon to focus on some of the more theoretical aspects of his work. Much of Simon's time is spent in interdisciplinary and applied research and thus the funding has allowed a return to more traditional Computer Science. During this time, Simon has worked on the theoretical aspects of the capture and storage of data provenance.
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Case Studentship
Amount £30,000 (GBP)
Organisation ARM Holdings 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2013 
End 08/2016
 
Description Case studentship
Amount £35,000 (GBP)
Organisation Siemens AG 
Sector Private
Country Germany
Start 01/2014 
End 09/2018
 
Description Discovery Project
Amount £1 (GBP)
Funding ID DP130102901 
Organisation Australian Research Council 
Sector Public
Country Australia
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2016
 
Description Industrial Case
Amount £37,000 (GBP)
Organisation Thales Group 
Sector Private
Country France
Start 11/2014 
End 04/2015
 
Description Internal Competition from EPSRC Framework Funding
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K50340X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2012 
End 01/2013
 
Description Programme Grant
Amount £618,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K034448/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2013 
End 05/2018
 
Description R&D
Amount £269,000 (GBP)
Organisation Rail Safety and Standards Board 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 10/2016
 
Description Siemens iCASE: Theories, techniques and tools for engineering complex railway systems consisting of mixed signalling areas
Amount £35,000 (GBP)
Organisation Siemens AG 
Department Siemens Rail Automation
Sector Private
Country Global
Start 09/2016 
End 02/2020
 
Description Standard Grant
Amount £559,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K001698/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2013 
End 01/2016
 
Description Standard Grant
Amount £644,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K011707/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2017
 
Description Standard Grant
Amount £330,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K012908/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2013 
End 06/2016
 
Description Standard Grant
Amount £575,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 08/2017
 
Description fund
Amount £90,000 (GBP)
Organisation Dialog Devices Ltd 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 08/2017
 
Description Cloud Innovation Centre 
Organisation Cloud Innovation Centre (CIC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution TRAMS2 has enabled Simon to engage with many local, national and international organisations through his work in the Cloud Innovation Centre.
Collaborator Contribution Many of these engagements have been Architecture Design Sessions where external organisations come for 1/2 day session with Simon and colleagues. Typically 2-3 technical problems are explored, usually in the areas of data analytics or cloud computing. Sometimes these lead onto longer collaborations such as RIBA and Akzo Nobel.
Impact Longer collaborations with: RIBA - which enabled RIBA to gain £1M funding to build a complete application beaked on the development with the Cloud Innovation Centre. Akzo Nobel - CDT student group project and potential ongoing relationship or consultancy.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Cooperation with ClearSy 
Organisation ClearSy
Country France 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have established a close cooperation with ClearSy (French SME working in railway domain, http://www.clearsy.com/). The cooperation plans include tool integration, joint project proposals, and staff visits.
Collaborator Contribution The partner bring into thic cooperation the knowledge of teh French railway sector and their succesful expeirence in applying formal methods in. the domain
Impact We have lanched together a very succesful International Conference on reliability, safety and security of railway systems: modelling, analysis, verification and certification. We are now working on the 3rd edition RSSRail 2019 (Lille, June 2019).
Start Year 2012
 
Description Cooperation with Siemens Rail Autormation 
Organisation Invensys Rail
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are developing new methods for engineering trustworthy advisory systems for railway traffic management. Our team conributes the expertise in trustworthy system engineering and in requirement engineering.
Collaborator Contribution Feedback and advice on the research results developed
Impact No outputs at this stage except for a number of publications. But the work on developing novel practical techniques for safety verification is succesfully moving forward.
Start Year 2012
 
Title APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR VOLTAGE SENSING 
Description This is a self powered voltage sensor, which can be used in energy harvesting systems and power constrained systems. 
IP Reference US9121871 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2015
Licensed No
Impact It has led to new types of sensing in power constrained systems