Science of Sensor System Software

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Computing Science


Sensors are everywhere, facilitating real-time decision making and actuation, and informing policy choices. But extracting information from sensor data is far from straightforward: sensors are noisy, prone to decalibrate, and may be misplaced, moved, compromised, and generally degraded over time. We understand very little about the issues of programming in the face of pervasive uncertainty, yet sensor-driven systems essentially present the designer with uncertainty that cannot be engineered away. Moreover uncertainty is a multi-level phenomenon in which errors in deployment can propagate through to incorrectly-positioned readings and then to poor decisions; system layering breaks down when exposed to

How can we be assured a sensor system does what we intend, in a range of dynamic environments, and how can we make a system ``smarter'' ? Currently we cannot answer these questions because we are missing a science of sensor system software. We will develop the missing science that will allow us to engineer for the uncertainty inherent in real-world systems. We will deliver new principles and techniques for the development and deployment of verifiable, reliable, autonomous sensor systems that operate in uncertain, multiple and multi-scale environments. The science will be driven and validated by end-user and experimental applications.

Planned Impact

Developing a science of sensor system software will address directly the critical barrier to impact from sensor systems: can the information we are collecting be trusted to meet the mission goals? We will advance academic boundaries and have industrial and agency end user impact, including in other academic disciplines (e.g. environmental engineering). We will maintain our strong publication record in premier journals and conferences, and develop a new community of researchers through workshops (at least one with international participants) for example, a specialist Royal Society Scientific Meeting. We will ensure we make a direct impact on developers and end users by working closely with a wide selection of companies and agencies that will provide us with representative case studies. Our partners range from SMEs, to global companies and government agencies, working across many sectors, from transportation to environmental services. We will deliver new results and insights to them, as they arise, stimulating further development of their sensor-based systems, and helping them answer questions they could not previously answer (for example, quantifying the extent and effect of sensor failures). Through this we will gain critical experience and feedback about the applicability of our end-to-end approach. The innovation centre CENSIS ( ) will also help disseminate our results through our participation in their regular events and their representation of our programme to other sectors and organisations. We have detailed engagement and impact development plans and an experienced business development manager for the programme.