Visible to the public New Clockwork for Time-Critical Systems Request for Information (RFI)

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Chris vanBuskirk
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Joined: Jun 15 2010

The High Confidence Software and Systems (HCSS) Coordinating Group (CG) of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) subcommittee seeks input from government agencies, researchers, and industry regarding problems, questions, and new directions for research on technology for time-critical systems.

Each new generation of cyber-physical systems (CPS) raises the level of trust that people must put in these systems, while achieving assurances that the systems are worthy of that trust becomes more difficult. Examples of critical reliance on cyber-physical systems can be seen in defense systems, civil aviation, highways, energy production, advanced manufacturing, and modern healthcare. These systems make increasingly complex demands for real-time coordination among distributed subsystems. Even the current generation of large-scale real-time cyber-physical systems may unpredictably miss timing requirements, and expose the whole system to the risk of failure. Certainly progress on future systems will suffer without a better theory and practice of timed CPS. This calls for "new clockwork".

Advances in distributed clock synchronization technology, such as GPS time and IEEE 1588, present new opportunities and new challenges. On one hand, widely distributed systems can have a nearly synchronous view of the current time, thereby, enabling better functionality and greater reliability so long as the synchronization mechanism works. On the other hand, mechanisms for time synchronization do fail. Natural phenomena and intentionally malicious attacks can disrupt timing in complex systems with catastrophic effects.

Several recent trends have exacerbated time-related problems by increasing reliance on technologies with intrinsic time variability such as wireless communication, multi-core processors, virtualization, and "cloud" computing. Advances in the science of time-critical systems are needed if we are to be able to exploit the benefits of these technologies with assurance that systems will operate safely and reliably.

How can we leverage this technology while mitigating our risks and vulnerabilities? How do we build systems that benefit from precise global clock synchronization but degrade gracefully if synchronization fails?

The HCSS Coordinating Group envisions a workshop, to be held in early 2013, with the goal of defining a list of needs for research on time-critical aspects of cyber-physical systems, so that future research agendas in CPS can develop robust foundations for reasoning about time on cyber-physical systems across scales, managing resources to meet timeliness requirements, and ensuring service agreements through new tools, techniques and methodologies. It should address the problems of what kinds of temporal properties need to be met, how to realize solutions in software and hardware, what kinds of mechanisms would be useful, and how they could coexist across distributed hardware/software/network stacks. The workshop will produce a NITRD publication for the HCSS CG.

We are seeking input from government agencies, researchers, and industry regarding problems, questions, and new directions for research on technology for time-critical systems, please fill out our New Clockwork for Time-Critical Systems Request for Information (RFI) Response.