The University of Southampton

ADVANCE! with new design tools for better embedded software systems

Published: 30 September 2011

New design tools which will improve the way that embedded software systems are designed are being developed as part of a multi-million Euro project led by researchers at ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

These tools will be applied to automated railway signalling and smart energy distribution by industrial partners in the project.

Professor Michael Butler of ECS, who leads the Electronic and Software Systems Group, is coordinating the Advanced Design and Verification Environment for Cyber-physical System Engineering Project (ADVANCE), which begins tomorrow (1 October).

The EU-funded ADVANCE project, which involves Alstom Transport, Critical Software Technologies Ltd, Systerel and two universities, Southampton and Düsseldorf, will deliver methods and tools for formal modelling, verification and validation which will make it possible to produce precise models for embedded systems and help eliminate design errors before projects go into the manufacturing stage. The project will run for 30 months.

“Critical infrastructure, such as railways and energy distribution, rely on large complex software systems, but software design errors are expensive to fix and can have a detrimental impact”, said Professor Butler. “We are producing formal modelling and verification tools so that system designs can be tested earlier and improvements made before any commitment is made to the final design,” he added.

“Formal modelling and verification can significantly improve the quality of the system validation process”, said Jose Reis, Principal Consultant Engineer at Critical Software Technologies. “Formal methods improve the quality of the analysis phase by forcing the systems engineer to analyse a broader space of problems.”

In ADVANCE, the consortium will use a software toolkit, named RODIN, which is open source and was initially developed in the EU FP6 Rigorous Open Development Environment for Complex Systems (RODIN) project 2004-2007 and the EU FP7 Industrial Deployment of System Engineering Methods Providing High Dependability and Productivity (DEPLOY) 2008-2012.

The major impact of the ADVANCE methods and tools will be to reduce the cost associated with formal modelling and verification while increasing the benefits obtained. This will provide a competitive edge to European systems engineering companies, allowing them to further strengthen the leading position of Europe in the development of high-quality embedded systems.

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