Professors Tsividis, Seok, Sethumadhavan, and Collaborators at UT Austin Win $1.1 Million NSF Grant for Cyber-Physical Systems Research
Electrical Engineering Professors Yannis Tsividis (PI) and Mingoo Seok (co-PI), and Computer Science Professor Simha Sethumadhavan (co-PI), together with mechanical engineering colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin, have been awarded a three year, $1.1 million NSF grant under the agency’s Cyber-Physical Systems program, for research in “Hybrid Continuous-Discrete Computers for Cyber-Physical Systems.”
“This grant will allow us to develop a powerful computing platform on a single silicon chip,” says Tsividis, “with higher energy efficiency, higher speed, and better numerical convergence than has been possible with purely discrete computation. We hope that our research will lead to significant contributions in hardware, architecture, microarchitecture, and applications.”
The team’s work will extend modern computer architecture techniques, and advances in mixed analog/digital chip technology mainly developed in the context of communications, to hybrid computing for cyber-physical systems (i.e., systems that combine physical elements with computation). Such systems are found, for example, in biomedical devices and in sensor networks. The techniques developed can be extended to other systems in which efficient computation is a must, such as weather forecasting and high-energy physics.
“Our research,” says Seok, “will augment today’s ubiquitous discrete, or digital, model of computation with continuous, or analog, computing, the latter being well-suited to the continuous natural variables involved in cyber-physical systems, and to the error-tolerant nature of computation in such systems.”
“Traditional silicon technology scaling—a major driver for many scientific and societal advances—is slowing down and is on its last legs,” adds Sethumadhavan. “To compensate for the lack of scaling, there is an urgent need to discover new models of computing and new computer architectures.”
The Columbia researchers are focusing on several areas: (1) Hardware: using modern silicon chip technology to merge analog computing hardware on the same chip with digital hardware, the latter used for control and co-computation, (2) Architecture: devising methods to make hybrid computing functionality accessible to the software, and (3) Microarchitecture: selecting the granularity, type, and organization of analog and hybrid analog-digital functional units.
Their colleagues at UT Austin will test the resulting computing platform on a realistic cyber-physical system.