C O L U M B U S

Design of Embedded Controllers for Safety Critical Systems

Project IST-2001-38314

 

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Control Algorithms

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Platforms

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Our claim to innovations here is the formal definition of the concept of platform and the definition of platform based design as a cornerstone for a refinement-based design methodology. Two of the partners are well known for their work in this area.

 

To realize our vision, we have on the hand to develop formal techniques at the abstract level so that verification is started early and with the correct set of tools and methods.

On the other hand, we have to think of ESW and hardware architecture in a unified and harmonious way.

 

In addition to the pressure for system designers to choose flexible means of implementation, we are witnessing also a growing attention of the IC manufacturers towards chips that can be shared across several designs so that the development cost, which is also increasing by leaps and bounds as manufacturing processes evolve below the .2 micron barrier, could be amortized over a large number of units.

This alignment has resulted in the birth of platform-based design where re-use and programmability are the name of the game.

 

The concept of platform is related to System-on-Chip (SoC) but it is by no means a synonym. Indeed, a platform can actually manifest itself as a chip-set, perhaps a System-in-Package (SiP), or an embedded system-board or higher-level object. We define the basic concepts of platform-based design later, but here it suffices to note that in platforms, the indispensable presence of programmable cores requires chipmakers to acquire a new (for them) expertise in ESW.

 

In this case, they need to provide the users of their platforms means for mapping quickly and effectively their desired functions onto the components of the platform. Today, most of the platform providers rely upon third parties to provide a tool chain for programming the cores, but there are many signs that this business model needs to change. Third parties are often too small and not equipped to provide support for hundreds of users and applications and they are not necessarily interested in developing tools for new architectures.

 

Hence, we are witnessing on one side an increasing consolidation in the industry where companies like WindRiver are growing by acquiring other Real-Time Operating System companies to capture a sizable chunk of the market that will allow them to think strategically about this very appealing and growing market. On the other side, we see semiconductor companies acquire more competence in software tools.

The role of hardware architecture platform and software “middleware” has to be clarified. Indeed both concepts share the idea of isolating higher levels of abstraction from implementation details. However, they have not been placed in a unified contest where this core idea is generalized and provides the basis for a design method that promises to reduce time-to-market in a substantial way. Indeed, we will provide ways to link the control algorithm development with its software implementation and RTOS in our methodology.