From the Cloud to the Swarm: SRC and DARPA Award $27.5 Million to Nine-Campus Consortium
San Diego, Nov. 1, 2012 -- University of California, San Diego computer science and engineering professor Tajana Simunic Rosing is leading the university’s participation in a nine-campus consortium to build a TerraSwarm Research Center. The center will address the huge potential (and associated risks) of the pervasive integration of smart, networked sensors and actuators into the connected world.
"Connecting sensors and actuators to the cloud is like giving our cyber world eyes, ears, hands, and feet," said Edward A. Lee, the new center's director and the Robert S. Pepper Distinguished Professor in Berkeley's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department. "We can use these capabilities to provide large-scale services like better traffic control, energy efficiency, and emergency response, not to mention improvements in quality of life. But these services must come with assurances of safety, security, and privacy, a far-from-trivial challenge."
In the TerraSwarm view, “the swarm” is an extension of “the cloud” that goes well beyond information technology to improve energy efficiency, safety, comfort, security, and human effectiveness by integrating the physical world with the cyber world. It leverages recent advances in the variety, cost, size and power consumption of sensing and actuation devices and the associated communication networks. Sensors can collect a range of data — such as embedded vision, audio, location, movement, temperature, and air quality — that can be used by computing systems to direct the control of physical devices in smart buildings, transportation systems, medical systems, security systems, and homes.
UC San Diego professor Tajana Rosing, an academic participant in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), is co-leader with UC Berkeley’s John Wawrzynek of the principal theme that will guide the TerraSwarm effort: the application of TerraSwarm technologies to “Smart Cities.”
“The initial work we will be doing at UC San Diego will focus on sensor/actuator networks for environmental monitoring and SmartGrid operation,” said Rosing. “This leverages and builds on several previously funded projects at UCSD, include the NSF-funded High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) and CitiSense projects, and especially the Multi-Scale Systems Center (MuSyC).” MuSyC was an 11-member, three-year consortium funded in 2009 by FCRP, and many of its members will now be part of the TerraSwarm center.
The Smart Cities scenarios include a city during normal operation, and a city during a natural or man-made disaster (such as an accident, failure, earthquake or terrorist attack).
In normal operation, say Rosing and Wawrzynek in a white paper released Oct. 31, a swarm-enabled Smart City “helps run the infrastructure more effectively but empowers its occupants by providing more effective interfaces, better mobility, and experiences in immersive realities in a way not possible before. For example, maintenance crews may recruit sensors from underground utilities, and combine that sensor data with data from pipe-crawling robots and from the cloud. They can use this information to guide maintenance operations using overlay displays in a manner similar to what televised sporting events use, based on contextual 3D information.”
In emergency scenarios, the swarm-enabled Smart City is able to safely and securely align both stationary (e.g., biohazard detection sensors) and mobile (e.g., UAVs and robots) resources needed to protect itself and its inhabitants. Depending on the scenario, it may be impractical to rely on human operators to remotely pilot vehicles, so the mobile network must be able to autonomously deploy itself in a region of interest. Environmental sensors will focus on detecting and alerting inhabitants of dangerous chemical and bio hazards, while immersive environments created on the fly can enable teams to deploy clean-up and security forces.
“The goal of the network under emergency conditions is to adapt, coordinate, respond, and resolve dangers appearing in the environment effectively, efficiently, and as autonomously as possible,” according to the white paper. “In both scenarios, Smart Cities combine the management of fixed infrastructure such as environmental monitoring, energy usage, tracking and mapping, mobile assets (automatic vehicles, UAVs, robots), and immersive humans in an integrated whole. This involves seamless discovery and integration of sensing, actuation, and computation, with the use of feedback to manage uncertainty.”
The critical research issues to be addressed in the Smart Cities theme include how to recruit and compose heterogeneous resources; how to dynamically adapt applications to changing resources and contention for resources; and how to share resources without compromising safety, security or privacy.
The range of possible TerraSwarm applications is stunning — but so are the challenges. Of significant concern are data privacy and security. If the cloud is able to affect the physical world, it is essential that it can withstand malicious tampering and sensor failures. And no one wants information about their location and activities to (inadvertently) be made public.
"People already use mobile devices and software that collect a range of personal information, and by now they're pretty aware of the privacy issues this raises," said principal investigator Edward Lee. "Networked sensors are already becoming our reality — so we want to make sure that TerraSwarm's data collection and storage systems are designed from the ground up with data security in mind. "
A further challenge is that TerraSwarm applications must be able to dynamically identify and recruit local resources — such as sensors, mobile display screens, communication channels, or even unmanned vehicles — to respond to service requests. This capability will require significant advancements in operating systems and resource allocation algorithms. In addition, these applications will require new paradigms for development and verification — how do you design and verify an application whose resources and constraints are dynamically changing, and whose communication may be intermittently disrupted?
To address the multi-disciplinary challenges associated with TerraSwarm applications, the team includes 20 engineering faculty members at nine research universities, and it will collaborate with the Intel Science and Technology Center on Secure Computing in Berkeley, Texas Instruments, IBM, and United Technologies. Experts in data security, sensors, actuators, operating systems, development tools, robotics, energy efficiency, and communications will use the TerraSwarm Research Center as a home base for sharing ideas, developing applications, and developing an open extensible platform that can unleash the creativity of millions of potential “swarm app” developers. Together, they will work towards the center's long-term vision of recruiting technology for the betterment of society.
TerraSwarm Research Center
TerraSwarm White Paper
Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC)
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
Focus Center Research Program (FCRP)
UCSD Computer Science and Engineering
Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825, email@example.com