ESI Symposium 2024: A Showcase of Cutting-Edge Research in High-tech Equipment

I had a blast at the ESI Symposium in Veldhoven! It may have been the best ESI Symposium I have visited so far! It is great to see the innovation chain for Dutch high-tech equipment come together and share challenges, exciting new research results, as well as success stories from our implementation partners.

The Symposium also showcased the progress of our academic programs. The Mastering Complexity (MasCot) program, now a veteran at the ESI Symposium, contributes new engineering methodologies to help us manage increasing system complexity and develop next-gen high-tech equipment efficiently and cost-effectively through all development phases, from early architecting to implementation, testing, and evolution. As the program enters its fourth year, the current focus is on rounding off much of the research and transfer developed knowledge and proof-of-concepts to ESI and the industry partners.

The Symposium also introduced our recently started ZORRO project, which is set to change the way we handle system malfunctions in cyber-physical systems. With intelligent diagnostics, ZORRO is on a mission to significantly reduce downtime costs and enhance system reliability. Interested to learn more? Reach out or stay tuned to hear more as the research develops!

Mastering Complexity at ICT.Open

This week saw another edition of NWO ICT.OPEN, a yearly event that brings scientists from all ICT research disciplines and industries together to learn, share ideas, and network.

My colleague Rosilde Corvino and I from TNO-ESI chaired the Mastering Complexity for Cyber-Physical Systems track. This track was kicked off with a keynote about software architecture for strategic advantage, given by Erik Schepers, Chief Software Architect at Thales. Two presentations followed about using large language models to manage software legacy and task-oriented programming for the Internet of Things, respectively. Approximately 30 participants attended the track, highlighting its relevance and the keen interest in cyber-physical systems. The event also saw a few projects from ESI’s Mastering Complexity (MasCot) academic program, DSE2.0 and Software Restructuring, being present with posters.

Lastly, the poster “Models for Legacy Software Systems,” authored by ESI colleagues Joe Reynolds, Nan Yang, Rosilde Corvino, Anca-Maria Lichiardopol, and Joost van Zwam, won the best poster award at the ICT.Open conference. The work has been prized for its innovation, applicability, and clarity of presentation. Congratulations to the team for this achievement, and kudos to Joe Reynolds for his outstanding presentation, demo, and poster explanation.

Next Tuesday, it is time for the next event, the crown jewel of ESI, the ESI Symposium 2024. It is still possible to register for free. I hope to see you there!

Automatic Workload Inference Improves Scalability of DSE in Complex Systems

I am happy to announce that the paper “Automated Derivation of Application Workload Models for Design Space Exploration of Industrial Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems” has been accepted for publication at the 7th IEEE International Conference on Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS). The paper is first-authored by Faezeh Saadatmand in the context of the DSE2.0 project, a part of the academic research program MasCot, co-funded by TNO-ESI and NWO. Congratulations Faezeh!

The paper addresses challenges with respect to designing their next-generation distributed cyber-physical systems (dCPS). Efficient Design Space Exploration (DSE) techniques are needed to evaluate possible design decisions and their consequences on non-functional aspects of the systems. To enable scalable and efficient DSE of complex dCPS, it is essential to have abstract and coarse-grained models that are both accurate and capable of capturing dynamic application workloads. However, manually creating such models is time-consuming and error-prone, and they need to be continuously updated as the system evolves. This research addresses this need by introducing an automatic method for deriving an application workload model. This model, based on trace analysis, captures computation and communication activities within an application in a timing-agnostic manner. The approach has been validated through a case study on an ASML Twinscan lithography machine, demonstrating high accuracy in capturing real application workloads. Next steps in this research involves combining this model with an automatically inferred hardware platform model to enable DSE exploring different hardware, software, and mapping alternatives.

MasCot Program: Bridging Academia and Industry for High-Tech Innovation in Bits & Chips Feature

An article about strategic academic programming at TNO-ESI has appeared in Bits & Chips. The MasCot program, a collaboration co-funded by ESI and the Dutch research council NWO, is designed to tackle the increasing complexity of high-tech equipment.  The program addresses the pressing need for advanced engineering methodologies through four projects covering essential topics, such as design space exploration during early system design, scheduling, verification, and restructuring of evolving software. In the article, I explain how the 3-million-euro program facilitates the transition of academic research into practical industrial applications, creating an innovation funnel that spans from academic research through applied research to industrial embedding. The program’s strategic approach not only mitigates the risks associated with high-reward, complex projects but also fosters a symbiotic relationship between academia, industry, and TNO, allowing for a continuous exchange of knowledge, challenges, and innovations.

3rd Annual MasCot Program Day 2023 Focuses on Technology Transfer and Industry-Academia Collaboration

In a bid to spearhead advancements in engineering methodologies and manage the increasing complexity of industrial systems, the third annual Mastering Complexity (MasCot) Program Day was successfully held on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. The MasCot program, a six-year strategic academic initiative jointly funded by TNO-ESI and NWO, has brought together leading universities and research organizations to pioneer the next generation of engineering methods, promoting cost-effective and high-quality development of industrial systems. The program consists of four key projects: 1) Scheduling Adaptive Modular Flexible Manufacturing Systems (TU/e, TU Delft, Radboud University), 2) Programming and Validating Software Restructurings (TU Delft, TU/e), 3) Testing in Times of Continuous Change (Radboud University, Twente University), and 4) Design Space Exploration 2.0: Towards Optimal Design of Complex, Distributed Cyber Physical Systems (UvA, Leiden University).

This year, Radboud University hosted the event at Hotel Van der Valk Nijmegen-Lent, drawing a crowd of 38 attendees from academia, industry, NWO, and TNO-ESI. With the first MasCot projects set to conclude in 2024, the theme of this year's gathering revolved around technology transfer. The event commenced with project updates from each of the four projects. During breaks, attendees had the opportunity to engage in technical dialogues with PhD students, who presented their work on posters. A highlight of the day was the keynote address delivered by Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel, head of ASML research (a.i.). Verduyn. A key message of his presentation was the required improvement of productivity of design engineers by a factor of 2.5 in the next ten years to keep up the pace of innovation. ASML is therefore engaging in defining road maps and establishing long-term collaborations with academic partners and research organization, such as TNO. He also described how ASML are differentiating projects at different levels of maturity, from fundamental research to proofs-of-concept, and how they scale up and transfer knowledge between these phases. This keynote was well-appreciated and many participants were inspired by this structured approach to programming and managing research and innovation.

The afternoon was dedicated to breakout sessions where participants shared their perspectives on technology transfer and discussed the roles that various MasCot stakeholders—universities, industry, NWO, and ESI—can concretely play in facilitating this critical process. The day concluded with a networking session and dinner, marking another successful edition of the MasCot Program Day.

Mastering Complexity – Academia, Industry and TNO working intimately together

The 3rd Annual Program Day for the Mastering Complexity (MasCot) Partnership program took place on Wednesday October 19. This time, the event was hosted by the University of Amsterdam and was held in the Startup Village at Science Park. Approximately 40 participants from academia, industry, NWO, and TNO attended the event. After a brief introduction, project updates were given from the four academic projects in the program:

  1. Scheduling Adaptive Modular Flexible Manufacturing Systems (SAM-FMS)
  2. Programming and Validating Software Restructurings
  3. TiCToC – Testing in Times of Continuous Change
  4. Design Space Exploration 2.0: Towards Optimal Design of Complex, Distributed Cyber Physical Systems

This was followed by Q&A and a short interaction where participants tried to identify the general complexity management techniques used in the projects. In the afternoon, there were breakout sessions focusing on the way-of-working in MasCot projects, how to best involve and engage all stakeholders in the project: industry and academic partners, users, and ESI liaisons. This allowed the different projects to listen to how the others organized their work, e.g. in terms of regular meetings and working on industry location, during the first years and reflect on the best way-of-working to reach their goals for the next stage.

The event was followed by a social program with informal networking set to the tune of a boat ride with drinks on the beautiful canals of a sunny autumn-colored Amsterdam and a dinner at the restaurant In de Waag.

Position paper accepted at DSD 2022

I am pleased to announce that our position paper “Design Space Exploration for Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems: State-of-the-art, Challenges, and Directions” has been accepted for publication at the Euromicro Conference on Digital System Design (DSD). This is the first accepted paper from the DSE2.0 project, a collaboration between University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, and ASML. The project is a part of the Mastering Complexity (MasCot) partnership program funded by ESI.

The paper addresses the challenge of designing industrial cyber-physical systems (CPS), which are often complex, heterogeneous, and distributed computing systems that typically
integrate and interconnect a large number of hardware and software components. Producers of these distributed Cyber-Physical Systems (dCPS) require support for making (early) design decisions to avoid expensive and time consuming oversights. This calls for efficient and scalable system-level Design Space Exploration (DSE) methods for dCPS. In this position paper, we review the current state of the art in DSE, and argue that efficient and scalable DSE technology for dCPS is more or less non-existing and constitutes a largely unchartered research area. Moreover, we identify several research challenges that need to be addressed and discuss possible directions for targeting such DSE technology for dCPS.

Official Project Kick-off for DSE 2.0

Today was the official project kick-off for the research project “Design Space Exploration 2.0: Towards Optimal Design of Complex, Distributed Cyber Physical Systems”. This project is a part of the Partnership Program Mastering Complexity (MasCot), funded by NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES) together with ESI (TNO). The University of Amsterdam and Leiden University are the academic partners, spearheaded by Andy Pimentel and Todor Stefanov. The carrying industrial partner is ASML, but with Philips, Siemens and ESI as parts of the user committee.

The main goal of the project is to extend existing methods for design-space exploration, often developed for on-chip systems, to cover complex distributed cyber-physical systems (dCPS), such as the lithography machines made by ASML. Designers of such systems need quick answers to so-called “what-if” questions with respect to possible design decisions/choices and their consequences on non-functional properties, such as system performance and cost. This calls for efficient and scalable system level design space exploration (DSE) methods that integrate appropriate application workload and system architectures models, simulation and optimization techniques, as well as supporting tools to facilitate the exploration of a wide range of design decisions. However, such DSE technology for complex dCPS does currently not exist. This projects hence tries to answer the question of how perform efficient and effective DSE for complex, distributed cyber-physical systems.

In today’s kick-off meeting, all stakeholders in the project had an opportunity to introduce themselves and refamiliarize themselves with the project and its goals. The two PhD students who will be working on the project, Marius and Faezeh, from UvA and Leiden, respectively, also gave a brief overview of the work they had done in the first three months of the project, which included a literature review and generation of high-level simulation models for different parameter settings.

I am directly involved in this project through my part-time appointment at UvA. As Marius’ second promotor, I will help him on his journey towards a PhD. I also have an interest in this project as an ESI Research Fellow and part of the MasCot Core Team. In this capacity, I am happy to help linking this project to ESI’s applied research projects, in particular at ASML, to exploit possible synergies, and to stimulate exchanges with other projects in the MasCot program.

Four Projects Granted to Fight the Complexity of Cyber-Physical Systems

During the past two years, I have been involved with setting up the Partnership Program Mastering Complexity (MasCot), funded NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences together with ESI (TNO). After a long process of defining the key topics, writing the call, and aligning with applicants, four innovative research projects have finally been granted, allocating three million euros to research on software restructuring, testing, scheduling and design of cyber-physical systems. Congratulations to Andy Pimentel, Twan Basten, Jan Tretmans, Eelco Visser, and their collaborators for the accepted projects. I am looking forward to seeing the results!

The full story is available on the ESI website.