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Research

Building abstract models of computing systems makes it possible to design better systems because one can reason about their behaviour while it is easy to explore alternatives. Furthermore, such models provide a basis to reason about the correctness of designs. Modern computing systems are mobile, networked, and highly concurrent – characteristics that make them complex and risky to develop, especially when we trust such systems with our money, resources, businesses or lives. The AMBER group’s work aims to help contain risk by equipping engineers with methods and tools that allow them to explore, verify and refine the properties of such complex systems by means of models with well-founded semantics. Such model-based engineering can permit detection of optimal (and defective!) designs long before the sometimes expensive commitment is made to implementations on real hardware.

Our current focus is on applying model-based methods in developing and managing several of the most demanding types of computing system. These include systems rich in concurrency, systems that combine computing (cyber), physical and human elements, and even “systems of systems” composed of independent, autonomous systems.

Aims:

  • To equip systems and software engineering practitioners with sound and effective methods and tools for developing the most demanding classes of product.
  • To explore and evaluate a new generation of theories for handling the design of concurrent and asynchronous systems.
  • To improve techniques and tools that support formal reasoning about both abstract models and their realisations in design steps.
  • To establish Newcastle as one of the UK’s leading centres for research in design methods for cyber-physical systems.

Highlights:

  • The Sony Felica chip, which exploited VDM in its development, has now been used in over 230 million mobile phones, and is claimed to be a zero defect product.
  • Project COMPASS (Comprehensive Modelling for Advanced Systems of Systems), led by the AMBER group, is one of the first to establish a well-founded formal modelling notation for Systems of Systems.
  • Together with the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering the AMBER group runs ‘Asynchronous Systems Laboratory (ASL)’. See details of the previous ASL events here.

In REF2014, for Computer Science and Informatics, the School has been ranked as the best research unit in the UK with respect to Impact. The AMBER group contributed two out of four Impact Case Studies submitted. They both received the highest possible grade and are listed below: 

  • Improved processes for the development of dependable systems.
  • Worldwide adoption of asynchronous circuits and improved business process modelling.
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