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Work on cyber-physical systems earns NSF award

headshot of ASU professor Georgios Fainekos
March 04, 2014

Highly complex automation and autonomously controlled machinery are certain to be ever more present in daily life. Transportation, energy, manufacturing and aerospace systems, health care equipment and household appliances are among increasingly self-operated technologies.

Such advances are made possible by intricate networks of interacting computing components embedded in the control systems of automobiles, aircraft, electric power grids, medical devices and more.

Such technology-controlling networks are known as cyber-physical systems – systems in which computing devices both send information to the larger systems in which they are integrated, and receive information from the immediate environment that guide computers’ reactions in response to varying external conditions.

Finding ways to ensure cyber-physical systems can be made to operate more safely, reliably and economically is among the research pursuits of ASU computer scientist Georgios Fainekos, an assistant professor in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Fainekos is the director of the Cyber-Physical Systems Laboratory at ASU and is an affiliate with the university’s Center for Embedded Systems.

Fainekos will expand his research with support from a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award he recently received. The awards are bestowed on younger faculty members considered to be emerging leaders in research and teaching in their fields. The award provides his project more than $430,000 over the next five years.

He will seek to improve the software that drives embedded computing systems, enabling the software to better reveal and eliminate errors in the design, modeling and implementation of cyber-physical systems.

He wants to create the tools for more dependable testing of such systems, as well as better methodologies to verify the systems meet quality and regulatory standards.

One big challenge, Fainekos says, will be finding ways to update testing and analysis methodologies, even as more complex software continues to be developed to improve the performance of embedded systems.

Solving the challenge will become more critical to helping prevent the kinds of design and testing errors that could eventually cost industry billions of dollars due to product defects.

Even more, Fainekos says, improvements in cyber-physical systems are essential “so that we can have confidence in the new technologies we are going to depend on for many things in our lives.”

His project results will find their way into classrooms. One goal is to develop curriculum for teaching about cyber-physical systems advancements in online education programs for practicing engineers who need to update their training in the field.

In addition, his research findings are to eventually be used to develop new graduate and undergraduate courses.

Fainekos earned master’s and doctoral degrees in computer and information science from the University of Pennsylvania. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.

Before joining ASU, he was a postdoctoral researcher at NEC Laboratories Inc., a U.S.-based global network of research laboratories.