12. March 2018 | Press releases:

TU Braunschweig, TU München, and University of California Irvine launch joint technology development project Initiative will focus on creation of ‘information processing factory’ computer chips

Advanced medical electronics, autonomous vehicles, smart manufacturing – these and other technological innovations call for integrated circuits that can manage complex processes, self-monitor and adapt to rapidly changing requirements.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine and Germany’s Technische Universität Braunschweig and Technische Universität München have launched a joint project to develop next-generation computer components to meet the new challenges of digitization. The goal is to build “information processing factory” chips that bundle numerous functions and capabilities on a single platform.

Practical elements of the collaboration, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and the German Research Foundation, include student and faculty exchanges and visits, regularly scheduled trans-Atlantic conferences, and virtual work group activities.

“With our partners in Braunschweig and Munich, we hope to bring about a paradigm shift by creating vastly more complex networked information technology systems that can operate in the emerging environment brought on by advances in cyber-physical systems and the internet of things,” said UCI principal investigator Nikil Dutt, Chancellor’s Professor of computer science.

The “information processing factory” chip concept comes from recent innovations in manufacturing in which network-connected tools, robots, sensors and computers act in concert to perform complex processes. The teams from UCI and Germany will work toward incorporating many of the monitoring and control functions of factories into individual computer chips. This will enable components to function independently, adapt to evolving processing requirements and self-repair defects on the fly.

“To keep production running effectively and efficiently, factories need to properly manage logistics, supplies and facility controls to adapt to the current workload, while also considering maintenance and continuous operation,” said TU Braunschweig principal investigator Rolf Ernst, professor of computer & network architecture and deputy chairman of the Research Center for Digitalization, Informatics & Information Technology. “Future microelectronic systems face comparable requirements.”

These advanced systems will come equipped with on-chip sensors to monitor and control performance and health status – keeping track of temperature, energy consumption, wear and tear, and even security threats. Achieving this will require a holistic methodology that encompasses hardware design, software development and new approaches to network architecture.

“We are rapidly nearing a time when networked information technology components greatly outnumber humans, and the complexity of their operations outstrips anything people are capable of today,” said UCI co-principal investigator Fadi Kurdahi, director of UCI’s Center for Embedded & Cyber-Physical Systems and professor of electrical engineering & computer science.

“We need new tools to manage this reality, and this trans-Atlantic partnership to create an information processing factory is a step in that direction,” said TU München principal investigator Andreas Herkersdorf, professor and chair of integrated systems. “We expect the future will bring deeper explorations into new approaches in cyber-physical systems, autonomous technologies and the internet of things.”

This early microchip-focused phase is considered to be a pilot project by UCI and its German partners, as they are trying out an informal collaboration that does not depend upon the established funding mechanism of a joint international call-for-research proposals but directly awards a grass-roots initiative of a trans-Atlantic research group – possibly heralding a new era of flexible research funding.