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Michigan Engineering researchers are involved in two National Science Foundation grants that total $13 million and support multi-university projects in cyber-physical systems (CPS). CPS technologies employ sensors, processors and actuators to enable computers to perform dynamically in the physical world, providing people with useful real-time information. They are used in cruise control mechanisms in passenger cars, auto-pilot systems in aircraft, control mechanisms in prosthetics, and futuristic robotic devices for search and rescue. They are also core to the functioning of medical devices, energy-efficient structures, advanced manufacturing and modern agriculture, according to a National Science Foundation announcement.

The five-year, $9-million Foundations of Resilient Cyber-Physical Systems (FORCES) project includes U-M electrical engineering and computer science professors Demosthenis Teneketzis and Ian Hiskens as co-investigators. The project, NSF explains, will test different theories to determine the most efficient approach to designing and operating cyber-physical systems. These efforts will be coupled with a rigorous economic approach to provide new tools for CPS designers and operators to make complex, interconnected networks more resilient in the face of unexpected disruptions, such as those caused by natural disasters or adversaries. For example, FORCES will explore applications in transportation through the evaluation of economic incentives that encourage good driving behavior. It will also explore applications in energy through electric power generation and distribution in response to real-time consumer demand. The project is led by the University of California, Berkeley.

"Even a marginal improvement in the design of these man-made technological systems could translate into a tremendous boon for the economy," said Teneketzis, electrical engineering and computer science professor at U-M. "We're talking about billions of dollars."

The researchers expect to provide recommendations to state and local agencies that regulate these systems.

The four-year, $4-million Correct by Design Control Software Synthesis for Highly Dynamic Systems project is led by Jessy Grizzle, the Jerry W. and Carol L. Levin Professor of Engineering at U-M. It also involves Huei Peng, professor of mechanical engineering at U-M, and Necmiye Ozay, who will join the faculty in the fall, as well as researchers from other institutions.

The aim of this project is to develop sophisticated methods for building control software for engineered systems. The objective is to make it easier to design next-generation systems so that minimal adjustment will be required during subsequent development and implementation processes. This work will have broad applications to many existing systems, including automobiles, prosthetic devices and manufacturing.

"Our work is concerned with control theoretic methods that will allow advanced techniques from computer science to work on real-world systems where fast reactions are absolutely crucial," Grizzle said.

"In the end, the most important aspect is safety," Grizzle continued. "These software systems are going on cars that are automatically making steering and braking decisions for you or on robots that will be traipsing around rubble, and we need to have super high confidence in the correctness of the software that is operating them. This work aims to increase the likelihood that the software will do what it's supposed to do, and safely."

Farnam Jahanian, NSF's assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering and the Edward S. Davidson Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U-M, added,"This investment in fundamental advances at the intersection of cyber and physical systems will pay huge dividends for our nation. Advances in CPS hold the potential to reshape our world with more responsive, precise and efficient systems that augment human capabilities, work in dangerous or inaccessible environments, provide large-scale, distributed coordination and enhance societal well-being."

About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of more than 75,000 spans the globe.

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