41 : UTC reveals its Research Road-Map to 2023

By the end of year 2016, the HCERES will have assessed all the UTC laboratories for the 5 year period, 2012-2017. The University is taking this opportunity to update its scientific research policy for the forthcoming contract (2018-2023). Interactions zooms in for its readers discovering the major orientations and how they will be implemented in the UTC research units.

41 : UTC reveals its Research Road-Map to 2023

Heudiasyc: from complex systems to systems of systems

The UTC-Heudiasyc research unit is specialized in ICTs (information & communication technologies) and sees its project for the coming 5-year contract period focusing on systems of systems. The laboratory will reorganize itself accordingly and will shift gears to be in phase with this up-and-coming, highly strategic theme.

As a result of progress made in ICTs, the possibility now offered to couple autonomous systems so they can cooperate to carry out certain tasks, opens the way to numerous potential applications: smart transportation modes for tomorrow, interconnected robots in future factories, interconnected objects, smart urban areas … But we must note that systems of technological systems still have numerous scientific hurdles to cross. For UTC-Heudiasyc these challenges lie at the core of the laboratory‘s projects to come. In particular, two emblematic research topics – driverless cars and mini-drone squadrons capable of collaborating on a series of varied missions: digitizing a site, monitoring sensitive installations, accessing difficult or dangerous zones …).

Our initial specialty was in complex systems processing digital data”, recalls Philippe Bonnifait, Deputy Director of UTC-Heudiasyc. “But, as of 2011, we moved over to systems of technology-intensive systems and created our Labex MS2T [1] and, today, we can observe that this subject area is coming strongly to the fore. The challenge you face in handling systems of systems lies in the data involved: quality, quantity, integrity, protection … And the UTC Heudiasyc lab has, as a special feature, that it brings together a wide range of multidisciplinary skills that allow the research team to tackle multiple facets of the problems they investigate”.


An organisation in phase with the challenges

The core business centres on EDP (electronic data processing) in technology-intensive systems and in particular, management of uncertainty which has now become a strategic matter. Systems are increasingly making decisions or providing assistance for decision processes on the basis of scarce and uncertain information available. “The automated pilot in a driverless car must be able to analyse complex road situations and even if it is raining and if the car cameras find it hard to identify the road markings (white lines) correctly, it must be able to make real-time decisions to act according to the situation”, explains Philippe Bonnifait. “This implies that the pilot system must be prepared to develop its own artificial reasoning to control uncertain dynamic systems.”

The Heudiasyc laboratory also has skills in mobile robotics, in distributed systems, in networks and particularly in highly dynamic sensor networks that, for example, enable two vehicles (or drones), to exchange data in a very time interval when they meet (e.g., close or on collision courses). Moreover, the lab has expertise in another very important area – cyber security, operational safety and robustness of complex control systems. Today, the Heudiasyc scientists are studying a safety feature and device that – in the event of the auto-pilot failing – would ensure the vehicle complies with safety regulations.

To tackle the scientific hurdles of systems of systems in the most efficient approach, the Heudiasyc lab skills will be redistributed in three teams (instead of four at present), where each team will be able to focus on one key thematic. First themeknowledge, uncertainty and data handling, will bring together scientist specialists in AI; the second themeInteracting robotics, will deal with ‘interaction’ per se, in a global manner, i.e., between various interconnected systems, with their users but also often in complex environments. Lastly, the third team will bring together the network, cyber-security and operational security specialists.


Two ‘Living Labs’ on the drawing board

The Heudiasyc laboratory will launch two projects in the field of Living Lab smart transportation modes and systems. The first project will call for the installation in a fleet of buses of communications devices to test data exchanges between vehicles during their normal bus-route navigation: with traffic updates, etc.

The second project, in a collaboration with the Greater Compiegne authorities, will enable test runs with two driverless cars, on the roadways of the Rives de l’Oise Techno-Park. “The objective”, says Philippe Bonnifait, “is to demonstrate the reliability of our multi-vehicle cooperation system. In order to travel safely, the vehicles must be able to help each other and exchange data; if, for instance, one of the vehicles detects a pedestrian on the roadway, it will immediately send this information to the other vehicle, which consequently will slow down. For the moment, we are doing test runs on the track at the UTC Daniel Thomas Innovation Centre. Our next step via the Living Lab will be to test the system scale-one, in a closed circuit”. A first step before a future Living Lab moves to an open circuit environment.


Three societal challenges

The UTC-Heudiasyc Lab project for the coming years will seek solutions to three societal challenges framed in the French and European strategic research policies:

•        transportation and sustainable urban systems, with research on smart and driverless vehicles and on drones;

•        tomorrow’s ICT society, with research on systems of systems in general, notably on network architecture, communication protocols and on man-machine interfaces and collaboration;

the concepts of freedom and security in Europe, for both citizens and residents, through research on cyber-security and operational safety for complex systems.

[1] MS2T : Control theory for systems of technological systems -Maîtrise des systèmes de systèmes technologiques