Resilient dependable cyber-physical systems: a middleware perspective
© The Brazilian Computer Society 2012
Received: 24 November 2011
Accepted: 30 December 2011
Published: 28 January 2012
In this paper, we address the role of middleware in enabling robust and resilient cyber-physical systems (CPSs) of the future. In particular, we will focus on how adaptation services can be used to improve dependability in instrumented cyber-physical systems based on the principles of “computational reflection.” CPS environments incorporate a variety of sensing and actuation devices in a distributed architecture; such a deployment is used to create a digital representation of the evolving physical world and its processes for use by a broad range of applications. CPS applications, in particular, mission critical tasks, must execute dependably despite disruptions caused by failures and limitations in sensing, communications, and computation. This paper discusses a range of applications, their reliability needs, and potential dependability holes that can cause performance degradation and application failures. In particular, we distinguish between the notion of infrastructure and information dependability and illustrate the need to formally model and reason about a range of CPS applications and their dependability needs. Formal methods based tools can help us design meaningful cross-layer adaptation techniques at different system layers of the CPS environment and thereby achieve end-to-end dependability at both the infrastructure and information levels.
Recent advances in embedded computing, networking, and stream data management technologies have made it feasible to create Cyber-physical Systems (CPS) that can sense and affect their environment in different ways and with different levels of sophistication. A common definition of a cyber-physical system is one that “integrates computing and communication capabilities with the monitoring and/or control of entities in the physical world dependably, safely, securely, efficiently, and in real-time.” Such systems provide complex, situation-aware, and often safety- or mission-critical ecosystems and services. Examples of such CPS ecosystems include engineering systems such as intelligent transportation systems (air and ground), smart power grids, structural monitoring and control of civil infrastructures such as bridges and dams; medical/healthcare systems (for assisted living, patient monitoring in hospitals, automated laboratories); smart spaces (buildings with surveillance and microclimate control); smart agriculture; flexible manufacturing systems (with self assembling structures); systems and processes used in defense, homeland security and emergency response (ad hoc ground/airborne combat teams, intelligent firefighting, etc.). In the medical domain, for example, the CPS ecosystem must bring together information from numerous devices that capture diverse physiological factors—such as heart rate, temperature, or oximetry—for diagnosis, treatment and care; many of these devices are typically designed for isolated use; the composition of these devices to design perpetual life assistants for busy, older or disabled people and location-independent access to world-class medicine is a grand challenge. In the area of intelligent transportation, advances are being made to achieve safe and efficient transportation at the level of individual vehicles (e.g., the CMU urban autonomous vehicle that drives with other vehicles, lanes, and intersections ), and enable significantly reduced traffic congestion and delays (e.g., the Cartel project  uses location of mobile phones and custom-built on-board telematics devices to enable traffic mitigation and road condition monitoring. Smart and Secure Power Grids are exploring how to change the process of power generation and distribution, orchestrate power usage to realize more sustainable societies with blackout-free electricity generation/distribution and net-zero-energy buildings.
Unlike pure sensor networks, CPSs can perform physical actions and are usually characterized by (distributed) control loops through which the environment provides essential feedback. Unlike traditional Sensor/actor networks, node and communication capabilities of emerging CPS ecosystems can vary significantly. For instance, in addition to resource-constrained embedded sensor/actuator nodes, devices carried by humans (e.g., PDAs), energy-rich nodes attached to vehicles (e.g., laptops), resource-constrained UAVs, as well as nodes with continuous Internet connectivity (e.g., ground stations and computationally powerful grid nodes) can all be part of the same CPS ecosystem.
a lower level hybrid control loop that enables automated actuation and management of networks of embedded devices, e.g., automated brake control in vehicular CPS;
a higher level information centric loop, used to make slightly longer term decisions (by a human operator sometimes) that actuates new behavior. Such a “logical actuation” of the underlying system can exploit additional knowledge—third party information sources, historical and prior data, domain expertise, etc.
1.1 Challenges in designing and deploying cyber-physical systems
The dynamic, heterogeneous, and large scale nature of CPS systems create interesting challenges in their real world deployment. The first issue is that of architectural configuration and management—there is a need to determine the degree of decentralization and hierarchical control in the overall networked CPS environment based on its scale and connectivity characteristics. Interoperability poses a critical challenge in CPS systems at multiple levels—(a) Sensor and platform heterogeneity that arises due to the varying sensing, computational, and storage capabilities of diverse devices; (b) network heterogeneity due the diverse communication media that interconnect devices to application servers (e.g., wired Ethernet, WiFi, cellular, MANETS); application interoperability where information from the same underlying physical infrastructure is simultaneously repurposed for multiple applications (e.g., surveillance, social networking).
Implementation of the information centric approach to achieve system wide objectives (discussed earlier) poses significant challenges. Enabling the transition from sensing to sensemaking implies the need for programming information centric applications on a heterogeneous infrastructure of devices/networks. This in turn requires the development of abstractions that translate device-level features into those required by applications. In addition to the real-time, resource-limited, reactive aspects of traditional embedded systems, information centric CPSs must embody a situation awareness that reflects the overall distributed system and its environment. Local situation awareness of a network node is not sufficient. Each node must maintain a model of its local, directly observable situation together with models about the rest of the network. Furthermore, different nodes may have different degrees of awareness according to their capabilities. Asynchronous actions must achieve a desired overall coherent effect. An advantage of multiple distributed nodes is that resources can be pooled and limitations can be partially overcome by cooperation. To realize the potential benefits of pooling resources (energy, CPU cycles, memory, bandwidth, sensors/actuators), it is necessary for the different processes/layers on each node to adapt resource usage (setting parameters, choosing policies) to achieve system-wide objectives, not just local goals.
A dynamic CPS environment needs to be open in the sense that nodes may come and go. In fact, a system may assemble “on the fly” for a given purpose. Mission-critical systems may be scaled up or down depending on mission requirements. This points to the need for management frameworks that exhibit agility and flexibility and reduce deployment, integration, testing time. Another factor that is gaining importance in recent deployments is the sustainability of the CPS ecosystems that are being created. The battery-operated nature of the wireless devices in these infrastructures creates issues of maintenance; it also raises issues as to the energy/environmental costs vs. the benefits of having such infrastructures in the first place. The design of self-sustaining, green low carbon footprint CPSs is a topic of recent research. Other topics include the ability to set up instant CPSs rapidly where little capability exists, and ensuring the privacy of individuals embedded in cyber-physical spaces that are being monitored and adapted.
While there are several challenges in building CPSs, the remainder of this paper focuses on the issue of dependability and resilience in CPS systems. Section 2 motivates the need for resilience in CPS and describes the different forms of dependability in a CPS system (infrastructure and information dependability) through a motivating application. Section 3 discusses challenges in the modeling of dependability characteristics in CPS systems and uses formal methods to model and reason about dependability needs in CPS applications. Section 4 presents potential techniques and promising solutions to may enable improved infrastructure/information dependability. We conclude in Sect. 5 with potential research directions.
2 Resilience/dependability in CPS
Infrastructure dependability—how dependable are the underlying infrastructure components (e.g., sensors, networks, actuators, computing/storage elements, software environments) in the presence of diverse failures that may lead to disruptions, and
Information dependability—how dependable is the information generated by the underlying infrastructure given errors/uncertainty in information input (e.g., sensor readings) and data analysis mechanisms.
We argue for a principled approach to developing a management framework for dependable CPS. Closed loop control where sensor-driven observations cause dynamic adaptations to CPS devices is a driving philosophy in multiple CPS applications, e.g., building energy management  and healthare . Recent CPS projects such as CYPRESS  and fractionated CPS (http://ncps.csl.sri.com/) explore an “observe-analyze-adapt” architecture, i.e., a reflective approach, in which a CPS has a model of itself, its objectives, and its effects on the environment; the CPS achieves dependability objectives through adaptation using runtime application of formal analysis methods. Such a framework enables researchers to explore a range of cross-layer dependability techniques ranging from networking and messaging technologies to adaptive information fusion.
The ability to monitor and adapt has far reaching outcomes in other domains as well. For example, a home health monitoring scenario will consist of RFID-enabled smart pillboxes, video cameras for determining the patient’s location, and on-patient body area networks consisting of polar straps for heart rate, oximetry for respiratory conditions, accelerometers to determine position and ambulatory behavior, galvanized skin response sensors, and so on. A building automation application can be developed where information from sensors (cameras, motion detectors) can be used to determine building occupancy and consequently control the lights, elevators, and HVAC systems. Infrastructure and information reliability issues arise in all these scenarios; all require reliable detection of critical events from multiple sensors and the consequent triggering of actions to initiate appropriate response is crucial in all cases. Through the design of suitable adaptation knobs/techniques, applications can achieve reliability and gracefully deal with infrastructure failures.
2.1 A driving scenario
To illustrate how adaptability can help realize dependability in mission-critical applications, consider the normal functioning of a high-rise campus building instrumented with sensors for a surveillance related application—the surveillance scenario morphs into a situational awareness CPS application, called SAFIRE  when there is a fire in the building. Several calls are received at the 9-1-1 call center reporting a fire in a chemistry laboratory located in a high-rise building on a university campus. While fire and hazmat resources are en route to the scene, the CPS application unlocks access to resources pertaining to the particular location and type of incident that otherwise would not be available under normal circumstances. These could include (a) detailed floor plans of the relevant building, (b) an up-to-date inventory of hazardous materials obtained live via a campus chemical inventory database (c) connection to the building surveillance cameras allowing video feeds to be observed from inside the building. These resources and contextual information are made available to the incident commander and other first responders via networked terminals installed in the fire apparatus and command vehicles . Fire personnel may place or carry additional sensing and networking equipment to augment the information capture capabilities at the incident site. Another CPS client application, a firefighting assistant, is initiated to provide a communications infrastructure that can dynamically configure itself according to need, make use of resources as available.
Over the past 2 years, our team has conducted experiments in a controlled instrumented campus environments (UCI Responsphere, www.responsphere.org) and more realistic structural fire drills (including live burns held in conjunction with first responder partners in different test sites in Orange County, California). The following observations were made : (1) In CPS applications such as assisted firefighting, failures will happen; there is no time to diagnose the problem on the spot, much less to reconfigure computers, swap/recharge batteries, or change cables. Failures are aggravated by the presence of hazards such as fire. (2) Current network mechanisms are sensitive to noise. Experiments using WiFi infrastructure networks for transmitting multimodal speech and video data demonstrated a significant drop in information quality even with limited network noise; exploiting ad hoc communication is beneficial even when infrastructure may be available. (3) Network topology and its degree of stability impacts reliability. Mobility further reduces reliability and increases convergence time. To enable infrastructure dependability, the system will dynamically prioritize information captured by sensors in the impacted area (e.g., camera feeds showing entrapped victims) to flow through available networks. To illustrate information dependability, consider in the same scenario, a temperature and gas sensor feed that shows an anomalous reading (e.g., heightened temperature and CO levels). In this scenario, the ICPS provided critical information needed to respond to the hazard (e.g., the presence of water-reactive chemicals in substantial quantities). It provided a means to utilize observational capabilities of the building infrastructure (locations of alarm panels and cameras), automatically incorporating new components when they become available. In the following sections, we discuss two key directions for further work (a) cross-layer modeling of the CPS environment and evolving state; (b) resilience techniques for infrastructure and information dependability.
3 Modeling CPS systems and dependability needs
The physical resources and infrastructures in a CPS span multiple scales (e.g., sensors capturing real-time events at the hardware layer, to networked communication for dissemination of critical information from event sources to multiple destinations). A key challenge in managing the disparate abstractions in the logical, physical, and temporal dimensions is the consistent cross-layer modeling of information flow across these abstractions. A modeling framework is required that can capture the layered CPS architecture and application needs, analyze current system state, detect violation of end-to-end dependability requirements, and reason about the validity of adaptations. To determine the best strategies for adaptation, a system that can carry out gedanken experiments to predict the outcomes under different policies or parameter settings is best suited (e.g., reflective route planning for DTNs ). To enable such gedanken experiments, a system must have a representation of and reason about itself. This can be achieved through executable models of the system that have well-described state and behavior in a framework with well-defined reasoning principles. Such formal executable models can then be used for reasoning and analysis, and relating dependability constraints (e.g., accuracy of measurement or expected timeliness of data delivery) to component parameters. The verification and validation of CPS is notoriously difficult and conventional techniques are too expensive; factoring out the minimal functionality common to CPS is a first step toward making verification feasible, because the cost of verification can be amortized over many instantiations of the common framework. This is far from enough, however, because mission-specific properties and performance metrics will require verification, also, and the mission-specific software will typically be much more complex than the minimal framework. Furthermore, conventional verification cannot enable rapid deployment at acceptable cost.
The use of formal methods to ensure safety and dependability in CPS is a topic of much interest [3, 23, 24] in CPS domains including transportation, healthcare, and avionics. For example, the CYPRESS  and NCPS1 projects are exploring the use of the Maude rewriting logic language and environment [11, 26] for developing the formal models of CPS. Rewriting logic is well suited to model concurrent systems; techniques have been developed to treat time  and probabilistic features . Modeling and analysis in a formal framework, such as Maude, can then be used to prototype ideas, develop techniques to analyze design decisions, and inform observation/adaptation decisions.
As a sample use case of the formal model, let us consider the dependability of the CPS communication infrastructure which consists of diverse technologies  such as wired Ethernet, WiFi, cellular, Zigbee, mobile ad hoc (MANETs), mesh, and personal area networks (PANs). Various failures can lead to message delays or latencies in the combined wired/wireless networks, and thus impede the flow of information to CPS applications. In general, verifying optimized operation or fault tolerance over a general space of network architectures is an intractable problem. By analyzing and verifying selected points in the network architecture space, the network structure can be varied to provide protection mechanisms against faults. For example, one may choose standard or high-integrity network components (that provide additional protection using self-checking pairs); techniques for path and system redundancy can be incorporated to provide protection against failures. Equipped with a formal specification of the network components, network architectural choices and input traffic, analysis tools can be developed for fault and performance analysis. For example, in a camera surveillance scenario, we can analyze the communication network to predict the likelihood that there is no surveillance data for an area. Similarly, considering different camera collection schedules may provide more (or less) surveillance, resulting in more (or less) frames in the network. Such analysis will help generate improved failure models and devise strategies to couple such models into the larger CPS framework.
4 Techniques to support resilience in CPS
Sensors, devices, communication medium, and the application context are subject to constant changes or failures in dynamic environments. For example, devices can be turned on and off, or moved from one place to another; networks may be congested and packets are dropped; the target (e.g., monitored person) may move from one building to another. At the information level, sensed information may be imprecise and the dynamics of the event may require different information to be captured. We discuss techniques at the infrastructure and information level to handle such changes.
4.1 Infrastructure resilience techniques
To illustrate issues at the infrastructure-level, let us consider the specific case of enabling communication infrastructure dependability in CPS. In the context of multiaccess networks, techniques have been developed for network handoff [27, 32] power management  and monitoring , and QoS support ; enabling techniques for specific combinations of networks (cellular/ad hoc [8, 25], cellular/Wi-Fi , Bluetooth/Wi-Fi ) have been explored. Many of the proposed techniques are at the network and lower layers; adaptability to unexpected failures and surge demands is difficult to orchestrate at these lower layers. A middleware driven approach to managing communication over diverse network technologies can help leverage the components’ network capabilities seamlessly in a quality sensitive manner. Recent work has developed techniques where nodes can communication decisions locally, using available knowledge of network status and taking into account tolerance parameters (timing, accuracy, reliability) [31, 36]. What is new and challenging is using these ideas to deal with the overall CPS multinetwork infrastructure.
Exploiting multiple access networks: One approach to enhance communication reliability is by combining the capabilities of multiple access networks to form reliable connected networks. The first step toward this is to be able to structure a complex network of networks and design a management system that captures and maintains network state information efficiently in a logically centralized DB. Such a multinetwork management system must be able to scale to large number of devices and deal with the dynamic aspects induced by mobility. Intelligent exploitation of hierarchy and clustering can help structure a network architecture, techniques for “intelligent gateway placement” are required to connect networks (e.g., cellular backhaul to a on-site wireless mesh network ) and enable smooth flow of information. The underlying state collection mechanisms must minimize the overhead of state capture (number of messages, power consumption) while meeting time, frequency, or accuracy requirements. The multinetwork environment must also include techniques for exploiting concurrency across the multiple networks—joint routing  of CPS data across multiple access networks using adaptive access selection [5, 6, 21], content fragmentation, bandwidth aggregation , and network coding , thereby leveraging the bandwidth/resource provided by multiple networks to attain communication performance that cannot be achieved by any single network alone. The challenge is to effectively exploit path/access diversity while considering the content specifics, user priorities, and information timeliness/reliability needs.
Exploiting mobility in disconnected networks: In CPS scenarios with high mobility and sparse deployment, maintaining continuous connectivity between nodes is a challenge. The ability to exploit nodes that move around as potential “mules” to relay data “bundles” to specific gateways (similar in spirit to delay tolerant networks ) is useful in such scenarios. Communication criteria may involve reliability (aim to deliver as many bundles as possible to their destinations), storage efficiency (reduced storage consumption on mobile nodes), transmission efficiency (fewer number of transmissions), and timeliness (reduced latency incurred before bundles reach their destinations). In a CPS environment (e.g., fire situational awareness), mobile sensing may be event-driven; where the trajectory of the mobile node is not fixed, but dictated by the evolution of events in the space. Often, higher resolution data is required from the event region and unequal sensing needs in the space (due to the event) may cause buffer overflow at the sensor. The challenge then is to design mobile capture techniques that sense as frequently as needed (via quality-aware sensing); upload data as quickly as possible (time-efficient); ensure no buffer overflows; and provide this despite network disruptions.
4.2 Information resilience techniques
Information reliability in the CPS environment is a semantic concept—it refers to reliability of the observed information (as opposed to reliability of individual devices involved in capturing or communicating the information). Information obtained in an ICPS may be erroneous due to inherent imprecision of the sensing devices, dynamics of the event being captured and limitations of the underlying sensing and communication infrastructure. Approaches need to be designed to support robustness to changes in sensing needs at the semantic level in order to enhance confidence in the sensing outcome under dynamic changes. We describe below two potential approaches to improve dependability of information from sensors.
Sensor fusion to realize dependability requirements: The ability to observe and extract information using sensors may vary across the physical space of the CPS system; exploiting this knowledge to fuse information from multiple sensors to provide an aggregate estimate of the sensed values can result in increased confidence in the result, i.e., improved information reliability. For example, consider an extensible localization framework that enables seamless fusion of multiple localization technologies (e.g., GPS, GSM, Wi-Fi, ultrasound, ultra-wideband (UWB), inertial sensors, and IR) that differ in availability, operational costs, infrastructure requirements, levels of accuracy and efforts needed to calibrate, and use the technology [10, 16, 18, 35]. What is required is a generic approach whereby diverse sensing technologies can be fused together to meet the diverse needs of the ICPS applications in a cost-effective manner. How exactly to design and deploy fusion pipelines to meet information accuracy needs remains a challenge.
Cooperative sensor actuation and event disambiguation: The CPS event processing engine is required to react to events quickly, e.g., notification about an unauthorized individual’s entry in a surveillance scenario is much more valuable seconds after entry as opposed to minutes after he has already left the premises. This requires applying complex processing operators on high volume data; information extraction tasks such as person identification from multimedia surveillance data is difficult in resource-constrained environments where I/O storage limitations, transmission delay, bandwidth restrictions, and packet losses may prevent the capture of high quality data. The ability to exploit semantics (of content, deployment, application, users) can help in enhancing information quality in the presence of such resource limitations. Recent work on camera networks suggests that a probabilistic model based on extracted semantics can predict where events of interest will occur and dedicate scarce resources accordingly ; this will help meet compute limitations without sacrificing event detection accuracy. However, the ability to increase dependability of one event may come at the cost of increased uncertainty about other activities that the sensor could have captured. For example, activating zoom capabilities to collect high-resolution facial images will imply temporary loss of “pan” capability which can capture potential events (albeit at lower resolutions) elsewhere in the coverage area of the camera sensor. While custom techniques can be designed, addressing information uncertainty with large numbers of devices is challenging.
5 Concluding remarks
In this paper, we presented the need for dependability in the future generation of societal scale cyber-physical systems. We argued for adaptability as a key enabler in building dependable CPS systems and illustrated how a reflective “observe-analyze-adapt” methodology can provide a basis for structured adaptation. The approach described in this paper represents a paradigm shift in the area of monitoring, orchestration, and control of real-world dynamic cyber-physical systems using an information-centric approach (instead of a device-centric approach). Formal methods based specification and reasoning can provide a platform to perform what-if analysis and support consistent integration of the components into a larger framework.
Deploying Human-Oriented CPS raises additional issues of sustainability and security; these are particularly interesting since they can at times conflict with dependability needs. Today, sustainable infrastructures are self-managing; green; and energy-aware through the use of various energy-harvesting technologies that leverage renewable sources of natural and artificial energy (solar, wind, geothermal, kinetic). While the use of these novel approaches enables sustainability, they bring with them new levels of (un)predictability—the dependable operation of a smart building is now connected to the availability of solar and wind power for instance. Societal scale CPSs also require the involvement of humans both as information providers (humans-as-sensors) and consumers (humans-as-decision-makers). This raises questions of trust in the service provider who maintains and analyzes the data and privacy of individuals who are embedded in the instrumented space. The question of what exactly “privacy” means in these settings and how to express it merits further exploration. Whether the required privacy needs (once specified) can be enforced is debatable—especially in the presence of external inference channels (public and background knowledge). While privacy techniques aim to hide information and disclose as little as possible—resilience techniques attempt to do the opposite, gather rich information for increased confidence in the event. The next generation of societal scale cyber-physical systems requires designing a system-of-systems approach where societal entities, cyber entities, and physical devices cooperate toward a set of common goals will eventually lead to the blurring of distinctions between the “cyberphysical” and “sociotechnical” worlds.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Numbers 1063596, 1059436.
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