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Communication, Information & Navigation (CIN) | distributed systems (ds)


Computer systems are no longer isolated pieces of equipment, nor are they confined to the desktop. Multiple autonomous systems increasingly work in parallel, interacting with each other and their environment. To avoid single points of failure and the bottlenecks inherent in hierarchical systems, each element of a system needs to make independent decisions based on available local information.

On the other hand, in any large system many components will malfunction at any point in time. In addition, decisions will be inherently subjective due to the lack of a global perspective. Distributed Systems (DS) concentrates on real world applications of these types of systems. Of special interest are systems embedded in a chaotic environment, such as the battlespace. In addition, we explore issues related to performance guarantees of these systems and their resilience to attack or subversion.

Distributed Systems has a unique mix of capabilities. It contains engineers with decades of practical experience, Ph.D.s with theoretical background, and many students with fresh perspectives and enthusiasm. Although our domain is deeply rooted in the domains of computer science, telecommunications, and electrical engineering, current partners of the department include academics in the areas of compiler design, power engineering, biology, and industrial engineering. The department’s Augmented Reality Smart Space (ARSS) is a unique environment for creating and testing prototypes of mobile, persistent systems that interact with their environment.

DS has developed real-time data driven sensor fusion and self-organization algorithms for secure wireless sensor networks for target tracking and for autonomous ocean sampling robotic networks. Innovative Dynamic Space-Time Clustering (DSTC) protocols allow in-situ adaptive sensing and fusion operations that are usually delegated to off-line, large central processing systems.

This research area has in depth expertise in the application domains of sensor networks and cybersecurity. The department head has over 10 years of experience in the design and study of distributed sensing applications. Department members have both advanced the theoretical basis of these systems and fielded military applications. In the domain of cybersecurity, the department’s approach has unusual depth. Studies of network security work at all levels from chip design to global network topology. A unique element of our approach, is our concentration on the pro-active design of applications capable of active response to intrusions and attacks.

Current research projects include:

  • Engineering Sensor Network Structure for Information Fusion (eSensIF) MURI (ARO funded)
  • Extensible Semantics-Based Service Oriented Architecture (ESBSOA) project (Lockheed Martin Corp funded)
  • Survivability Modeling and Analysis of Networks under WMD Attacks (funded by DTRA)