Real-time and Embedded Systems (M)
Real-time, reactive and embedded systems are widely and increasingly used throughout society (e.g. flight control, railway signalling, medical devices and telephony). An understanding of the fundamentals of real-time & embedded systems is essential for the development of process control systems and should be a pre-requisite for anyone developing software for safety-critical applications. This module provides in-depth study of the key techniques used in designing, programming and analysing concurrent reactive real-time embedded and networked systems.
The emphasis in this module is on the technical foundations of reactive, real-time and embedded systems as used in safety-critical applications. This module was designed in conjunction with, and is usually intended to be taken alongside, the Modelling Reactive Systems 4 module. However, these two modules are not formally co-requisites as they develop different skills and knowledge and can stand freely of one another. This module contrasts with the Safety Critical Systems Development 4 module, which takes a much wider ranging view of safety-critical systems.
Aims, Objectives, and Prerequisites
The aims of this course are to introduce and explore the programming language and operating systems facilities essential to the implementation of real-time, reactive, embedded and networked systems. To provide the participants with an understanding of the practical engineering issues raised by the design and programming of reactive real-time embedded and networked systems.
By the end of this module participants should be able to:
- Clearly differentiate the different issues that arise in designing soft and hard real-time, concurrent, reactive, safety-critical and embedded systems.
- Explain the various concepts of time that arise in real-time systems.
- Analyse and apply a variety of static and dynamic scheduling mechanisms suitable for soft and hard real-time systems. Perform simple performance and schedulability analysis to demonstrate that a system successfully meets real-time constraints.
- Explain the additional problems that arise in developing distributed and networked real-time systems.
- Describe the design and implementation of systems that support real-time applications. Justify and critique the facilities provided by real-time operating systems and networks.
- Design, construct and analyse a small, concurrent, reactive, real-time system. Select and use appropriate engineering techniques, and explain the effect of application and system design decisions on the behaviour of such a system.
Students are expected to have done degree-level studies in, and be familiar with, operating systems design and implementation, concurrency and threaded programming, and software analysis and design. Some basic familiarity with formal process modelling techniques for concurrent systems would complement the engineering issues addressed in this module.
This is a 10-credit, level M module. It is a component of the MRes, MSc (CS+), and MSci programmes in Computing Science, and may also be taken as a fourth year elective by single, combined and joint honours students in Computing Science, Software Engineering, Electronics & Software Engineering and related degrees.
The Real-time Systems book by Jane W. S. Liu is required reading for this course. The POSIX.4 Programmers Guide provides useful background, but is not mandatory.
The following research papers are also required reading:
- Edward A. Lee, Absolutely Positively on Time: What Would It Take?, IEEE Computer, July 2005.
- David Gay et al., The nesC Language: A Holistic Approach to Networked Embedded Systems, Proceedings of PLDI'03, San Diego, CA, USA, June 2003.
The module will be assessed by a combination of examination (70%), coursework (3 x 5%) and a practical system design and development exercise (15%).
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A sample examination is available, along with worked answers. You are strongly encouraged to attempt the questions yourself, before reviewing the sample answers. Copies of previous exam papers are also available: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.