IR and HRD Ministry partner to set up Knowledge Centre on ‘Formal Methods on Safety Critical Systems’ at IIT-K

NEW DELHI / KHARAGPUR: The HRD ministry in partnership with the Railways under its IMPRINT programme is setting up the country s first knowledge centre on Formal Methods on Safety Critical Systems to be located at IIT Kharagpur.

An IIT-KGP spokesperson said the Centre, named ‘FMSAFE’ will function as a networked knowledge and research centre in collaboration with IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Bombay.

“India is recognised for its competence in software development, but design and validation of safety critical embedded software requires a different skill set,” Prof Pallab Dasgupta from IIT-KGP, who is leading FMSAFE, said.

“What will be needed is a deep understanding on what is safety critical in Indian operating contexts. This is what the new centre aims at,” Dasgupta said.

“Safety and reliability of electronics and software will be the determining factor for widescale automation in all sectors of technology. Through this centre we will bring the best experts on formal methods in the country together to accelerate the growth of safe embedded system solutions in the country,” IIT-KGP director Prof P P Chakrabarti said.

Chakrabarti is also involved with the centre in his personal capacity as a renowned computer scientist.

Impacting Innovation and Research Technology (IMPRINT) is a pan-IIT and IISC joint initiative to develop a road map for research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in ten technology domains relevant in country.

Formal methods are a new genre of technique which use logic-based artificial intelligence theories to prove the correctness of software and electronic systems before they are deployed in critical safety applications.

These methods have been recommended in many international safety standards and are widely practiced by companies like Intel, Microsoft and Google.

A coordinated formal methods programme will then help indigenous developers in the country to aim for high degree of safety assurance, essential for global competence, Dasgupta said.

A modern car features millions of software code as most of its systems braking, fuel injection, steering are controlled by software which runs on embedded processors.

Almost all safety critical systems today rely on correct functioning of software-driven electronic components railway signalling systems, temperature control in atomic reactors, real time operation in smart electrical grids, and automated healthcare devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps.

However, despite extensive verification practices for such systems failures due to design errors continue and questions are raised to what extent software and electronics can be allowed to drive highly safety critical systems.

BARC, HAL, Indian Railways, Intel, Microsoft, TCS, Tata Motors, Synopsis have evinced interest in the system.

The formal methods research group at IIT-KGP already has long standing technology development partnerships with companies and PSUs, including Intel, General Motors, Synopsys, SRC, HAL and Railways. The new centre will build upon the existing foundations.

Students working on cutting edge projects under this centre will spend time in the three IITs along with Prof Sandeep Shukla from IIT Kanpur and Prof Supratik Chakraborty from IIT-Bombay, an IIT-KGP spokesperson said.