Embedded Computing Systems (TECS)


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Message from the EiC


ACM Transactions on Embedded Computing Systems or ACM TECS has been around for over a decade now, and it has grown under the leadership of Prof. Marilyn C. Wolf and Prof. Jörg Henkel to become an important journal for the publication of recent research work on embedded computing. From December 1st, 2013, I start my 3 year tenure as the new editor-in-chief to shepherd the journal to further excellence, and prominence. As the new EiC, my first job is to reduce the backlog of articles waiting to be published. In the last few years, the ACM publication board has approved increasing number of pages for this journal, and also approved a few on-line only issues to clear backlog. At this moment, there are 108 papers accepted that need to be published, and there are 10 special issues under review, which would generate more papers waiting for publication. My goal is to ensure that all these papers be published within the next few months, and I am working with the ACM publication board, ACM publications office, and the production vendors to ensure that this happens as soon as possible. Once the backlog has been cleared, my goal is to enhance the scope and reach of this journal to embrace all the different fields of research where embedded computing has become essential. Even a decade ago, embedded computing essentially meant design methodologies, and design tools for embedding computing within a physical environment. Over the past decade, with the ever decreasing feature size, ever increasing memory size, and falling price of memory, revolutions in high band-width communication, and recognition of embedded computing in many traditional fields of engineering, the term embedded computing has assumed a new meaning. Embedded Systems have evolved from being just the computing subcomponent of consumer electronics, and other devices associated with control systems, to ubiquitous and pervasive space of human existence. Embedded computing is now part of home consumer electronics, of power grid; of mobile phones, handheld and wearable devices, of automotive and avionics applications; of simple open-loop control systems in toys to complex networked closed loop control systems found in industrial control systems. As a result of this evolution, embedded computing research has moved from just the design of embedded processors, real-time operating systems and applications to the design of robust and resilient "cyber-physical systems" found in critical infrastructure of national importance.

Last time, I guest edited a special issue of ACM TECS was in 2004. Between 2004 and today, there is a difference of a decade, and about 7 generations of semiconductor scaling according to Moore’s law. During this period the world has witnessed more than 500 million internet connected mobile devices worldwide, introduction of Boeing 787, Airbus 380, millions of mobile apps, introduction of the smart grid concepts into real implementations, multi-core & GPU powered mobile CPUs with extreme low power for mobile, and tablet devices, cloud computing, cloud services based control of industrial systems, improvements in formal verification techniques, and in embedded software engineering through increased use of SysML, UML-MARTE, AADL and other model-driven techniques and much more.

Another issue that has arisen to popular consciousness is that of cyber-security. Cyber-security has become a central concern in embedded systems, be it for the handheld android devices, or for industrial critical control systems that are distributed, large scale, and internet connected. On the other hand, in 2004, nano-technology and nano-computing received a lot of attention, along with molecular computing, and quantum computing. They seemed to be lurking around the corner. However, other than silicon CMOS technology scaling indefinitely (so far), we have not really reached an era of nano-fabric or molecular substrate based computing to the extent predicted back then. In my view, it is likely that such computing devices will be first tried in small scale devices in embedded environments, and hence consideration of defect-tolerant applications and other issues germane in such novel computing infrastructure will have to be considered in the space of embedded computing as well.

Given this evolving landscape of embedded computing, and it's surpassing the desktop computing by a large margin, any journal dedicated to embedded computing must also evolve keeping pace. I believe that we have to therefore expand the scope and reach of any embedded computing journal. If done right, a journal of ACM TECS's stature might have a tremendous effect on recruiting computing and control researchers into emerging areas that are actually very important embedded systems applications, and have their own very specific design challenges. It is often the case that control theorists do not know about the computing aspects of designing such systems, and hence use ad hoc methods. It is also the case that computing professionals do not know the control aspects, and hence make simplifying assumptions that may not be valid. Such are the cases with systems such as adaptive navigation of UaVs, which require non-linear adaptive control, for example. Also, domain-specific engineering such as power systems engineering, aero-space engineering, auto-motive engineering have large intersection with embedded computing, but they are often practiced in their own silos, and thus producing non-optimal results.

Therefore, as Editor-in-chief of ACM TECS, it will be my interest to not only reach out to these different domains of engineering, but also to actively recruit domain-specific associate editors, and invite researchers of various projects in the US, Europe, and around the world to edit special issues on specific application areas. Some of the application areas on which I believe is worth focusing on are: Automotive, Avionics, Industrial Critical Control Systems (ICS), Smart-Grid, Smart-City, Smart-Building type infrastructural embedded systems, intersection of cloud computing and embedded computing, etc.

This is not to say that we should ignore special issues on basic tenets of embedded computing system design, such as, formal methods, model-driven engineering, real-time systems, power constrained systems, embedded processor design, concurrency and parallel programming, synthesis, simulation, compilation, embedded operating systems, applications, etc. We should probably try to publish special issues on application specific embedded computing mentioned in the previous paragraph, and basic foundational aspects of embedded computing in an alternating schedule.

We should also launch an effort to interest researchers in cyber-security, software security, ICS security to submit and publish in ACM TECS, because the increasing ubiquity of embedded systems implies the increasing security issues. Risk driven design methods, security hardened designing should also be highlighted as important components of ACM TECS interest areas.

I have therefore restructured the editorial board, and as you can see in the editorial board page of this website, we now have been fortunate to gather a very expansive set of experts in embedded computing fundamentals, design methodologies and tools, domain-specific embedded systems, dependable, and secure embedded systems, and futuristic embedded systems. We are hoping that the editors responsible for specific portfolios will help us spread the message, and enable us to obtain high quality submissions in all these different areas. We also are fortunate that all these experts have agreed to volunteer their precious time to help edit, review, and shepherd submissions in a timely manner so that we can reduce the time between submission and publication to less than 12 months. We also have been talking to a number of experts who work in the field of sustainable embedded computing, or embedded computing for resource constrained situations such as developing world. I think as researchers we should keep in mind that computing divide should be eliminated so that the entire humanity can take advantage of progresses in our research and inventions. Already, the developing world has been taking advantage of the great successes in wireless communications, mobile phones, and other cost-effective methods of communication, and in many corners of the world, they have changed the way life evolves. Social networking has also been a great instrument for human communication, and in some cases revolutions. So bringing in experts in these special ways of using embedded computing into the fold of this journal is important, and I hope it will make a difference in our thinking, perspective, and choice of research.

I know that I am setting too much expectations for the journal for the next three years, but with the help of all the associate editors, the information director, the advisory board consisting of past EiCs of this journal and ACM publications board representatives, and with the help of the authors, and reviewers we will make a step towards a better future for this journal and for the field of embedded computing.

Sandeep K. Shukla
Virginia Tech.
December 8, 2013

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