Monitoring and Controlling Cyber-Physical Systems
Occupational injuries are estimated to cost more than $19 billion annually. As Canada Research Chair in Intelligent Monitoring and Control, Dr. Tongwen Chen is trying to find ways to prevent the industrial accidents that can lead to these injuries.
Traditional industrial facilities are monitored and controlled through industrial computers, where time-driven (periodic) operations are the norm. But with today’s modern industrial systems, this is not the best approach.
By integrating new communication and computing technologies, we can generate a new class of systems called cyber-physical systems. In these new systems, network protocols and real-time computer algorithms both evolve and are driven by events. Most industrial facilities are also still run by human operators through alarm monitoring systems. The question is: Could industrial plants be fully automated, without operators intervening at all? This would require integrating alarm systems with control systems. The problem is that alarm systems are event-driven—so it’s not safe to assume that events will occur at regular or designated periods.
Chen and his research team are focusing on developing a unified paradigm for analyzing and designing event-driven control systems. Such systems present tremendous challenges for control engineers and designers because of the interactions among control, computation and communication components and because of the need to include both time- and event-driven mechanisms.
Chen and his team aim to discover effective alarm solutions for plant operators who monitor abnormal situations. The new tools that they create will lead to substantial improvement in operational efficiency and safety in many Canadian industries.