Leaders also Innovate: Functional Safety Contributions

Steve Jobs, the person behind Apple and Pixar, famously said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” [1]. At DISTek Integration we take that quote to heart when it comes to Functional Safety. In our efforts to provide Functional Safety services to our customers we have resolved to not only follow the standard procedures and services that are part of Functional Safety, but to strive toward leadership by innovating within the field. A case in point is our efforts to make Functional Safety contributions in the form of published papers and conference presentations. The latest such contribution is a paper DISTek published in collaboration with researchers at the University of North Texas (UNT); the paper is entitled: “A Combinatorial Approach for Exposing Off-Nominal Behaviors” [2]. It was recently presented at the 40th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2018), held in Gothenburg, Sweden. ICSE is considered the top software engineering conference, with an acceptance rate typically in the low 20%. Exposing off-nominal behaviors has been a specific research topic of various other papers published by DISTek with UNT and North Dakota State University [3, 5, 6], along with DISTek’s non-collaborative SAE papers and presentations on Functional Safety [4, 7, 8].

An Off-Nominal Behavior (ONB) is a behavior that deviates from the normally intended (and expected) behaviors of a system, and can be one of the safety compromising behaviors that Functional Safety tries to expose and mitigate. An ONB can be produced by the system, or more often, is a result of human interaction inadvertently “discovering” unexpected behaviors in the system. Consequently, ONBs can expose the lack of safety contingencies not anticipated and thus, not accounted for in the system’s design and implementation.

Ideally, systems should not be susceptible to ONB’s, but the reality is that anticipating every potentially hazardous behavior is extremely difficult, through human inspection alone. The recent DISTek paper addresses the algorithmic exposure of ONB susceptibilities as early as the requirements specification phase. Early exposure saves time and money that would otherwise be spent later in the development cycle, assuming the susceptibility is discovered before the product is released.

DISTek research in Functional Safety benefits our customers because the ongoing research means that DISTek is constantly looking into the types of problems and challenges that the safety industry addresses. This allows DISTek to improve our understanding of the types of problems our customers may face. Research also exposes DISTek to proposed solutions to those problems, which can then be used for the benefit of our customers. Overall, the more DISTek knows about Functional Safety, through practice and innovation, the better we can meet our customers’ safety needs.

[1] “The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs,” Book, Published October 11th 2010 by McGraw-Hill Education

[2] Madala, Kaushik, Hyunsook Do, and DISTek [Daniel Aceituna]. 2018. “A Combinatorial Approach for Exposing Off-Nominal Behaviors.” In ICSE 2018: 40th International Conference on Software Engineering.

[3] DISTek [Daniel Aceituna], and Hyunsook Do. 2015. “Exposing the Susceptibility of off-Nominal Behaviors in Reactive System Requirements.” In 2015 IEEE 23rd International Requirements Engineering Conference (RE), 136–45.

[4] DISTek [Daniel Aceituna]. 2016. “Elicitation Practices That Can Decrease Vulnerability to Off-Nominal Behaviors: Lessons from Using the Causal Component Model.” SAE International Journal of Passenger Cars – Electronic and Electrical Systems 10 (1): 83–94.

[5] Madala, Kaushik, Hyunsook Do, and DISTek [Daniel Aceituna]. 2017. “Hierarchical Model Exploration for Exposing Off-Nominal Behaviors.” 15th Workshop on Model Driven Engineering, Verification and Validation, 329–35.

[6] DISTek [Daniel Aceituna], and Hyunsook Do. 2017. “Addressing the State Explosion Problem When Visualizing off-Nominal Behaviors in a Set of Reactive Requirements.” Requirements Engineering Journal, 1–20.

[7] DISTek [Daniel Aceituna]. 2017. “A Means of Assessing the Entire Functional Safety Hazard Space.” In SAE AeroTech Congress & Exhibition.

[8] DISTek [Daniel Aceituna]. Presentation: A Means of Assessing the Entire Functional Safety Hazard Space. 2017 AMC Conference, Waterloo IA.

About Daniel Aceituna

Daniel Aceituna has a PhD in Software Engineering and has published several papers in the area of requirements engineering. Daniel was a Senior Test Engineer for DISTek from 2012 to 2019.

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