Research at Robinsons
Robinsons has been active in IT and Computer Systems research for over 3 decades. Our interests are in five overlapping areas:
- Design of large concurrent systems (Soudronic and De La Rue)
- Highly dependable and safe systems (Westinghouse and ONBASS)
- Organisation of information for fast and flexible access (MOD and ETH)
- Computer Languages for improving productivity (ETH and Linz Universities)
- Automation tools for verification and validation of systems (Robinsons in-house)
At Robinsons we invest in research e.g. the Zonnon Project, to improve the services we offer and the software systems that we help to specify, design, produce and deploy. We also offer contract research services for our Clients e.g. the ONBASS Project. We also use the fruits of university research for real projects e.g. the Coco/R compiler compiler
Domain Specific Languages and Coco/R
Several languages have been developed for specific application domains using the Coco/R compiler compiler technology developed by Prof Hanspeter Mssenbck's group at Linz University in Austria.
These languages have been used for a number of Rail project and include:
- Layout Description Language for profiling train journeys
- Scenario Description Langauge for initialising complex simulations in a precise way
- Interface definition languages for ensuring correct syntax and semantics of use
The languages are human readable (for checking) and computer readable. Each is defined formally using attributed grammer and semantic checking routines. This approach is ideally suited to safety related software development.
Onbass - On Board (flight) Active Safety System
ONBASS is developing the new Principle of Active Safety invented by Dr Igor Schagaev of London Metropolitan University. PASS uses aircraft in-flight data to diagnose and forecast potential risks and thus avoid or eliminate them. It proposes advice to the pilot and/or maintenance crew. Further details can be found on the Onbass website.
ONBASS is a European Community partially funded project; Robinson's roles are:
- Project management as Work Package Leader
- Clarification of the Theory of PASS
- Development of PASS systems engineering techniques
- Validation of the theoretical models and their implementation
The project includes the development of an extremely reliable, fault tolerant computer and software runtime system. Prof Niklaus Wirth of ETH is advising the project on computer architecture and safe programming language design. A small real time kernel Minos was developed as part of the project. It is written entirely in the type safe language Oberon.
Zonnon Programming Language
Zonnon is a new computer language that is simpler and more powerful than current languages such as Ada, Java and C#. It is designed for simple and efficient programming of concurrent systems using the new multiple CPU cores which will dominate the industry within a decade.
It is being developed at ETH by Prof Jurg Gutknecht in the tradition of its predecessors Pascal, Modula-2 and Active Oberon. Zonnon introduces the concept of 'active objects' which are used to represent real world concurrent objects within computer programs e.g. many real flying aircraft within an Air Traffic Control system. One of Robinsons directors, Brian Kirk, is co-author of the Zonnon Language Report working with Prof Jurg Gutknecht (ETH, Zurich), Dr Eugene Zueff (Moscow State University) and David Lightfoot (Oxford Brooks University).
The Zonnon Report, a .NET Compiler, the Test Suite and other information can be found on the Zonnon website and in the Concepts of Zonnon pdf. Our initial test applications are a Chess Notebook Program and a concurrent game called 'Elephants in Africa'.