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Thermal-aware Resource Management for Modern Computing Platforms in the Next Generation of Aircraft

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - THERMAC (Thermal-aware Resource Management for Modern Computing Platforms in the Next Generation of Aircraft)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-09-30

Developing cost-effective safety-critical avionic applications for small aircraft transportation (SAT) systems has revealed that heat dissipation is a significant obstacle to increasing performance and reducing the size and cost of on-board control units. To address this challenge, the THERMAC project proposes to develop thermal-aware software-based resource management techniques to optimize the thermal behavior of avionics computing platforms for SAT systems, thus tackling the heat dissipation challenges at their root by reducing the amount of heat generated. This approach contrasts to alternative approaches that focus specifically on mitigating heat dissipation (e.g. on heatsink designs and advanced heat-conduction materials).

The main goal of the THERMAC project for the next generation of SAT systems is twofold: (i) to reduce the operating temperature and (ii) to increase the guaranteed performance of the targeted computing platform, by means of software-based resource management. By improved performance, it is meant that THERMAC’s results will allow the integration of more complex or a larger number of functionalities in the same computing platform, without increasing the operating temperature of the system, while ensuring a thermally efficient usage of the hardware resources at disposal. In addition to these two already ambitious goals, the THERMAC project will develop a temperature sensing and monitoring framework in order to feed models that are capable of extending the life-time of critical hardware components.

THERMAC intends to explore various hardware and software features of multicore and GPU-based platforms to meet not only the functional and non-functional requirements of applications, but also to help control the thermal behavior of these systems while complying with certification requirements of the avionics domain (exposed in safety-related standards such as DO-178/C and ARINC).

To showcase the technology developed within the project and the project results, a GPU-based platform integrated with multicore processors will be used, with the goal of validating the produced technology for most (multicore) computing systems that can be expected to be found in small aircrafts.

THERMAC's approach has the potential of eliminating the need for active cooling devices and this is instrumental in increasing reliability, serviceability, and availability of hardware components. Moreover, it simplifies installation and integration, thus avoiding schedule delays and budget slips for OEMs. On another front, it has the potential to allow for computing platforms to be more resource-efficient, and therefore more affordable. Altogether, this will lead to a reduction in size, weight, and power consumption of both the platforms themselves and the supporting systems (i.e. cooling and power subsystems), which translates into more cost-effective solutions for the industry. In addition to the benefits for the aeronautics industry, THERMAC has an indirect impact on citizens, which will be directly perceived in the increased quality, functionality, and reliability of small aircrafts. Finally, THERMAC will have a direct environmental impact as it will allow for a decrease in energy consumption and an increase in the expected lifetime of solutions.
THERMAC's team already analyzed the existing state-of-the-art techniques for thermal-aware resource management, including thermal-aware scheduling algorithms for multi-core processors and thermal-aware general-purpose computing on GPUs, and possible solutions for a thermal-aware resource management policy for SAT systems. Moreover, possible hardware platforms and software tools that could be used in the project were also studied.

The development of a temperature sensing and monitoring framework is on-going. Currently, the developed framework includes a testbed built around the i.MX8 platform and a software tool named Thermobench is available for download at This tool allows us to measure thermal related properties of the platform while executing different types of workloads. In parallel to the development of the sensing and monitoring framework, a couple of thermal-aware resource management policies, named NP-HBC and NP-CBH, for single processor systems have already been developed and accepted by the community. Recently, another thermal-aware policy, referred to as NP-COIN, has been developed for single core processors to leverage their DVFS capabilities and it is currently being extended to multicore processors.

In order to evaluate the thermal-aware resource management policies developed in the context of the THERMAC project, a Linux-based simulator, named DEmOS, is being developed to simulate an environment similar to those in use by avionics operating systems. DEmOS enables the possibility of evaluating applications concerning not only their functional and non-functional requirements, but also the thermal effects caused by their execution on the target platform. Consequently, it enables the comparison of different types of applications with respect to their thermal profiles.

A prototype that includes both tools, Thermobench and DEmOS, benchmark programs and a real application has been already developed to demonstrate the work that has been carried out so far, with the goals of integrating the different activities of the project work-packages, understanding the current limitations, possible open topics and preparing the final project's demonstrators.
The aeronautics domain is a key driver for the improvement of people’s lives, through the advances it brings in transportation systems. THERMAC will impact by reducing the development time of new systems, and will have an indirect impact on society since citizens will perceive an improvement of their transportation system through the increased quality, functionality, and reliability of small aircrafts. THERMAC will also have a direct environmental impact, since the thermal analysis is a key input for concerns related to energy consumption and the expected life-time of solutions. It is the goal of the project to allow for more efficient and reliable systems to be built, aiming at achieving 20% smaller packaging size, 10% weight reduction, and 20% more software content, which ultimately leads to an increase in development efficiency by elimination of at least one cycle in packaging design. Additionally, not only the aeronautics domain will benefit from the results of THERMAC, but the embedded and Cyber-Physical market is growing rapidly in Europe and is therefore in an excellent position to increase the usage of the innovative solutions to be developed along the project, which will, in turn, allow creating high-skilled, high-value, jobs.
Thermal camera capturing the heat in a computing board