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Caccamo Honored With Humboldt Foundation Professorship

1/17/2018 2:34:41 PM David Mercer, CS @ ILLINOIS

CS @ ILLINOIS Professor Marco Caccamo has been awarded a prestigious professorship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and he plans to use the 5 million Euro prize to set up a new interdisciplinary institute to apply his expertise in real-time embedded computing to smart factories, autonomous vehicles and other areas.

CS Professor Marco Caccamo
CS Professor Marco Caccamo
Caccamo, who has been at Illinois since 2002, plans to open the new institute at The Technical University of Munich, or TUM.

“My focus is to deliver the computing horsepower needed by next-generation cyber-physical systems, which are autonomous vehicles, digital manufacturing, IOT applications, to name a few - and doing that in a safe and robust manner,” he said.

Caccamo is the principal investigator at the Real Time and Embedded System Laboratory for CS @ ILLINOIS.

At the new institute, he will look to build on his past decade of work, which has been focused, in part, on using multicore chips in real-time and safety-critical applications.

Multicore chip don’t easily lend themselves to those sorts of applications, since they are mainly engineered for delivering high performance in multimedia applications, gaming, virtual reality, and other environments where the consequences of lags or delays do not have severe consequences.

“In real-time computing, we cannot afford that because the system interacts with the environment. You can’t wait. If a computer is maneuvering an airplane and there is a gust of wind or any unexpected event, the airplane needs to react immediately. And that has to always be the case,” Caccamo said. “And that has been our major contribution, making this type of platform more predictable and analyzable.”

“For me it’s a great opportunity to tackle bigger research challenges,” he added. “I’m going to take advantage of this to be more bold in my research.”

Manufacturing in particular could provide a challenging frontier, including the opportunity to work with industry partners such as BMW, Bosch, and Airbus that are either headquartered near or have other operations near TUM, Caccamo said.

Monitoring the product line in a factory provides, for instance, opportunities to ramp up or slow down production to take advantage of fluctuations in the cost of energy based on periods of heavier and lighter use. Flexible manufacturing, online process tuning, and factory monitoring are all exciting research directions Caccamo hopes to investigate. 

“Basically, you can do a lot of optimization on the fly if you are monitoring and controlling those production lines in real time,” he said.

Caccamo hopes to begin work on the new institute in the fall while continuing to advise his Illinois PhD students.

His challenges ahead range from finding and hiring an initial 10-15 researchers to navigating a new environment where he doesn’t speak the local language.

“One problem at a time,” he said with a laugh. “If you look at all of them at once, you would feel just crashed.”

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is named after the Prussian explorer and naturalist and works to promote academic cooperation between scholars in Germany and outside the country. Caccamo’s monetary award will be distributed over five years.

The Humboldt Professorship closely follows Caccamo being named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers last year. He was recognized for contributions “to the theory and applications of hard real-time multicore computing.”

Being at the University of Illinois played a key role in both honors, Caccamo said.

“There is no doubt about that.”