ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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Embedded systems

Shedding Sunshine on sensor network hardware design

Yaling Yang and Patrick Schaumont are leading a project to develop a hardware/software codesign tool to remove a critical roadblock to the success of sensor networks. Sunshine (Sensor Unified analyzer for Software and Hardware In Networked Environments) is expected to enable specialized FPGA hardware implementations of sensor networks for increased performance and energy savings.

“A major roadblock to the success of sensor networks has been the prohibitively slow and power-hungry software implementations of many applications,” says Yang. “Yet, specialized hardware implementations can outperform equivalent software implementations by orders of magnitude,” she adds.

Sunshine will support joint software-and-hardware design, which is a relatively unexplored approach, she said.

Sunshine will be able to accurately simulate behaviors (with cycle-level accuracy) and performance of sensor hardware and software in a networked environment. Beyond simulation, the software simulation code used in Sunshine simulation can run over real sensor platforms and the hardware simulation code can be directly used to program real FPGA chips. The cross-domain design environment will enable the creation and testing of novel hardware architecture and platforms that are unexplored in current designs.

“Sunshine may fundamentally transform the relationship between the sensor network hardware and software communities,” Yang said. “They will have an easy way to efficiently exchange mutual requirements and spread the latest technology advances in each other’s areas of expertise.” Such evolutionary change will greatly improve the state-of-the-art in sensor network technology, she said.

Yang and Schaumont have a three-year, $256,000 grant from the NSF to support the project.