Gonzalo Carvajal, an Engineering Sciences doctoral candidate with a major in Electrical Engineering, began to work in the VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) laboratory directed by Prof. Miguel Figueroa after completing his undergraduate degree. After eight years working together, the young researcher at our Center has made the University of Waterloo, Canada, an important part of his academic formation, and has provided new tools to bring to CEFOP and Universidad de Concepcion.
The Waterloo engineering school is among the best in the world, and together with them, Gonzalo has published an article in IEEE Transactions on Computers, which discusses the tradeoffs to modify various components in a network to operate in real-time, and a practical evaluation of preliminary devices. In addition, some of his work has been accepted at major conferences in North America and Europe related to real-time, embedded systems, and programmable logic systems. Due to the strong experimental component of his thesis work, it also has focused on generating demonstrations with functional prototypes in various industrial and academic conferences.
Gonzalo’s relationship with the University of Waterloo began with a six-month internship. “The goal was to work in the implementation of a prototype in FPGAs for a protocol of communication in real time, which the Embedded Software Group (ESG) of the University of Waterloo was developing, in conjunction with other groups and companies, which progressed better than expected,” he stressed. When he returned to the UdeC, he continued to work independently on the subject until he had enough material to revive the contact and convince teachers at both institutions. By mid-2012, and with the opportunity to advance his work, he extended his stay in the North American country until recently.
Gonzalo’s doctoral thesis focuses on the implementation of network devices for real-time ethernet communication. “Due to my training in Optoelectronics, I had experience in hardware design, but the topic of real time protocols was something new and radically different from my previous work.” Therefore, this was a major challenge for him. In his words, real time communication means that this should occur within a preset time limit. “For example, in an automobile, the response time between pressure on the brake pedal and the activation of the mechanism must be guaranteed within a certain time limit. This type of system is known as safety-critical, as an excessive delay in communication can cause damage to the system or its environment, including people.” Aircraft, nuclear power plants and medical devices, among others, meet rigorous certifications for these systems.
“I realized that there was a huge gap between the models and their practical implementation, which in my opinion weakened existing analytical validity. The aim of the thesis is to develop infrastructure of hardware and tools for the practical evaluation of specific kinds of protocols, called time-triggered, by means of an open, functional, low-cost and easily extensible platform,” he said. There is currently a growing interest in the industry to use ethernet for communication in real time, and there is an important area of researchers dedicated to design and formal analysis of protocols.
In regards to the future of this pioneering line of work in the field of engineering, he noted that, “The group wants to seize this moment, and we are currently evaluating possibilities and managing funds to continue research, especially in the exploitation of the platform to assess real case studies in various industrial applications, which would open up new possibilities. The scope of the project will depend on the result of those efforts, and in the interest of future generations in the continuation of this work.”
In the final stages of his doctorate, parallel projects will keep Gonzalo in Canada over the coming months. “In the medium or long term, I would like to return to Chile and take a new direction that is more academic and formative. Ultimately, good research requires good researchers, and I think that there is great potential in Chile.”