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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Who Will Control the Swarm?


A swarm of drones.

Researchers at Stanford University believe that in the future, device swarms will be managed centrally and will make use of applications running in large datacenters, much the way the cloud centralized big data.

Credit: Chesky_W/iStock

Researchers at Stanford University believe future device swarms will operate via centralized management, using applications running in large data centers, similar to the way the cloud centralizes big data.

In order to achieve this goal, the Stanford team has established the Platform Lab to develop infrastructure for these new "Big Control" applications.

Although most current research into autonomous vehicles assumes a distributed model controlled in a peer-to-peer manner, with each machine doing its own calculations, a more concentrated model would have significant advantages, says Platform Lab faculty director John Ousterhout, who received the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award for 1987, and the ACM Software System Award for 1997.

Ousterhout notes this more concentrated model would provide a big-picture view of the world that enables better control of higher-level tasks such as system-wide situational perception, decision-making, and large-scale traffic planning.

In addition, Ousterhout says the centralized applications can utilize powerful machine-learning algorithms that let the control systems learn and improve their behavior.

The researchers are outlining a roadmap of the platform architecture.

From Stanford News
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