QONFEST 2020: Verifying Smart and Critical Systems

Research advances in cyber-physical systems augmented by machine learning and artificial intelligence promise to transform our world. However systems and software that operate in dangerous or unpredictable environments, provide large-scale distributed coordination, augment human capabilities, or enhance societal wellbeing are not without critical challenges. QONFEST 2020 (Vienna) offers state-of-the-art research on all the concerns of the critical systems, cyber-physical systems, software systems driven by interoperable blockchain technology, as well as smart grids, health-care systems and logistics or industrial production processes. 

Cyber-physical systems

The autonomous systems for exploration of the deepest oceans or space, zero-net energy buildings, robotic surgeries, smart manufacturing and scheduling, self-driving cars avoiding collisions autonomously or contact tracing apps, among others, have all one thing in common: they are cyber-physical systems which enable to bridge the gap between the cyber world and the physical world in which we live. 

For the first time, between August 31 and September 5, 2020, Vienna is hosting QONFEST, a joint congress of the most important international scientific conferences and workshops on the topic of concurrency theory and its applications, timed systems, semantics, logics, and verification techniques. The organizers of CONCUR (31st International Conference on Concurrency Theory), QEST (17th International Conference on Quantitative Evaluation of SysTems), FORMATS (18th International Conference on Formal Modeling and Analysis of Timed Systems) and FMICS (25th International Conference on Formal Methods for Industrial Critical Systems) have managed to bring together researchers and practitioners from industry and academia who all seek to solve the main and basic demand of the users of technology: placing a high level of trust in the operation of the systems, whereas trust is a combination of many characteristics, mainly reliability, safety, security, privacy and usability. 

Trust the machine 

New methods in computer science such as machine learning and artificial intelligence tools help to realize the modern grand vision for societal-level services that transcend space and time at scales never possible before. „At the same time, they represent one of the critical challenges to ensure certification and thus trustworthiness of cyber-physical systems,” explains Ezio Bartocci (TU Wien), head of the Trustworthy Cyber-Physical Systems (TrustCPS) Group at TU Wien and the general chair of the QONFEST 2020.For example, a CPS with machine learning components such as a self-driving car cannot be designed just using a model (as in the past), because their operational behavior is now data-driven. Then, how can we make sure (verify) that the system will behave correctly in every situation ? Can we verify the autonomous system at runtime so that in the case of an unforeseen event, it can still trigger a safety mechanism?” 

Verification and Model checking in Austria 

These are also some of the research questions which also connect the Austrian organizers of QONFEST, who already in 2010 created a national Research Network “RiSE” and the Austrian Society for Rigorous Systems Engineering (ARiSE), funded by the FWF (Austrian Science Fund). The Austrian community has since then been occupied with a critical re-examination of existing hardware design and programming abstractions for computing. Together with research institutes such as Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), they have introduced new scientific and engineering principles, algorithms, models, and theories for the analysis and design of cyber-physical systems, which has also received numerous ERC grants. “ERC Proof of Concept grant is allowing us to bring our ideas closer to the market, since we want the big companies to apply our method of automated error detection,” explains Prof. Laura Kovacs (TU Wien).

Among the internationally acclaimed founding members of RiSE are also two of the QONFEST´s invited speakers. Prof. Thomas Henzinger (IST Austria) will present some of the game-theoretical aspects in his talk “A Survey of Bidding Games on Graphs“, whereas Prof. Roderick Bloem (TU Graz) will address a case of reinforcement learning (RL) as a machine learning technique which has been deployed together with formal verification on a case study involving service robots in his invited talk “Safe Reinforcement Learning using Probabilistic Shields“. 

Privacy and Security 

Smart systems which include digital cyber technologies, software and physical components, and intelligent interaction with other systems across information and physical interfaces, lead to the collection of a vast amount of human-centric data at various scale. Although cyber-physical systems greatly enrich our life qualities and experiences, they also bring about privacy and security concerns, warns Bartocci. Addressing those concerns is the point of the QONFEST´s plenary speaker Annabelle McIver (Macquarie University). She will address the trade-off between the privacy of individuals’ data and the necessary information flow between other systems and people in her talk On Privacy and Accuracy in Data Releases.

Due to the current COVID-19 situation, the QONFEST will take place online, between August 31 and September 5, 2020. QONFEST is organized by the Formal Methods in System Engineering Research Unit and Cyber-Physical System Research Research Unit at the TU Wien, and it is supported by the Interchain Foundation, the Vienna Center for Logic and Algorithms at the TU Vienna as well as by Springer.


QONFEST 2020 is the umbrella conference comprising the joint international 2020 meetings alongside with several workshops and tutorials:

The topics covered are Theory, Formal Modelling, Verification, Performance Evaluation and Engineering of concurrent, timed, industrial critical, and other systems.

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