Luca Mottola


The next computing revolution is about to happen. We will equip persons and everyday objects with networked embedded devices able to sense from individuals and the surrounding context, and to act on the environment to accomplish complex high-level goals.

In this context, my research focuses on the design, implementation, and validation of networked embedded software. The current work is geared towards cyberphysical systems, the "Internet of Things", wireless sensor networks, and drone sensor networks. These are systems encompassing myriads of networked embedded devices sensing from the environment and autonomously acting on the physical world. As these networks integrate with the traditional computing systems, it will be possible to blend the physical and the digital world in novel ways.

In this field, my work tackles a range of interdisciplinary challenges, from software verification and development, to distributed processing and networking, reaching into antenna technology.

Research thrust and objectives

The development of software for networked embedded systems is currently dominated by low-level approaches and methodologies, generally available only to a few highly skilled embedded system programmers. Current development practices most often iterate through a "trial-and-error" loop: produce an implementation of the application software; deploy the software in the target environment; upon manifestation of problems and errors, reconsider the design, fix it where needed, and re-deploy. Such approach is acceptable for small projects, but it soon becomes immensely time consuming and even hazardous whenever applications are to address safety-critical requirements.

My research aims at changing such state of affairs. Along with collaborators, I am among the few in the field able to claim the design of high-level programming abstractions successfully used in real deployments. My programming systems are employed in challenging real-world scenarios, including safety-critical control systems in road tunnels, structural health monitoring of heritage buildings, smart buoys monitoring the marine environments, and teams of aerial drones for digital mapping of archaeological site. Moreover, several local and European projects leverage my software systems, e.g., the EU IP RUNES and EU STREP makeSense.

Over time, my research has broadened to embrace a number of increasingly diverse topics to cater for the necessary interdisciplinary perspectives required in the field, covering aspects from distributed algorithms and run-time adaptation, to formal verification of embedded software, unconventional protocol designs, and experimental investigations on low-power wireless. Recently, my work is reaching further into "smart" antenna technology.

Main Funded Projects - Current

Sensor Network Programming Made Easy.
The adoption of wireless sensor networks is hampered because sensor network programming is exceedingly difficult: developers need to focus on low-level details and it is difficult to express high-level goals. The SSF-funded Promos project aims at raising the abstraction level and let the developer deal with application-level goals and logic, and let the run-time system optimize the low-level mechanisms for a given performance target.

Main Funded Projects - Past

Easy Programming of Integrated Wireless Sensor Networks.
Sensor networks are expected to play a critical role in the next computing revolution. However, industry adoption is hampered because sensor networks are currently very difficult to program. The EU-funded makeSense project intended to drastically improve the ease of wireless sensor network programming by allowing programmers to express high-level objectives leaving the low-level details to the compiler and run-time system. In makeSense, I led the workpackage on the makeSense run-time system.

Cooperating Objects Network of Excellence.
The EU-funded CONET consortium worked on building a strong community in the area of Cooperating Objects including research, public sector and industry partners from the areas of embedded systems, pervasive computing, and wireless sensor networks. In CONET, I led the research cluster on Deployment and Management of Cooperating Objects (DMCO).

Trentino Research and Innovation for Tunnel Monitoring.
TRITon was a research and innovation project funded by the Autonomous Province of Trento (Provincia Autonoma di Trento), aimed at improving safety and reduce energy costs in road tunnels. An example application is adaptive lighting. In current deployments, the light intensity is regulated regardless of the actual environmental conditions, potentially wasting energy and representing a potential safety hazard. In TRITon, the light intensity inside the tunnel is instead regulated through a wireless sensor network. This relays sensed light information to the control station, which performs fine-grained control of the light intensity.

Reconfigurable Ubiquitous Networked Embedded Systems.
The EU-funded RUNES integrated project had a vision to enable the creation of large-scale, widely distributed, heterogeneous networked embedded systems that inter-operate and adapt to their environments. The inherent complexity of such systems must be simplified for programmers if the full potential for networked embedded systems is to be realized. The widespread use of network embedded systems also requires a standardized architecture which allows self-organization to suit a changeable environment.

© 2006-2015 Luca Mottola | Last updated: January 20th, 2015 | Design by Andreas Viklund